Plenary Report

By: Mirjam Kühne

Date: October 7, 2008

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Mirjam Kühne
Mirjam Kühne

Note: This is not a complete report of the plenary sessions; rather, it is a summary of the highlights of the discussions. All IETF 72 presentations can be found here.

Even though Irish is the native language of Ireland, English has become the dominant language, just like IP is the dominant language of networking,” said Kevin O’Callaghan, Ireland’s leader of Alcatel Ireland, which served as host organization for IETF 72. Kevin welcomed participants to Dublin and said he was honoured to address the meeting. “It is fundamental to allow Nets around the world to communicate,” he said. “The impacts on society have been truly beneficial.”

On behalf of Alcatel-Lucent, which played a significant role in shaping the telecom infrastructure in Ireland, Kevin expressed his delight in having the opportunity to host and sponsor the IETF in Dublin. He was impressed by the number of people attending, the variety of organizations represented, and the number of languages being spoken.

Ireland’s Green Party’s minister of energy Eamon Ryan, who oversees communications, energy, and natural resources, addressed the group, saying that for politicians, the objective is to provide access and ubiquitous connectivity that society can use for critical issues, such as health care, education, and enterprise. There have been difficulties in achieving that goal in Ireland, and the move to ubiquitous connectivity has been slower than desired. In fact, in the past few years, the country has been playing catch-up in the areas of domestic and public use of the Internet. However, a new era of investment has been ushered in, and Ireland is becoming recognized as a place where companies can more easily invest in connectivity. Mobile broadband pickup has accelerated at a comparatively high rate, and an open-access system has allowed flexible development of new applications. This has clearly given the country an advantage in the area of digital services.

In his address, Minister Ryan echoed the sentiment of Vint Cerf, who suggested at a recent conference of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that the development of the open-access system might necessitate a newer regulatory system than the one that grew up under the old phone systems. Minister Ryan said Ireland has challenged itself to apply new technologies with a view toward reduction of energy use. He said he’s very encouraged by this type of meeting, because the IETF has a model that uses democratic processes at its very core. Peter O’Connell, director of strategy and regulation at eircom, the company that provided connectivity at the IETF in Dublin, said it was impressive to see so many people of so many backgrounds agreeing on standards.

Compared with similar companies worldwide, eircom may be small, but it is big by Irish standards. The company used to focus on voice, but now it focuses on broadband. Peter described the government as supportive of investment. “A policy platform that encourages investment is essential to the development of the Internet and to making both the Internet and the content that is available on the Internet accessible and affordable to the users,” he said.

IAB Update

Following Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) chair Aaron Falk’s update covering recent developments in the IRTF (details on page 33), Internet Architecture Board (IAB) chair Olaf Kolkman gave an update of IAB activities as follows:

Kevin O'Callaghan
Alcatel-Lucent managing director Kevin O’Callaghan

What Makes for a Successful Protocol has been published as RFC 5218 (see a related article in the IETF Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, December 2007). Design Choices While Expanding the DNS is technically approved, but it needs one more round of editorial review before sending it to the RFC Editor.

A number of documents are now works in progress, including Principles of Internet Host Configuration, for which a call for comments will be issued shortly. The document titled Headers and Boilerplates is related to the work on RFC 3932bis (Procedures for IESG and RFC Editor documents) and the IRTF stream definition. It is expected that these documents will reduce the necessity for IESG statements by providing clearer guidelines for document authors.

There was quite a bit of activity in the area of Internet architecture. This past April, the IAB held a retreat in Stockholm, hosted by Netnod and Arceo. The retreat was designed as a workshop at which everyone brought up topics they wanted to discuss and after which a work plan was developed. A discussion on evolution of the IP model, including assumptions regarding which IP models are valid and which are not, was led by Dave Thaler. A discussion on peer-to-peer architecture was led by Gonzalo Camarillo. Gregory Lebovitz is leading an ongoing discussion on IPv6 deployment.

In addition, there have been a number of organizational activities. Bert Wijnen stepped down as IEEE 802.1 liaison and has been replaced by Eric Gray. John Klensin has been appointed liaison within ISO/TC46. Lars Eggert is succeeding Mark Twonsley as IESG liaison to the IAB. The IAB thanks Bert for his many years of good service. IAB liaison shepherds are successfully helping track and communicate the activities of the IAB liaisons.

Olaf showed a diagram of the structure of the joint working team on multiprotocol-label-switching (MPLS) extensions from the plenary session at IETF 71. He then reported on the joint working team of the ITU-T and the IETF, which is discussing issues related to MPLS. The team has issued a statement saying a transport profile for MPLS (MPLS-TP) will be developed that will take into account the ITU-T transport network requirements. The ITU-T will integrate MPLS-TP into the transport network and will align the current transport MPLS (T-MPLS) ITU recommendation with MPLS-TP. Further work on T-MPLS will be terminated.

Another new organizational development is the IETF’s involvement with the OECD in cooperation with the Internet Society (ISOC). Together with ISOC and 15 other technical organizations, the IAB cosigned a memorandum on the future of the Internet in a global economy. The memorandum can be found at
The IAB also participated in a technical forum on the future of the Internet Economy, which was organized prior to the OECD Ministerial meeting.

Olaf reminded the audience that the IAB is responsible for maintaining and defining the RFC Editor model, whereas the IAOC is responsible for the implementation of the agreement between the IETF and the RFC Editor. The RFC Editor contract will be up for bids in 2009. To guarantee continuity, a comprehensive model is needed. To that end, the RFC Editor function will be split into four functions:

  • Independent Stream Approver
  • RFC Editor
  • Production House
  • Publisher

The RFC Editor and Independent Stream Approver roles are new components. They may all be part of one vendor, or they could be separate. The question is, How do we select the functions or vendors? One possibility is through a request for proposals; another is through a NomCom process. The IAB welcomes suggestions.

The discussion took place on the RFC interest list, and a conclusion was planned for end of August. More details can be found on the IAB Web site.

New IAB logo

Finally, Olaf pointed out that the IAB has a new logo, which was designed by IAB executive director Dow Street.

Typically, at IETF meetings an open-microphone session is part of each plenary. At IETF 72, the open-mic session was replaced by a technical panel titled IPv6 Experiences from the Field, in which five panellists described their experiences with IPv6 deployment in their particular environment. (See article page 17.)

Administrative Updates

IETF Trust administrative procedures have been revised, reviewed by the community, and adopted. The RFC series has been assigned an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number), which will make it easier for libraries and other archives to identify them.

The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) working group (WG) has been working on legal provisions for IETF documents. Even though a licence for code was previously developed by volunteers-the Nonprofit Open Source Licence 3.0 (OSL)-several issues have been raised by employees at for-profit enterprises. In the end, the trustees decided to replace OSL with the Berkeley Software Licence for volunteer code. (Additional details on this subject can be found on page 11.)

Jonne Soininen, chair of the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee, and Ray Pelletier, IETF administrative director, gave an update on the financial status of the IETF and announced hosts of future IETF meetings. IETF 74 will be hosted by Juniper and take place in San Francisco. IETF 75 will be hosted by Swedish country code top-level domain .se and take place in Stockholm. IETF 76 will be hosted by the WIDE project and take place in Hiroshima, Japan.

The high-level financial overview for 2008 looks fairly positive. A total of USD 650,000 in meeting sponsors has been secured by the Internet Society. Those three meetings will contribute USD 1.1 million to be invested in other secretariat activities, IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA) activities, and RFC editor activities. ISOC will contribute USD 1.55 million to IASA’s 2008 budget from its organizational member contributions and other sources. Expenses are projected to be slightly under budget for 2008, and the contingency budget of USD 50,000 remains intact.

Jonne also announced that during the remainder of 2008 and in 2009, a number of RFPs would be announced, including those for the meeting network contract, the RFC editor, and the IETF secretariat.

Edu Team Report

The Edu team is responsible for organizing the tutorial sessions on the Sunday prior to each IETF meeting. Its mission is to manage the internal education activities of the IETF and to offer training and other educational material that “improves the effectiveness of the IETF operations.” While the Newcomers Tutorial might be the best-known, there are three different types of tutorials:

  • Process-oriented topics: bringing new work into the IETF and document life cycle
  • Training on tools: XML2RFC and IETF tools
  • Technical topics such as security, DNS, routing, and IPv6

The Edu team also organizes topical trainings for WG chairs during each IETF meeting.

Recently, the Edu team Web site was transitioned to a new wiki site, which makes it more stable and easier to update.

One open issue that comes up from time to time among Edu team members is the role of the technical tutorials and what the tutorials should cover: Should they be introductory-level cross-trainings for IETF participants or should they cover in-depth training on specific technologies? Should there also be training on timely or controversial issues or should the training focus on the technical knowledge needed to produce high-quality IETF specifications?

The Edu team is seeking feedback on those questions and would welcome e-mail sent to [email protected].

IESG Open Mic

IETF 72 participants
IETF 72 participants meet in hotel lobby

During the open-mic session on Thursday, a lengthy discussion focused on both the process and the usefulness of so-called PROTO write-ups-a particular way of providing feedback for Internet-Drafts submitted to the IESG. The IESG said the PROTO write-ups provide feedback that is helpful to IESG members, especially in areas where an IESG member is not expert in the subject area. A discussion followed about the practice of having the IESG make decisions during telephone chats and via other means-a practice that may not be as transparent to the community as it could be.

According to Russ Housley, the IESG’s use of Data Tracker has made the entire process much more transparent. “Now, anyone can see the status of the review and see what comments need to be resolved for the document to progress,” he said.

While most participants agreed that the tracker is a valuable tool, some suggested it could be enhanced so that it can be used more consistently. Russ confirmed that review of the tool is already on the to-do list for the IESG.

IESG member Magnus Westerlund pointed out the need for more bottom-up review. “Cross-area reviews need to be happening,” he said. “Many of the issues that come up in a DISCUSS should be addressed early on in the review process.” A DISCUSS is a certain way for the IESG to provide feedback for an author of an Internet-Draft.

Internet pioneer Vient Cerf
Internet pioneer Vient Cerf chats with IETF 72 attendees

IAB member and liaison to the IETF Loa Andersson said the problems that were being discussed stem from a relatively small number of DISCUSSes. He said he felt that, overall, the work is being done well. “I have been a WG chair for some time, and I have experienced a number of area directors,” he said. “Usually, the DISCUSS comments have helped improve the document.”

At the end of the IESG open mic session, the suggestion was made that the IETF consider extending the meetings to Friday afternoon. Most of those who commented on the subject were opposed to that suggestion and made some other suggestions instead. For instance, one participant suggested the meetings start earlier in the mornings or that there be more calls between meetings. In general, it was felt that more work needs to be done outside the three meetings that are held each year.

The discussion continued on mailing lists following IETF 72, and in the meantime, the IESG has decided to proceed with the suggestion at IETF 73 in Minneapolis and to provide meeting slots until 15:15 on that Friday.

IAB Open Mic

Shuttle takes IETF participants to Dublin

During the IAB open mic session, a participant asked what the IAB thinks about adding new congestion-control algorithms to TCP: Do we view an aggregated UDP/IP header as just the layer 3 datagram layer over which we run this TCP implementation, as opposed to sticking with TCP? Or are we using another congestion-controlled transport like SCTP or DCCP? This issue came up in the Techniques for Advanced Networking Applications (TANA) BoF that met during IETF 72.

A variety of views were expressed by the IAB in response. On one hand, Stuart Cheshire said he thought it would be a good approach to “experiment with this at the user level running over UDP. Then, when the algorithm is worked out, it can bestandardized and then gradually made into the mainstream TCP implementations over a longer time frame, like five years.” This would recognize the tension that exists between the IETF, which makes long-term standards, and the companies that want to ship products.

On the other hand, Dave Oran suggested that the community proceed with caution with regard to congestion control algorithms. “There is a balance to be struck,” he said. “Involvement of the sponsoring ADs and the relevant ICCRG [Internet Congestion Control Research Group] is important. Let’s move with much speed and low haste.”

Then should one use UDP for peer-to-peer communication between peers that are stuck behind NAT gateways, and TCP for everything else?

No, said Stuart, who answered that one can have NAT-to-NAT peer-to-peer communication equally well with either TCP or UDP. “The reason TANA wants a new congestion control algorithm is that they want something less aggressive than today’s TCP,” he said. “It has nothing to do with NAT gateways.”
Scott Bradner remembered that when he was a transport AD, many people wanted to use UDP, that usually, it was a way to say that TCP was too heavy and too slow. He cautioned that one should “be very concerned about the underlying excuse.”