Record-Breaking Hackathon at IETF 96 in Berlin

By: Charles Eckel

Date: November 1, 2016

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The IETF Hackathon in Berlin, held 16–17 July, was the biggest and most impactful Hackathon to date. A record 158 participants registered, and even more showed during the weekend to work on more than 20 projects spanning at least 15 different technologies. This was the first Hackathon for almost half of the participants, and it was the first IETF experience of any sort for more than 25 individuals. These numbers speak to how well the Hackathon is doing in terms of meeting its objective of introducing more people to the IETF and making their first experiences positive ones.

Goals of the IETF Hackathon

  • Advance the pace and relevance of IETF standards activities by bringing the speed and collaborative spirit of open source development into the IETF (e.g., targeted standards areas where ideas are flushed out, sample code is produced, and useful utilities are developed).
  • Bring developers and young people into the IETF and get them exposed to and interested in the IETF.

The Hackathon was held in conjunction with IETF 96, over the weekend that marked the start of a full week of IETF activities. By 9:00 am Saturday, the room was already more than half full with both project champions eager to share posters describing their projects and participants seeking the best match for their interests and skills.

Project posters are a new component of Hackathons and are being used in place of the short project presentations that typically occurred at the start of the Hackathon. We found that even when presentations were restricted to no more than 5 minutes, having 20 or more of them ate up valuable time that could have been spent hacking. The posters ranged from professional-looking masterpieces to a few words scribbled haphazardly on a flip chart. They all served the intended purpose, and an ad hoc Q&A provided any necessary clarifications. An unofficial survey of participants validated the hypothesis that the posters were, indeed, a welcome change.

Teams formed very quickly, and additional participants were welcomed as they trickled in the rest of Saturday and even Sunday morning. A competitive spirit was evident, but even greater was a collaborative spirit aimed at progressing IETF work with speed, quality, and relevance via running code and open source software. The teams worked tirelessly; a coffee machine, lunch, cookies, dinner, and beer provided more than adequate fuel and incentive to remain on task. On Saturday, many participants finally agreed to leave at 10:15 pm in order to allow hotel staff to lock up and go home. When the doors reopened Sunday morning, many got right back to work—even before the officially advertised 9:00 am start time.

By early Sunday afternoon, teams had switched gears to create brief presentations that answered the following three questions:

  1. What problem you are solving?
  2. How do you plan to solve it?
  3. What did you achieve, highlighting benefits to IETF work and communities of interest?

The presentations were viewed by fellow participants and judges, and were both recorded and live streamed for the benefit of those not able to join the actual event.


Best Overall

  • ILA – IPv6 Identifier Locator Addressing
    • Implementing draft-herbert-nvo3-ila-02
    • Data plane method to implement network virtualization without encapsulation and its related overhead
    • Implemented ILA as VPP plugin
    • Interop between VPP in and Linux kernel space fast data path in ioVisor

Best Feedback to Working Groups

  • I2RS – Interface to Routing System
    • Tried to implement YANG data models as defined by Working Group
    • Uncovered issues in correctness and level of complexity
    • Great insights and guidance back into working group

Most Important to IETF

Best Interop Testing for Imminent Deployment

  • TLS 1.3
    • Development and interop testing across various crypto libraries (e.g., NSS, Apache, Firefox, ProtoTLS, MiTLS, BoringSSL)

Most Progress during the Hackathon

  • IoT Bootstrapping for Noobs
    • Implemented

Best Ecosystem Engagement

    • DNS security and privacy enhancements, interoperability improvements
    • Multiple user stories, multiple open source prototypes

Additional information, including the list of registered projects and participants and all presentations, are available via the Hackathon wiki (

Plans are already underway for the IETF 97 Hackathon in Seoul, Korea, 12–13 November. Information will be available soon at the main IETF Hackathon page (

You can remain up to date on Hackathon discussions by subscribing to the Hackathon mailing list (  Share your questions, comments, new project proposals, and the like via the mailing list or by contacting the IETF Hackathon chairs: Barry Leiba ([email protected]) and Charles Eckel ([email protected]).