Today’s IETF Leaders: Jari Arkko

By: Carolyn Duffy Marsan

Date: March 19, 2017

line break image

IETF leader: Jari Arkko

Began IETF participation: 1996

Current role: Outgoing IETF chair

Previous roles: Internet area director; IAB; cochair of Working Groups for the Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), EAP Method Update, and IKEv2 Mobility and Multi-Homing Protocol (MOBIKE)

Day job: Senior expert at Ericsson Research

Favorite aspect of IETF leadership: Observing Internet developments

I had my first contact with the IETF in 1996. I was working at Ericsson on modem pools and access services. Some of what we wanted to build for our products needed standards so they could interoperate. I started working with AAA protocols and extensions, and later became chair of the EAP, EMU, and MOBIKE Working Groups. These were long-term efforts that I was heavily involved in.

When I was first approached about the area director (AD) role, it didn’t sound like a feasible goal—but it grew on me. A few years later, I applied for the role and it turned out to be a perfect fit. I got to work on topics I really cared about, such as IPv6 transition techniques. And it was good for Ericsson because this is the layer where our products mostly were.

I was an AD from 2006 to 2012—a little on the long side for the position. We say that four years is optimal because it takes about two years to learn the job. During that period, the IETF took up 50–100% of my time. Meanwhile, Ericsson benefitted from my advising them on where the technical pieces that we cared for were heading.

I spent the year after my AD term on the the IAB [Internet Architecture Board] and already wondering if I wanted to be the IETF chair. I knew it would be a growing experience, perhaps even a scary challenge. I thought about it for a long time, and decided to go for it.

I was IETF chair from 2013 to 2017. And this year things are changing again: I will remain at the IETF and contribute to it, and also again be on the IAB.

I have benefitted tremendously from my role in the IETF—it’s been a privilege to witness Internet technology in the making. Plus, the nature of a leadership role in the IETF demanded that I see things in a broader way, talk with other companies, talk with lots of people with new ideas. It forced me to understand the bigger picture. I’ve also become personal friends with lots of people in the industry, a perk I’ve enjoyed a great deal.

In a leadership role, you get the feeling that you are in the middle of important issues. As chair of one of the more active or high-profile working groups, you are doing things that are broadly visible and have an impact on the Internet. As IETF chair, I was witness to many interesting things. I am an engineer and have no interest in going into political matters. Yet observing the IANA [Internet Assigned Numbers Authority] transition was a wonderful experience, and I was glad to see how that played out.

Being an IETF chair represents almost 100% of my efforts; although I spend a fair bit of time at Ericsson, too, where I share what is changing in the Internet and make sure the company considers that information. There have been many cases, including encryption changes, HTTP, and IoT technology, where Ericsson’s business was affected by what occurred at the IETF. The company appreciates the IETF team’s involvement and expertise on these topics.
Are you thinking about applying for an IETF leadership position? Take the challenge! Expose yourself to new things. You’ll learn so much more—a benefit to both you as a person and your employer.

Being a leader in the IETF has shown me that we can make a difference. We can make significant technical changes in the Internet and influence how it is administered. Yes, sometimes it is hard and takes a lot of effort, but isn’t that the exciting part?