Turning 30, IETF Seeks Ideas for Growth

By: Carolyn Duffy Marsan

Date: July 6, 2016

line break image

As the IETF celebrates its 30th birthday, the group’s leadership team is looking for ways that the standards body can remain influential and effective for the next 15 years. It invites everyone to participate in this ongoing discussion.

During the plenary session at IETF 95 in Buenos Aires, the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) discussed Internet trends and observations affecting how the IETF operates. Routing Area Director Alia Atlas gave a report from a design team that has developed a draft entitled, IETF Trends and Observations. At issue is how the IETF should continue evolving to meet its goal of making the Internet work better.

“We have changed the world, and we all know that,” Atlas said. “The Internet is critical to public and private life. People who are under 30 can’t imagine what the world was like before the Internet… Now the IETF is living in the world that we helped to create, and that creates more opportunities for us.”

In particular, the IESG is looking for ways that working groups can do more of their business online using cutting-edge collaboration tools. In addition, the IESG hopes to enhance remote participation, develop local hubs of activity, and reduce its financial dependency on hosting three large meetings per year.

“We’re going to keep changing because we’re going to keep taking advantage of the technology and collaboration abilities that we enabled,” Atlas said. “We need to continue expanding our community, expanding our social circle. We need to add more people to our meetings… but we also need to keep the operators, developers, and researchers comfortable participating in the low-volume way that they want to.”

Atlas pointed out that at its first meeting, the IETF had only 30 people with “the simple idea of rough consensus and running code. The question as we look ahead is: How can the IETF continue to be true to our roots, thrive in this world, and create the future Internet that we need?”

Atlas explained that the Internet Society is reorganizing its support for the IETF and seeking more global sponsors for what it now calls The IETF Endowment. She said the IETF must transition its funding structure away from in-person meetings to a more sustainable structure that will support an increase in remote participation.

She said companies are interested in sponsoring the IETF because it “is a trusted technical authority. People respect the work we do. They know that we understand the technology and that we care that it makes the Internet keep going and get better.”

In addition to increasing remote participation, the IESG hopes to create local hubs with active communities engaged in technical sharing, Hackathons, and social activities.

“We’re going to spread the idea of the IETF and grow the community,” she said. “There are two things that tie us together: one is our love of technology and finding a good practical solution, and the other is finding someone else—one or five other people—to have an awesome technical discussion with… The community is where we have our strength.”

Atlas said the IETF must do a better job of communicating what it is doing and to be more outward-focused, rather than exclusively inward-focused. “New communities may be joining us because they want a technology standardized. We need to be welcoming,” she added.

Atlas concluded by asking IETF participants to read the draft and participate in the mailing list discussion at [email protected]. “What we really want is your ideas on how the IETF should adapt and improve,” she said. “We’re looking for community discussion that converges and sets new direction.”

Also at the plenary session, the IAB described its recent Internet of Things Semantic Interoperability Workshop and its Names & Identifiers Program.

IAB member Dave Thaler said the IoT workshop was “extremely productive”, attracting almost 40 attendees to discuss the many different definitions and schemas emerging for various objects in the evolving IoT area.

Suzanne Woolf gave an overview of the IAB Names & Identifiers Program, which has several drafts about the history and semantics of domain names, what an idealized naming system might look like, and how to look at names and naming in context. Additionally, the IAB held a Birds-of-a-Feather session in Buenos Aires aimed at looking beyond DNS and default context for Internet names.

In other news, Scott Bradner was given a standing ovation after it was announced that he would retire in June. Bradner has been active in the organization since IETF 16 in 1990. He has published 44 Request for Comments (RFC) documents and is the author of the most-cited RFC (2119), which outlines key words for use in RFCs to indicate requirement levels. He was area director in four different areas and is a current Internet Society Board Member and IETF Administrative Oversight Committee member. Bradner was the second person to win the IETF’s highest honor, the Postel Service Award, after Jon Postel himself.

“For me, you have been the person to look up to. It was very easy to work with you. You always have an intelligent answer, and you always go all the way thinking about topics and trying to do the right thing,” said IETF Chair Jari Arkko as he presented Bradner with an award for being the “Mother of Consensus”.

“In general, it’s been positive for me and hopefully for the organization. But the time does come, and it has. Thank you very much,” Bradner said.

  • Perhaps IETF members might participate in Standards and Innovation in Information Technology (SIIT) a biannual conference (next Fall 2017) that brings together technology, economics and legal minds to better understand WHY standards and standardization (the field of isology) have the amazing impact they do and HOW to better utilize isology. For further info contact [email protected]