Words from the IAB Chair

By: Olaf Kolkman

Date: July 7, 2008

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A proven method for performing architectural work is by publishing architectural documents/RFCs. It is not the only method by which the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) works. There are the technical plenaries – subject of my last column; there is the IAB’s input during BOF and working group creation; there are workshops with workshop reports as their outcomes; and there are the statements we publish on our Web site or on relevant mailing lists.

photo of olaf kolkman
Olaf Kolkman, IAB Chair

Architectural documents usually start their lives because of a particular interest in an architectural topic by one or more IAB members. Those architectural topics are usually triggered by ongoing work in the IETF, where one could claim that an architectural principle has been violated or that there are various architectural choices to be made. I hurry to say that there is neither a big book with architectural principles nor a blueprint with all of the design principles available to the IAB – or anybody else. So, what makes an issue an architectural issue is usually in the eye of the observer.

An architectural document is valuable if such document tries to step away from the issue of the day, if it takes a stab at rationalizing the design trade-offs, and if it provides architectural directions. Directions-plural-because often there are multiple ways to approach a problem, and depending on the environment, one may need to make trade-offs between several architectural principles and pragmatism.

IAB members are not, and should not be, the only ones able to identify, analyse, and document architectural issues and directions. It occasionally happens that other IETF participants solicit an architectural Internet Draft for IAB consideration. Also, after considering an issue, the IAB may find it has insufficient in-depth knowledge of the specifics of an issue. In those cases, it reaches out to let specialists help define the various directions and trade-offs.

Architectural documents are published as RFCs after IAB consensus. However, the IAB does not publish its architectural documents without some form of public review. Usually, the intent to publish a document is announced on the IETF announcement list, and feedback is solicited. If you want to know more about the process by which the IAB publishes architectural and other IAB stream documents, I refer you to RFC4548 (“Process for Publication of IAB RFCs”).

At the moment of writing this column two drafts are about to be finalised for publication: “Design Choices When Expanding DNS” and “What Makes For a Successful Protocol?” while “Principles of Internet Host Configuration” is on the nomination for an IETF call for comments. As always, your comments on specific documents or on areas where the IAB might consider publication of architectural consideration documents are welcome.

IETF 71 Facts and FiguresRegistered attendees: 1,131
Countries: 49
New WGs: 5
Closed WGs: 2
WGs Chartered: 120
New Internet-Drafts: 337
Updated Internet-Drafts: 881
IETF Last Calls: 60
Approvals: 50
(Nov 2007 – Feb 2008)

73 RFCs published of which

  • 52 standards tracks
  • 1 BCP

80 Internet-Drafts submitted for publication

  • 52 submitted by the IETF

IANA Actions
(Nov 2007 – Feb 2008)
Processed ~1,240 IETF-related requests of which:

  • 761 Private Enterprise Numbers
  • 92 Port Numbers
  • 92 Port Numbers
  • 125 TRIP ITAD Numbers
  • 30 media-type requests