Words from the IAB Chair

By: Olaf Kolkman

Date: December 7, 2007

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Olaf Kolkman

Olaf Kolkman, IAB Chair

The technical plenary during IETF 69 in Chicago did not include a technical presentation. During the open-microphone session at that IETF, a number of people in the audience expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of a substantive technical presentation. In contrast, IETF 70 in Vancouver featured two technical topics that were sufficiently thought provoking to stimulate lively debate.

The technical plenary serves as a forum in which the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) reports and receives feedback from the community. The IAB chair’s report, the IRTF (Internet Research Task Force) chair’s report, and the open- microphone session are fixed agenda items. These agenda items serve a purpose similar to those of the IAOC (Internet Administrative Oversight Committee) and the IESG (Internet Engineering Steering Group) administrative plenary sessions: they serve as a meaningful and effective way for the IAB to receive feedback from and undergo scrutiny by the community.

In addition to those agenda items, the IAB looks for presentations that inform the IETF of technical topics or developments the community should be aware of or that require further discussion.

Often, these sorts of presentations relate directly to work that is ongoing within the IAB. One example is the session on internationalisation that was featured at IETF 68 in Prague. It was inspired by the earlier publication of RFC 46901. Dave Thaler’s presentation on protocol successes in Vancouver is another example; clearly, some of the protocols that we design have been much more successful than others. The IAB has been working to try to understand which factors lead to success. Its goal is to help make current and future protocol work more successful. The paper titled “What Makes For a Successful Protocol?”2 represents the current state of our thinking (see page 20). We welcome yours.

Sometimes the topics presented at the technical plenary are of wide interest but not directly related to the IETF’s or the IAB’s agenda. An example of that was the presentation in Vancouver on power consumption of network elements, a topic that is starting to attract a lot of interest but that is not something that we in the IETF have heretofore considered when designing protocols or systems. We hope it was useful to hear someone who is actively researching power consumption reflect on the power consumption issues in IETF protocols and networks in general.

When selecting plenary topics and speakers, we always aim for presentations that are entertaining, informative, and thought provoking and that will lead to healthy group discussion. Of course, defining suitable topics and finding good speakers are continuing challenges for which the IAB welcomes suggestions.


  1. RFC 4690: Review and Recommendations for Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), Klensin, Fältström, Karp, and the IAB.
  2. What Makes For a Successful Protocol? D. Thaler, B. Aboba, and the IAB.