Words from the IAB Chair

By: Olaf Kolkman

Date: October 7, 2007

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The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) has a number of responsibilities, one of which is to maintain relationships between the IETF and external organisations. RFC 2850 describes the process in the following manner:

The IAB acts as representative of the interests of the IETF and the Internet Society in technical liaison relationships with other organisations concerned with standards and other technical and organisational issues relevant to the world-wide Internet.


The IETF has an intensive relationship with the Telecommunication Standardisation Sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-T). In addition to serving as general liaison to the organisation, we have liaisons for MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), NGN (Next Generation Network), and Study Group 15. We invited the ITU-T leadership to an informal meeting on the Saturday prior to the Chicago IETF for the sole purpose of getting to know the faces behind the e-mail addresses and to have an informal discussion about the things that drive our respective organisations. The get-together was motivated by the notion that collaboration is most effective and fruitful when personal contacts are established.

Several topics were discussed during the meeting. One in particular had to do with IETF concern over the use by Transport MPLS of the MPLS Ethertype, which was formally raised by the end of the week. SeeT-MPLS use of the MPLS Ethertypes. Both the informal discussion and the liaison on T-MPLS are examples of how the working relationship between ITU-T and the IETF proceeds on a day-today basis.

On a more strategic level, the IAB has responded to a questionnaire in which the ITU was seeking input on its role in Internet policy and standards development. In our response, we reiterated that the IETF is the standards organisation responsible for a number of the topics covered in the questionnaire and that the IETF has mechanisms in place for the ITU-T and the ITU membership to participate in the work.

Architectural work

Since the previous issue of the IETF Journal, a number of IAB architectural documents have appeared as RFCs:

  • RFC 4840: Multiple Encapsulation Methods Considered Harmful
  • RFC 4903: Multi-Link Subnet Issues
  • RFC 4907: Architectural Implications of Link Indications
  • RFC 4924: Reflections on Internet Transparency

The IAB also held a retreat, kindly hosted by Harvard University, where we discussed ongoing business and possible future work. Although concrete work items have not yet crystallised, our discussions have focused on fundamental Internet protocol issues, such as the routing and addressing problem, IPv6 deployment, and architectural problems associated with Network Address Translation. I don’t think it is a coincidence that these are the same topics that happened to have been discussed during the technical plenary at IETF 69 in Chicago. I have also observed that these are topics on which folks within the IETF-and hence also within the IAB-have different perspectives, particularly in how they view both the problems and the possible solutions.

See you all at IETF 70 in Vancouver in December.