Words from the IAB Chair

By: Andrew Sullivan

Date: April 17, 2016

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IETF 94 was in Yokohama, Japan, and as usual, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) had some things to report. But this time, instead of using plenary time for it, we sent a report in advance to the community (see This was inspired by a change to the way the meeting worked, and the IAB has concluded that it is a positive approach for our reports. Expect to see this kind of advance report again before Buenos Aires.

No News Is Good News?

One of the things that the IAB does is pay attention to new work coming to the IETF. The IAB tries very hard to make sure that at least one IAB member covers every Birds of a Feather (BoF) at an IETF meeting. We report back to the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) about what we saw, how we think it fits into other work we know about, whether we think the effort is likely to produce a successful working group, and so on. So, it was with some discomfort that I contemplated the Yokohama meeting, since there was only one BoF.

In some ways, that shouldn’t be too surprising. There were lots of working groups chartered last year, and previous meetings had record numbers of BoFs (more requests than were accommodated). Also, some areas have become good at chartering working groups without holding BoFs. Nevertheless, it was an unusual occurrence, and so it did not surprise me that it came up as a major topic at the plenary.

An important part of that discussion was about process. How does new work get started? How do people meet informally to start working on a problem?  Many people talked about reducing formal barriers. Yet it seems that the formal barriers are mostly a figment of our collective imagination. A significant reason for the IETF holding its meetings is exactly so that people can get together informally and explore topics collaboratively. At the IETF, you don’t need permission to get started. You don’t even need forgiveness. If you think a topic is interesting and you can convince a few other people to talk about it, then you have all you need to get a conversation going. Discuss, improve the idea, and so on. The barriers are low.

But to make the more formal parts of the process easier, the IAB is happy to help. If you are struggling with how an idea fits together or need help with how to approach your topic (or, perhaps, how it relates to the Internet), feel free to contact [email protected] Talking about these issues is part of our job.

Collaboration and Meetings

The Yokohama meeting coincided with several other meetings in the region. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) held its meeting in Sapporo the week prior to the IETF meeting. The Internet Measurement Conference (IMC) was in Tokyo just before the IETF meeting, as was the OpenStack Summit. And the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) organized a workshop around the IMC.

One of the IAB’s responsibilities is to serve as the IETF’s formal interface to other organizations. When the happy coincidence of all these meetings came up in the plenary, it got me thinking about how we build our connections to other groups. There are lots of people participating in the IETF and other organizations, and they represent a large store of knowledge about what is going on there. This is, I suspect, a part of what people found great about having so many meetings close to each other. It isn’t just the saved travel costs, but also the opportunity to experience work modes and hear views you otherwise might not.

I have been wondering whether there might be a way to make more links of this sort across the IETF without the happy accident of having a lot of meetings in physical proximity. Given the existing constraints on IETF meetings (and others’ meetings), it will be hard to arrange this sort of schedule often. Would it be useful to identify some groups with whom we have significant overlap and try to do some recruiting there? Or is this better left to the natural processes of people working on these problems to pick the right venue for their work? If you have thoughts, the IAB is interested.

Not Just IETF Meetings

Of course, the IAB doesn’t only do work at IETF meetings. Since the Yokohama meeting, the IAB has sent comments to the ICANN CCWG-Accountability survey and also to the ICANN call for comments on the Registration Data Access Protocol (RADP) Operational Profile proposals. You can see what the IAB sends to other organizations at

The IAB is responsible for a number of appointments both inside and outside the IETF community. The appointments are tracked at An important ongoing appointment process is that of the IRTF chair. The current IRTF chair, Lars Eggert, has announced that he will not seek reappointment, and the IAB is looking for his replacement. Lars leaves some big shoes to fill, so we have our work cut out for us. By the time you read this, the IAB will also have made decisions about the appointments to the Internet Society Board of Trustees and the RFC Oversight Committee.

The IAB also convenes workshops on topics relevant to Internet architecture. By IETF 95, the IAB will have held the Internet of Things Semantic Interoperability Workshop. Interoperability is the core value of internetworking, and we anticipate that the workshop will make a positive contribution to it. For more about our work-shops, see 

Our next IETF meeting will be in April 2016, when new Nomcom appointments are seated. The IAB will both welcome new members and miss those who are departing. I have been grateful to serve on the IAB with the group this year and I look forward to next year with my IAB colleagues both new and returning.