Words from the IAB Chair

By: Olaf Kolkman

Date: October 1, 2010

line break image

In the last issue of The IETF Journal, I told you that the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) would have its retreat in June 2010, and so it did. We met on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where we enjoyed the facilities made available to us by Scott Bradner.

At this year’s retreat, our focus was on establishing methods that would enable us to identify and organize work items in ways that will lead to greater effectiveness in terms of prioritization, communication, and delivery.

IAB work items can be divided roughly into four major categories:

  • Long-term interests
  • Short-term working items (initiatives)
  • Long-term working items (programmes)
  • Activity plan
  • Long-Term Interests

Traditionally, the IAB has taken an interest in a number of architectural areas. Among them, in no particular order, are:

  • IPv6 and its adoption and transitional coexistence with IPv4 given the realities of an IPv4-dominated Internet
  • Domain Name System health and security
  • Web security
  • The realities of maintaining the end-to-end and layered architectures
  • Prevention of unwanted traffic
  • The security and stability of the routing system
  • Internationalization of the Internet and balance with localization and retention of a global network

Short-Term Working Items (initiatives)

To some of those items the IAB may consider committing short-term efforts—ones in which an activity is expected to be completed in less then one tenure of an IAB member. We call such activities initiatives. The outcomes of initiatives usually are the results of guidance provided in the form of IAB Stream RFCs, statements, or working group/plenary presentations.

Long-Term Working Items (programmes)

Other items may require longer-term perspective, and the results may involve a variety of activities and deliverables. They may also involve separate activities, such as scoping the work (in the form of birds of a feather, presentations, and position papers), advancing the work, or stimulating the charter development of new work within the IETF. In some cases, work in these areas may involve some form of collaboration with other organizations.

These types of work are organized in the form of programmes. They can be thought of as IAB directorates, small task forces, or ad hoc bodies of (independent) technical experts (see RFC 2850 Section 2.1). Programmes are managed by the IAB, but the actual work may require the IAB to form a team with specific expertise that may not be available within the IAB.

The structuring of the work in this way has several objectives:

  • To minimize dependency on the current IAB composition and the specific expertises and competencies of the IAB’s members
  • To minimize dependency on the tenure of IAB members;
  • To increase bandwidth by shifting IAB members’ responsibilities from doing the actual work to organizing and delegating work and providing guidance
  • To shift the IAB’s focus from the specifics of an activity to the development of a vision of the Big Picture and the maintenance of that Big Picture
  • To advance an IAB whose focus is on identifying areas of priority and carrying out respective efforts
  • To improve visibility of the IAB’s activities and create opportunities for the community to offer feedback on content and priorities

In most cases, programme leaders will be IAB members. A leader’s objective will be to facilitate activities within the programme, provide oversight, and ensure continuity. The leader is not required to have specific expertise in the area but must possess a good general understanding of the issues from technical, business, and/or policy perspectives. Generally speaking, the programme leader is expected to bring the IAB perspective to the work. The IAB as a whole will periodically review the state of a programme, monitor its progress, make necessary adjustments, and set prioritizations.


The IAB has a number of regular responsibilities that fall under the umbrella of periodic and reoccurring responsibilities. For example, in 2010-2011, the IAB will need to:

  • Confirm the Internet Engineering Steering Group candidates (RFC 3777)
  • Appoint a member of the ISOC Board of Trustees (RFC 3677)
  • Appoint the Internet Research Task Force chair (RFC 2850)
  • Appoint the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers board liaison [ICANN Bylaws, Article VI, section 9, par. 1(f)]
  • Handle any appeals

Activity Plan

Subject areas and related programmes are periodically reviewed by the IAB. Selected programmes and initiatives form an activity plan. We have published an overview of the 2010-2011 activity plan at and will make the information available in a more comprehensive fashion on our website.

This article was posted on 31 January 2011