Late last month I attended the 92nd meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), an international community of network designers, operators, vendors and researchers whose mission is to "Make the Internet work better by producing high quality, relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet."
In short, the IETF is the principal body engaged in the development of new Internet standard specifications. Open to any interested individual, most of its work is conducted over the Internet. And it's the place where most of the technologies that support the New IP have been, or will be, standardized.
The standardization process of "rough consensus and running code" is often longer and messier than we might hope. This standardization, though, is what ultimately leads to the kind of interoperable software, hardware and networks that make up the modern Internet, and are now evolving into the New IP. An Internet without standards is no Internet at all. Rather, it would be just a set of siloed networks running proprietary technologies.
Lucky for all of us, the IETF does exist. Even better, its ethos contains open participation, freely available work, technical merit and voluntary deployment. This open, transparent, bottom-up, consensus-driven methodology permeates the entire Internet ecosystem.
It also means that anyone with a good idea can have an impact on the future of the Internet, a hand in defining the New IP. Knowing what's currently being worked on is the first step to making that impact, so let's take a look:
One of the highlights from IETF 92 for me was the technical plenary on Monday, March 23. Two presentations, and the resulting discussions, are worth reviewing:
- An IoT Primer: The recently published RFC 7452 "Architectural Considerations in Smart Object Networking" is a mouthful to say, but basically, it's a primer for folks working on the Internet of Things (IoT). It contains a solid taxonomy of smart-object communication patterns, an earnest look at the tradeoffs to using IP in smart-objects and a great list of privacy and security considerations. Some related IETF working groups include 6LO, 6TiSCH, ACE,
LWIG and ROLL.
- A Journey through Middlebox: The second presentation of interest was a report on the IAB Workshop on Stack Evolution in a Middlebox Internet (SEMI). This workshop was held to help address 'ossification' in the current Internet -- or how to enable the New IP on the existing infrastructure.
According to this presentation, the Internet's transport layer has ossified which makes it difficult to innovate in the transport layer. At the same time, emerging applications require functionality that existing protocols can provide only inefficiently, if at all. Folks interested in this topic should check out the HOPS, SPUD or StackEvo mailing lists, or the TAPS working group.
Of course, the technical plenary only makes up a small portion of the IETF meeting. The vast majority of the week is spent in working group (WG) meetings. There is far too much work going on in the IETF to cover every WG here, or even provide a recap of just a few WG meetings. Instead, I'll point you to a few more WGs that I think are critical to enabling the New IP:
- v6ops, or IPv6 Operations, is working on ironing out all of the final wrinkles discovered in the substrate of the New IP as more and more networks enable IPv6.
- dnsop, or Domain Name System Operations, is particularly interesting lately due to their work on DNS Security (DNSSEC).
- opsec, or Operational Security Capabilities for IP Network Infrastructure, is a personal favorite of mine because they call out many current network security issues and then seek to document solutions and best practices.
In addition, a couple more security-related WGs are worth watching right now:
- dane, or DNS-based Authentication of Named Entities, is fundamentally an extension to DNSSEC that allows applications to establish cryptographically secured communications.
- The uta, or Using TLS in Applications, WG is focused on making it easier for application developers to use TLS (formerly SSL) to authenticate and encrypt Internet communications.
There is a ton more going on in the IETF and you don't even have to show up at meetings to participate. The overwhelming majority of the IETF's work is done and all official decisions are made online. All you have to do to get started is find a working group of interest, join the mailing list and start contributing.
— Chris Grundemann, Director of Deployment and Operationalization, Internet Society, special to The New IP