A New IETF Work Area

Date: 20 Nov 2000

Traditionally the IETF has focused its efforts "above the wire and below the application." Occasionally standards track RFCs have given advice to application implementors about what application-level commands a user should be able to execute ( e.g., Requirements for Internet Hosts -- Application and Support - RFC 1123), defined software APIs (e.g., GSSAPI - RFC 2743), and given advice on the proper use of the features of IETF technology (e.g., Use of HTTP State Management. - RFC 2964). But mostly we have left the specifications of applications and how 'wires' such as Ethernet or ATM are defined and operate to other standards organizations or to the market place.

Over the years the boundary between 'wires' and IP protocols has become harder to define and the interaction has become more intertwined. For example, what appear as 'wires' or 'circuits' in a virtual network may in fact be routed datagrams in an underlying IP network. The topology of dynamic underlying networks such as ATM and soon switched optical networks can interact with IP-level traffic engineering and routing. Additionally, with IETF technologies such as MPLS we are defining a whole new class of 'wires'.

It has become increasingly clear that the IETF needs to develop a systematic approach to dealing with what we used to describe as "sub-IP" technologies. This approach should be able to help clarify what specific technologies the IETF should work on, what technologies we should forward to other organizations, and what technologies we need to work with other organizations to develop. In this effort the IETF is not proposing to develop physical wire technologies such as Ethernet, we are proposing to figure out common ways to monitor and control such technologies as they apply to IP networks. The existing and any new IETF sub-IP efforts such as MPLS should be grouped together under common management.

As a first cut at such a systematic approach the IESG has decided to establish a new sub-IP pseudo-area. This pseudo-area will be temporarily housed in the General Area with the IETF Chair acting as Area Director and with the Area Directors of a number of existing IETF Areas acting as a joint technical and management team. We do not expect this to be a long term arrangement and the status of the sub-IP effort will be reviewed during the Spring of 2001. At that time, the IESG will determine which of the following three options will be pursued. The IESG could determine that there is a need for a long term effort in this arena. If that is the case the IESG will establish an additional IETF Area and ask the nomcom to select one or two Area Directors to manage it. A second possibility is that the IESG could determine that there is a need for a short term (one to two year) coordinated effort in which case the IESG could establish a new temporary area as was done in the case of IPng and appoint two current Area Directors to manage the effort co-terminus with their current assignments. The third possibility is that some of the working groups being moved into the pseudo-area and some of the new working groups will finish up their work by the fall of 2001 with insufficient remaining work left over to justify the creation of even a temporary area. In that case whatever working groups remain would be dispersed to existing IETF areas.

Some existing IETF working groups will be moved into this pseudo-area and a number of new working groups will be created. They will be listed under the General Area on the agenda for the San Diego IETF meeting. There are also some BOFs scheduled to be held in San Diego that may, if they become working groups, be located in the pseudo-area. One example is the Circuit over IP BOF (coip).

The existing IETF working groups that will be moved into the pseudo-area are Multiprotocol Label Switching (mpls) and Internet Traffic Engineering (tewg).

New and proposed working groups that are being located in this pseudo-area include: Common Control and Measurement Planes (CoMa), Provider Provisioned Virtual Private Networks (ppvpn), IP over Packet Transport Rings (ipoptr), and IP over Optical (ipo). Draft charters for these working groups were posted earlier today.