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  • Writer's picturePraneet Kaur

My first ever IETF: Experience of IETF-108

Dreams come true indeed if the intent is pure. I remember vividly being at the APNIC conference around this time last year. At APNIC, there is a tradition to celebrate the birthday of all fellows falling in the month of the event. When asked about my birthday wish during the celebration I said that I wish to attend IETF as a fellow. A year later, I attended IETF 108 with sponsorship. IETF 108 was the first IETF I attended actively in spite of being involved with the IETF community directly and indirectly for the last four years. If you are reading this blog, you probably know about the IIESoc community which focuses on increasing participation in IETF from India. So, every year I would participate actively in Connections (which is the pre- IETF prime event organized by IIESoc) but I could never attend the IETF meetings throughout the week. I was indeed very excited for IETF 108 since this time the meeting was completely online and with work from home still going on due to COVID-19, it was a very good opportunity to finally attend the complete IETF. However, for IETF 108, for the first time ever there was a registration fee for remote attendance and hence I was up for another disappointment. Finally, this story took a happy turn and I got to know about the fee waiver program through the IETF blogs and also the IETF India community. Still hopeful, I applied for the fee waiver sponsored by Google, Fastly, and FutureWei Technologies. I can not highlight enough the importance of fellowships which allow highly interested people to participate in IETF. Thanks to the fee waiver program, I was finally able to register to the IETF 108 free of cost.

IIESoc webinar with some pro tips from long time IETFers

Being a casual remote attendee for several years, it was well aware that the first IETF participation is quite overwhelming. Hence, I applied for a mentor to guide me through my IETF journey. Within 2 days, I received a mail from my mentor, Shivan on my registered mail ID followed by a one on one call. Shivan explained to me the tools and the tricks to navigate effortlessly through the meetings and solved my queries with utmost patience. It is worth noting that the IETF tries to match the mentor with the areas specified in the form while requesting for the mentor. Being from related areas without a doubt, he suggested some particular items on the agenda which proved to be very useful to me indeed. My interest lies in the IoT domain which is sort of spread across a number of working groups so throughout the IETF week I did not stop myself from jumping across various meetings. Thanks to the extensive discussion with my mentor and plenty of research prior to the IETF week, I had a good idea of the working groups of my interest. The timezone worked very well for me indeed. Being in IST, I would finish my office work and then get on with the meetings every day hence I was able to attend actively throughout the week. I attended sessions from cbor, core, rtgwg, ace, suit, quic, 6lo, 6man, and lpwan WGs. My mentor introduced me to a very interesting IETF tool which helped me plan my agenda for the entire week with ease. This tool “Customize the agenda view…” on the IETF agenda page helped me add the WGs and displayed the agenda for those particular WGs only. It proved very helpful to me since I didn't have to battle through the agenda every time I wanted to check the schedule. The IETF mobile app is also handy for keeping track of the meetings on the go. The social interaction through hallway conversations on GatherTown was a delightful experience in the sense that it gave a very real feeling even with remote attendance.

IETF 108 Gathertown Web interface

Although, I used to attend IETF meetings remotely every time I never stayed attentively in any meeting. This time with complete focus, I actually followed the presentations and the chat on the meetecho platform. Session volunteers did a great job with notes-taking to replicate the live transcript experience at the codimd platform which was directly accessible from the meetecho window. This feature helped me greatly come back on track when I was lost at times. In addition, the meeting materials and all useful resources were readily available in the same meetecho window for every session which made the navigation almost effortless.

How can we forget about the famous IETF humming tradition? Well, although the new humming mechanism was not as enjoyable as the real hum it served the purpose by giving a feel of the room.

Humming tool used for IETF 108

It was great to see some familiar faces such as Carsten, Michael, Dhruv, and many others in most of the meetings I attended. Although I attended meetings from several working groups throughout the week there were a few which I liked particularly. The ASDF (A Semantic Definition Format for Data and Interactions of Things) BoF attracted my attention instantly since interoperability was and continues to be one of the major concerns for IoT products that I have worked with. It was my first BoF ever at the IETF and was a delightful experience. The BoF received a positive response overall except for one blocker with regards to OneDM's relationship to YANG. The WG proposal for ASDF is underway and I am hopeful that it would be accepted.

The ACE working group, focusing on the security and authorization in a network of smart objects had an interesting session. There were three working group documents in line for being sent to the IESG by the area director Benjamin Kaduk. The draft authors shared feedback and fixes from the review and interim meetings. For the MQTT draft, the discussion was focussed around the proper definition of sessions and classification in terms of the expected behavior of the client and server. The open issues on session continuation and reauthentication were presented at length by Cigdem and further clarification was requested from the working group. Do consider going through the MQTT- TLS profile of Authentication and Authorisation for constrained environments draft for information on issues with the existing MQTT implementation. The other drafts covered Key Provisioning for Group Communication using ACE and Key Management for OSCORE Groups in ACE. Further, there were a few documents for adoption by the ACE WG. The WG arrived at the conclusion to recharter followed by taking the standard call for adoption for CoAP Transport for CMPV2 draft by Mohit Sahni. Apart from this, Carsten’s draft on An Authorization Information Format (AIF) for ACE and Admin Interface for the OSCORE Group Manager by Marco was discussed.

The Low-Power Wide-Area Networking WG had some interesting documents specific to Lora, sigfox, and nbIoT which addressed much-needed problem areas. If your prime area of interest is long-range IoT and you are looking for a starting point to get involved in IETF, go ahead and subscribe to the LP-WAN WG mailing list right away. If you have the burning desire to listen to all the IETF meetings which is seldom possible during the IETF week, remember that the IETF YouTube channel is at your service 24/7. Well, although I had planned out my week almost flawlessly, I still missed a few sessions which I really wanted to attend. One of them was the Software Updates for Internet of Things (SUIT) working group session. SUIT WG session started with a report from SUIT Hackathon on 13 July 2020 and a report from IETF Hackaton. Drafts pertaining to SUIT Architecture, Information Model, Manifest Format were the main items on agenda. What I found intriguing was the draft-moran-suit-mud-00 which basically is an attempt to answer the big question “Who gets to decide what your device does when it's connected to your network?”. This is a collaborative work between MUD and SUIT and has a lot of scope in the IoT domain. The problem domain, complexities, and a possible solution were put out by Brendan in order to take this work forward. We would see this draft being adopted by the SUIT Working Group in the future perhaps.

SUIT Working Group recording at the IETF YouTube page

IETF is a great platform to explore areas outside of one’s main work. So I did not hold back and attended a session from Privacy Enhancements and Assessments Research Group. IETF is really progressive and fast-paced and it is very noticeable since the PEARG already had a presentation on testing apps for COVID 19 Tracking (TACT) by Stephen Farrel and Doug Leith. The highlight was drawn on the existing GAEN(Google Apple Exposure Notification) System which uses a TEK(Temporary Exposure Key) for monitoring on a daily basis and utilizes BLE beacons for communication. Relay attacks, deployment measurements, the efficiency of BLE proximity, the impact of noise, performance in a real-world scenario, and privacy issues are some of the useful findings from the early work. From my personal experience, I would strongly suggest first-time attendees pay heed to the BoF sessions and IRTF meetings because the work being proposed there is probably from the ground level and easy to follow. It is interesting to note that most of the work at IETF is done through the mailing lists, so following the mailing lists well in advance to know about the latest developments always helps. Also, it is a good idea to go through the meeting materials well in advance if you plan on attending WG meetings since most of the drafts being discussed are at the last call or interim stage and you could be lost if you attend without putting any prior effort in understanding the topic being presented. The prime motive of IETF “Running code and rough consensus” keeps things lively all the time. Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the IETF week and keep the spirit of innovation alive.

I hope this article helped you gain insights into the IETF. I am excited to attend many more IETF meetings, hope you are too!


About the Author Praneet Kaur has been working in the IoT domain for the last 4 years as a developer. Her interests are primarily industrial IoT technologies such as 6LowPAN, LoraWAN, SigFox, and NBIoT. She has been involved in various technical communities such as IETF, IIESoc, INNOG, APNIC, IEEE, etc. As a fellow for APNIC, APIGA, inSIG, SANOG, and yIGF her exposure to cultural diversity has helped her gain insights into the existing problem areas and technology gaps.

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