Let’s take one look back over the IETF before we move on to the next piece of the infrastructure of the ‘net. Why does it take so long for a single document to get through the process, and result in a standard? There is, of course, the formal process, which requires the document to proposed, accepted by a working group, passed through the IESG editorial process, and last call’d, and then through auth48, and finally through editing and publication. Then there’s the informal process, which requires socializing the idea to gain traction and supporters (and quite objectors), and the review process involving the area directorates from various areas. Add in the various “attack modes” where things go wrong — are you proposing a change that will require a large vendor to change major parts of their code? forget it right now and move on with your life — described in the last couple of attacks, and you have a very difficult process to work through.
Finally, add in that all IETF work is really supposed to be done by volunteers — working in the IETF isn’t supposed to be anyone’s “day job.” There are, of course, people who monitor the IETF for a company, and manage the company’s work in the IETF, but there’s really not supposed to be anyone who’s strictly just inventing and writing things for IETF consumption. So, take a group of folks who already have famously time consuming day jobs (does anyone reading this work less than 40 hours a week right now?), add in a dose of several hundred emails a day, many of them attacks and other nonsense, and then mix in a few hundred pages of actual IETF drafts, and top it all off with a lot of reading to keep up with research and the technologies involved.
And you expect this to be fast? On what planet?
Efforts are being put in place to make the process faster, however. For instance, each working group now has a secretary, someone who is responsible for making certain the document management process is handled correctly and quickly. The area directorates are starting to take a larger role in reviewing documents, taking some load off the area directors. The Routing Area, specifically, has added a third area director to spread the load, particularly while the working groups are being shuffled around. Regular interim meetings are being added to almost every working groups, with draft presentations, hums, consensus calls, and comments “at the mic.” A lot of effort is being put into the schedule of the in person meetings to make the time more effective.
Overall, a lot of work is being put into the IETF process to make it faster. As with all engineering decisions, there are tradeoffs — but I’ll point you to a forthcoming article in the Internet Protocol Journal for a deeper discussion on the topic of tradeoffs.
Next time, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled program of looking at other organizations working in and around the ‘net, to see how the remaining pieces fit together.