Interesting observation about Japan of the day: when you press the elevator call button, the light over the elevator that will be coming next lights up. When the elevator comes, the light flashes as the doors open. Minor thing, I know, but I’m easily amused. 🙂
Today I went to the SPRING, or source packet routing in networking, working group. This is the working group developing segment routing, which is primarily targeted at traffic engineering and steering at the inbound edge of the network (see this draft for the spring architecture). The in person discussion was primarily focused on resolving several issues in segment identifiers to ensure consistent forwarding across multiple spring implementations and/or deployments. This is one of those discussions where engineers get to “geek out,” working through deep protocol details and problems that only show up in real life deployments. As with any sort of meeting of this type, there were overlapping working groups I wish I could have gone to, for instance the I2NSF (interface to the network security functions) working group, which is involved in solving some interesting problems around distributed security.
Which brings up a related point about the IETF — I don’t mind so much missing the working group meeting because most of the work in the IETF is actually done on mailing lists, rather than in these physical meetings. The working group meetings might bring up new issues, but new issues are normally “taken to the list,” or they might cap off consensus on issues that have been discussed on the mailing list already. Missing a physical working group meeting, then, doesn’t mean you can’t participate.
The physical meetings still have a lot of value, though. You could, in fact, probably have the IETF without the working group meetings, and it would still be useful, because it brings the technical community in a way that email simply can’t. For instance, since my last blog post here I had several conversations about I2RS and ephemeral state that helped clear some things up further. Last night, I walked by a table where some of the top BGP coders in the world where sitting, hashing out a problem — this type of thing simply wouldn’t be possible without the physical meetings. In other words, the hallway meetings are just as important as the working group meetings.
The official ISOC Organizational Advisory Council meeting was over lunch today — one of the local Japanese leadership discussed the importance of continuing to develop internet exchange points (IXPs), and the challenges facing the existing ones. Following this, there was a long discussion on privacy and pervasive encryption; the ISOC is currently working on a paper in this area, and so is collecting thoughts from the ISOC membership. The Center for Democracy and Technology — a group I didn’t know belonged to the IETF — provided some great thoughts to ground the discussion.
For instance, one member argued that the problem is the speed at which law enforcement can get to information, and the real human harm that can happen while they’re doing so. The pushback on this is, of course, that freedom of private speech isn’t about protecting that embarrassing picture from being hacked — it’s specifically about protecting political dissent from the prying eyes of government. Giving law enforcement any sort of “keys under the doormat” to access privately held information is a danger specifically in that it threatens the ability to dissent from government power. One interesting example used was that law enforcement, for many years, had to collect information through hard won and difficult processes. Today, they can simply search the Internet, where most information is transmitted in plain text. Law enforcement today is “staring into the sun,” with so much information the problem is in classifying it rather than collecting it. Pervasive encryption wouldn’t be anything more than returning to a situation that existed just twenty years ago.
Overall, another interesting day at the IETF.