Internet Architecture Board


Ad Hoc Group on Numbering

The IAB has posted this comment to ICANN on its proposed
Ad Hoc Group on numbering (see )

IAB preliminary comments on proposed Ad Hoc Group

The Internet Architecture Board has reviewed the proposed terms
of reference for ICANN's proposed Ad Hoc Group, with the
assistance of the Internet Society's Vice President for
Standards, Scott Bradner.  Due to the excessively short comment 
period, we cannot prepare a full analysis, or even reach complete 
consensus among ourselves, but we are concerned that, despite our 
assumption of the best of intentions on the part of all involved, 
these terms of reference can easily be misconstrued in ways that 
create significant risks for ICANN and the Internet.

Attempting to forecast the future evolution of the Internet and
determine the implications of that evolution has become a
popular, and important, activity.  Different groups, working
from different perspectives, have reached widely different
conclusions.  If one examines the history of such work, the
main thing most of those sets of conclusions have in common is
being wrong: other than consistent rapid growth, the evolution
of the network has proven extremely difficult to predict, and
our own predictions have been no exceptions in this regard.

Nonetheless, we believe that any sincere effort to try to look
forward, enumerate scenarios, and identify issues that may need
to be addressed is worthwhile.  It is not clear to us that it
is desirable for ICANN to expand its charter to include such
work, but the work itself is clearly worthwhile.  We are
concerned that the scope statement can be read sufficiently
broadly to invite the ad hoc group to propose particular types
of technical solutions to the problems they see and then, given
the prestige of some of the companies and organizations
represented, try to force ICANN, or Internet-related standards 
development organizations, to adopt them.

The Internet has survived and expanded despite the
unpredictability of its evolutionary path by adherence to a few
basic principles including: 

  * Avoiding optimizing the basic architecture to the needs of
    any particular group of applications, no matter how
        important they may be at a particular moment, or to the
        projected needs of a set of applications whose proponents
        believe will dominate the network in a year or two.

  * Development of all basic protocols --including the
    inexorably-intertwined basic address structures, routing
        architectures, and routing policies-- in an extremely open
        environment in which any technically-able individual can
        contribute and participate.

The IETF has historically been the most effective provider of
environments of the type needed but, in principle, need not be
the only one.  However, closed committees with appointed or
externally-selected memberships are quite different from the
history of successful Internet protocol work; the output of
such committees has tended to not survive either operationally
or in the marketplace.  Stated differently, the experience with
the network is that appointed committees, not matter how
representative of a list of enumerated groups and constituencies, 
do not produce adequate protocols or even protocol requirements.

The draft scope statement, as well as some of the discussions
reported to us from the Santiago meeting, imply that some of
the proposed participants in the ad hoc effort are unaware that
most of the issues in the statement have been addressed before.
Indeed, all of the topics listed under Phase 2 are current
active areas of work in the IETF. The IAB brought together a 
diverse group of experts for a multi-day workshop in Utrecht 
in July to jump start the process of understanding some
of these issues: A report from that workshop is circulating in 
draft now and should be published within the next few months. 
The IETF also has active liaisons with other concerned standards 
bodies such as the ITU-T, the W3C, and the ATM Forum. We are 
unconvinced that yet another body, especially an ad hoc one, looking 
into these matters can lead to anything more positive than confusion.

It is even unclear to us how we could identify IETF 
representatives to such a group.  Its scope as currently defined is 
broad enough to involve multiple IETF Areas, with hundreds or 
thousands of participants.  No one person, or even three or four 
people, has all of the perspectives and expertise such a group should 
have available.

As suggested above, having another group forecast the future,
critically examine their own view of it, and suggest the
special issues that should be addressed if their vision comes
to pass could be helpful if it adds to the range of
perspectives available.  With suitably adjusted terms of
reference in place, the output of the Ad Hoc group could
thus be forwarded to the approprate groups working on Internet

We do want to note that the process of developing such a list
of special issues is an activity clearly different from generating 
and ratifying technical solutions to the problems that are identified 
or even from balancing the concerns of one group against those of 
another.  It is the IAB's view that parties who wish to contribute 
to the very active technical debate on these topics should do so by
participating in the work of relevant IETF Areas and Working
Groups.  Their participation has always been welcome and will
continue to be welcomed in the future.