Network Working Group L. Dusseault
Request for Comments: 5657 Messaging Architects
BCP: 9 R. Sparks
Updates: 2026 Tekelec
Category: Best Current Practice September 2009 Guidance on Interoperation and Implementation Reports
for Advancement to Draft Standard
Advancing a protocol to Draft Standard requires documentation of the
interoperation and implementation of the protocol. Historic reports
have varied widely in form and level of content and there is little
guidance available to new report preparers. This document updates
the existing processes and provides more detail on what is
appropriate in an interoperability and implementation report.
Status of This Memo
This document specifies an Internet Best Current Practices for the
Internet Community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright and License Notice
Copyright (c) 2009 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
document authors. All rights reserved.
This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
(http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of
publication of this document. Please review these documents
carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
to this document. Code Components extracted from this document must
include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
described in the BSD License.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction ....................................................22. Content Requirements ............................................43. Format ..........................................................54. Feature Coverage ................................................65. Special Cases ...................................................85.1. Deployed Protocols .........................................85.2. Undeployed Protocols .......................................85.3. Schemas, Languages, and Formats ............................85.4. Multiple Contributors, Multiple Implementation Reports .....95.5. Test Suites ................................................95.6. Optional Features, Extensibility Features .................106. Examples .......................................................106.1. Minimal Implementation Report .............................116.2. Covering Exceptions .......................................117. Security Considerations ........................................118. References .....................................................128.1. Normative References ......................................128.2. Informative References ....................................121. Introduction
The Draft Standard level, and requirements for standards to meet it,
are described in [RFC2026]. For Draft Standard, not only must two
implementations interoperate, but also documentation (the report)
must be provided to the IETF. The entire paragraph covering this
The Working Group chair is responsible for documenting the
specific implementations which qualify the specification for Draft
or Internet Standard status along with documentation about testing
of the interoperation of these implementations. The documentation
must include information about the support of each of the
individual options and features. This documentation should be
submitted to the Area Director with the protocol action request.
(see Section 6)
Moving documents along the standards track can be an important signal
to the user and implementor communities, and the process of
submitting a standard for advancement can help improve that standard
or the quality of implementations that participate. However, the
barriers seem to be high for advancement to Draft Standard, or at the
very least confusing. This memo may help in guiding people through
one part of advancing specifications to Draft Standard. It also
changes some of the requirements made in RFC 2026 in ways that are
intended to maintain or improve the quality of reports while reducing
the burden of creating them.
Having and demonstrating sufficient interoperability is a gating
requirement for advancing a protocol to Draft Standard. Thus, the
primary goal of an implementation report is to convince the IETF and
the IESG that the protocol is ready for Draft Standard. This goal
can be met by summarizing the interoperability characteristics and by
providing just enough detail to support that conclusion. Side
benefits may accrue to the community creating the report in the form
of bugs found or fixed in tested implementations, documentation that
can help future implementors, or ideas for other documents or future
revisions of the protocol being tested.
Different kinds of documentation are appropriate for widely deployed
standards than for standards that are not yet deployed. Different
test approaches are appropriate for standards that are not typical
protocols: languages, formats, schemas, etc. This memo discusses how
reports for these standards may vary in Section 5.
Implementation should naturally focus on the final version of the
RFC. If there's any evidence that implementations are interoperating
based on Internet-Drafts or earlier versions of the specification, or
if interoperability was greatly aided by mailing list clarifications,
this should be noted in the report.
The level of detail in reports accepted in the past has varied
widely. An example of a submitted report that is not sufficient for
demonstrating interoperability is (in its entirety): "A partial list
of implementations include: Cray SGI Netstar IBM HP Network Systems
Convex". This report does not state how it is known that these
implementations interoperate (was it through public lab testing?
internal lab testing? deployment?). Nor does it capture whether
implementors are aware of, or were asked about, any features that
proved to be problematic. At a different extreme, reports have been
submitted that contain a great amount of detail about the test
methodology, but relatively little information about what worked and
what failed to work.
This memo is intended to clarify what an implementation report should
contain and to suggest a reasonable form for most implementation
reports. It is not intended to rule out good ideas. For example,
this memo can't take into account all process variations such as
documents going to Draft Standard twice, nor can it consider all
types of standards. Whenever the situation varies significantly from
what's described here, the IESG uses judgement in determining whether
an implementation report meets the goals above.
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119].
2. Content Requirements
The implementation report MUST identify the author of the report, who
is responsible for characterizing the interoperability quality of the
protocol. The report MAY identify other contributors (testers, those
who answered surveys, or those who contributed information) to share
credit or blame. The report MAY provide a list of report reviewers
who corroborate the characterization of interoperability quality, or
name an active working group (WG) that reviewed the report.
Some of the requirements of RFC 2026 are relaxed with this update:
o The report MAY name exactly which implementations were tested. A
requirement to name implementations was implied by the description
of the responsibility for "documenting the specific
implementations" in RFC 2026. However, note that usually
identifying implementations will help meet the goals of
implementation reports. If a subset of implementations was tested
or surveyed, it would also help to explain how that subset was
chosen or self-selected. See also the note on implementation
o The report author MAY choose an appropriate level of detail to
document feature interoperability, rather than document each
individual feature. See note on granularity of features below.
o A contributor other than a WG chair MAY submit an implementation
report to an Area Director (AD).
o Optional features that are not implemented, but are important and
do not harm interoperability, MAY, exceptionally and with approval
of the IESG, be left in a protocol at Draft Standard. See
Section 5.6 for documentation requirements and an example of where
this is needed.
Note: Independence of implementations is mentioned in the RFC 2026
requirements for Draft Standard status. Independent
implementations should be written by different people at
different organizations using different code and protocol
libraries. If it's necessary to relax this definition, it can
be relaxed as long as there is evidence to show that success is
due more to the quality of the protocol than to out-of-band
understandings or common code. If there are only two
implementations of an undeployed protocol, the report SHOULD
identify the implementations and their "genealogy" (which
libraries were used or where the codebase came from). If there
are many more implementations, or the protocol is in broad
deployment, it is not necessary to call out which two of the
implementations demonstrated interoperability of each given
feature -- a reader may conclude that at least some of the
implementations of that feature are independent.
Note: The granularity of features described in a specification is
necessarily very detailed. In contrast, the granularity of an
implementation report need not be as detailed. A report need
not list every "MAY", "SHOULD", and "MUST" in a complete matrix
across implementations. A more effective approach might be to
characterize the interoperability quality and testing approach,
then call out any known problems in either testing or
The format of implementation and interoperability reports MUST be
ASCII text with line breaks for readability. As with Internet-
Drafts, no 8-bit characters are currently allowed. It is acceptable,
but not necessary, for a report to be formatted as an Internet-Draft.
Here is a simple outline that an implementation report MAY follow in
part or in full:
Title: Titles of implementation reports are strongly RECOMMENDED to
contain one or more RFC number for consistent lookup in a simple
archive. In addition, the name or a common mnemonic of the
standard should be in the title. An example might look like
"Implementation Report for the Example Name of Some Protocol
(ENSP) RFC XXXX".
Author: Identify the author of the report.
Summary: Attest that the standard meets the requirements for Draft
Standard and name who is attesting it. Describe how many
implementations were tested or surveyed. Quickly characterize the
deployment level and where the standard can be found in
deployment. Call out, and if possible, briefly describe any
notably difficult or poorly interoperable features and explain why
these still meet the requirement. Assert any derivative
conclusions: if a high-level system is tested and shown to work,
then we may conclude that the normative requirements of that
system (all sub-system or lower-layer protocols, to the extent
that a range of features is used) have also been shown to work.
Methodology: Describe how the information in the report was
obtained. This should be no longer than the summary.
Exceptions: This section might read "Every feature was implemented,
tested, and widely interoperable without exception and without
question". If that statement is not true, then this section
should cover whether any features were thought to be problematic.
Problematic features need not disqualify a protocol from Draft
Standard, but this section should explain why they do not (e.g.,
optional, untestable, trace, or extension features). See the
example in Section 6.2.
Detail sections: Any other justifying or background information can
be included here. In particular, any information that would have
made the summary or methodology sections more than a few
paragraphs long may be created as a detail section and referenced.
In this section, it would be good to discuss how the various
considerations sections played out. Were the security
considerations accurate and dealt with appropriately in
implementations? Was real internationalization experience found
among the tested implementations? Did the implementations have
any common monitoring or management functionality (although note
that documenting the interoperability of a management standard
might be separate from documenting the interoperability of the
protocol itself)? Did the IANA registries or registrations, if
any, work as intended?
Appendix sections: It's not necessary to archive test material such
as test suites, test documents, questionnaire text, or
questionnaire responses. However, if it's easy to preserve this
information, appendix sections allow readers to skip over it if
they are not interested. Preserving detailed test information can
help people doing similar or follow-on implementation reports, and
can also help new implementors.
4. Feature Coverage
What constitutes a "feature" for the purposes of an interoperability
report has been frequently debated. Good judgement is required in
finding a level of detail that adequately demonstrates coverage of
the requirements. Statements made at too high a level will result in
a document that can't be verified and hasn't adequately challenged
that the testing accidentally missed an important failure to
interoperate. On the other hand, statements at too fine a level
result in an exponentially exploding matrix of requirement
interaction that overburdens the testers and report writers. The
important information in the resulting report would likely be hard to
find in the sea of detail, making it difficult to evaluate whether
the important points of interoperability have been addressed.
The best interoperability reports will organize statements of
interoperability at a level of detail just sufficient to convince the
reader that testing has covered the full set of requirements and in
particular that the testing was sufficient to uncover any places
where interoperability does not exist. Reports similar to that for
RTP/RTCP (an excerpt appears below) are more useful than an
exhaustive checklist of every normative statement in the
10. Interoperable exchange of receiver report packets.
o PASS: Many implementations, tested UCL rat with vat,
Cisco IP/TV with vat/vic.
11. Interoperable exchange of receiver report packets when
not receiving data (ie: the empty receiver report
which has to be sent first in each compound RTCP packet
when no-participants are transmitting data).
o PASS: Many implementations, tested UCL rat with vat,
Cisco IP/TV with vat/vic.
8. Interoperable transport of RTP via TCP using the
encapsulation defined in the audio/video profile
o FAIL: no known implementations. This has been
removed from the audio/video profile.
Consensus can be a good tool to help determine the appropriate level
for such feature descriptions. A working group can make a strong
statement by documenting its consensus that a report sufficiently
covers a specification and that interoperability has been
5. Special Cases
5.1. Deployed Protocols
When a protocol is deployed, results obtained from laboratory testing
are not as useful to the IETF as learning what is actually working in
deployment. To this end, it may be more informative to survey
implementors or operators. A questionnaire or interview can elicit
information from a wider number of sources. As long as it is known
that independent implementations can work in deployment, it is more
useful to discover what problems exist, rather than gather long and
detailed checklists of features and options.
5.2. Undeployed Protocols
It is appropriate to provide finer-grained detail in reports for
protocols that do not yet have a wealth of experience gained through
deployment. In particular, some complicated, flexible or powerful
features might show interoperability problems when testers start to
probe outside the core use cases. RFC 2026 requires "sufficient
successful operational experience" before progressing a standard to
Draft, and notes that:
Draft Standard may still require additional or more widespread
field experience, since it is possible for implementations based
on Draft Standard specifications to demonstrate unforeseen
behavior when subjected to large-scale use in production
When possible, reports for protocols without much deployment
experience should anticipate common operational considerations. For
example, it would be appropriate to put additional emphasis on
overload or congestion management features the protocol may have.
5.3. Schemas, Languages, and Formats
Standards that are not on-the-wire protocols may be special cases for
implementation reports. The IESG SHOULD use judgement in what kind
of implementation information is acceptable for these kinds of
standards. ABNF (RFC 4234) is an example of a language for which an
implementation report was filed: it is interoperable in that
protocols are specified using ABNF and these protocols can be
successfully implemented and syntax verified. Implementations of
ABNF include the RFCs that use it as well as ABNF checking software.
Management Information Base (MIB, [RFC3410]) modules are sometimes
documented in implementation reports, and examples of that can be
found in the archive of implementation reports.
The interoperability reporting requirements for some classes of
documents may be discussed in separate documents. See [METRICSTEST]
5.4. Multiple Contributors, Multiple Implementation Reports
If it's easiest to divide up the work of implementation reports by
implementation, the result -- multiple implementation reports -- MAY
be submitted to the sponsoring Area Director one-by-one. Each report
might cover one implementation, including:
identification of the implementation;
an affirmation that the implementation works in testing (or
better, in deployment);
whether any features are known to interoperate poorly with other
which optional or required features are not implemented (note that
there are no protocol police to punish this disclosure, we should
instead thank implementors who point out unimplemented or
unimplementable features especially if they can explain why); and
who is submitting this report for this implementation.
These SHOULD be collated into one document for archiving under one
title, but can be concatenated trivially even if the result has
several summary sections or introductions.
5.5. Test Suites
Some automated tests, such as automated test clients, do not test
interoperability directly. When specialized test implementations are
necessary, tests can at least be constructed from real-world protocol
or document examples. For example:
- ABNF [RFC4234] itself was tested by combining real-world examples
-- uses of ABNF found in well-known RFCs -- and feeding those
real-world examples into ABNF checkers. As the well-known RFCs
were themselves interoperable and in broad deployment, this served
as both a deployment proof and an interoperability proof.
[RFC4234] progressed from Proposed Standard through Draft Standard
to Standard and is obsoleted by [RFC5234].
- Atom [RFC4287] clients might be tested by finding that they
consistently display the information in a test Atom feed,
constructed from real-world examples that cover all the required
and optional features.
- MIB modules can be tested with generic MIB browsers, to confirm
that different implementations return the same values for objects
under similar conditions.
As a counter-example, the automated WWW Distributed Authoring and
Versioning (WebDAV) test client Litmus
(http://www.webdav.org/neon/litmus/) is of limited use in
demonstrating interoperability for WebDAV because it tests
completeness of server implementations and simple test cases. It
does not test real-world use or whether any real WebDAV clients
implement a feature properly or at all.
5.6. Optional Features, Extensibility Features
Optional features need not be shown to be implemented everywhere.
However, they do need to be implemented somewhere, and more than one
independent implementation is required. If an optional feature does
not meet this requirement, the implementation report must say so and
explain why the feature must be kept anyway versus being evidence of
a poor-quality standard.
Extensibility points and versioning features are particularly likely
to need this kind of treatment. When a protocol version 1 is
released, the protocol version field itself is likely to be unused.
Before any other versions exist, it can't really be demonstrated that
this particular field or option is implemented.
Some good, extremely brief, examples of implementation reports can be
found in the archives:
In some cases, perfectly good implementation reports are longer than
necessary, but may preserve helpful information:
6.1. Minimal Implementation Report
A large number of SMTP implementations support SMTP pipelining,
including: (1) Innosoft's PMDF and Sun's SIMS. (2) ISODE/
MessagingDirect's PP. (3) ISOCOR's nPlex. (4) software.com's
post.office. (5) Zmailer. (6) Smail. (7) The SMTP server in
Windows 2000. SMTP pipelining has been widely deployed in these
and other implementations for some time, and there have been no
reported interoperability problems.
This implementation report can also be found at
but the entire report is already reproduced above. Since SMTP
pipelining had no interoperability problems, the implementation
report was able to provide all the key information in a very terse
format. The reader can infer from the different vendors and
platforms that the codebases must, by and in large, be independent.
This implementation report would only be slightly improved by a
positive affirmation that there have been probes or investigations
asking about interoperability problems rather than merely a lack of
problem reports, and by stating who provided this summary report.
6.2. Covering Exceptions
The RFC2821bis (SMTP) implementation survey asked implementors what
features were not implemented. The VRFY and EXPN commands showed up
frequently in the responses as not implemented or disabled. That
implementation report might have followed the advice in this
document, had it already existed, by justifying the interoperability
of those features up front or in an "exceptions" section if the
outline defined in this memo were used:
VRFY and EXPN commands are often not implemented or are disabled.
This does not pose an interoperability problem for SMTP because
EXPN is an optional features and its support is never relied on.
VRFY is required, but in practice it is not relied on because
servers can legitimately reply with a non-response. These
commands should remain in the standard because they are sometimes
used by administrators within a domain under controlled
circumstances (e.g. authenticated query from within the domain).
Thus, the occasional utility argues for keeping these features,
while the lack of problems for end-users means that the
interoperability of SMTP in real use is not in the least degraded.
7. Security Considerations
This memo introduces no new security considerations.
8.1. Normative References
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
8.2. Informative References
[METRICSTEST] Bradner, S. and V. Paxson, "Advancement of metrics
specifications on the IETF Standards Track", Work
in Progress, July 2007.
[RFC2026] Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process --
Revision 3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996.
[RFC3410] Case, J., Mundy, R., Partain, D., and B. Stewart,
"Introduction and Applicability Statements for
Internet-Standard Management Framework", RFC 3410,
[RFC4234] Crocker, D., Ed. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for
Syntax Specifications: ABNF", RFC 4234, October 2005.
[RFC4287] Nottingham, M., Ed. and R. Sayre, Ed., "The Atom
Syndication Format", RFC 4287, December 2005.
[RFC5234] Crocker, D. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
Specifications: ABNF", STD 68, RFC 5234, January 2008.
17210 Campbell Road
Dallas, Texas 75254-4203