Internet Architecture Board (IAB) E. Lear, Ed.
Request for Comments: 7305 July 2014
Report from the IAB Workshop
on Internet Technology Adoption and Transition (ITAT)
This document provides an overview of a workshop held by the Internet
Architecture Board (IAB) on Internet Technology Adoption and
Transition (ITAT). The workshop was hosted by the University of
Cambridge on December 4th and 5th of 2013 in Cambridge, UK. The goal
of the workshop was to facilitate adoption of Internet protocols,
through examination of a variety of economic models, with particular
emphasis at the waist of the hourglass (e.g., the middle of the
protocol stack). This report summarizes contributions and
discussions. As the topics were wide ranging, there is no single set
of recommendations for IETF participants to pursue at this time.
Instead, in the classic sense of early research, the workshop noted
areas that deserve further exploration.
Note that this document is a report on the proceedings of the
workshop. The views and positions documented in this report are
those of the workshop participants and do not necessarily reflect IAB
views and positions.
Status of This Memo
This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
published for informational purposes.
This document is a product of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB)
and represents information that the IAB has deemed valuable to
provide for permanent record. It represents the consensus of the
Internet Architecture Board (IAB). Documents approved for
publication by the IAB are not a candidate for any level of Internet
Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 5741.
Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at
Copyright (c) 2014 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
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The Internet is a complex ecosystem that encompasses all aspects of
society. At its heart is a protocol stack with an hourglass shape,
and IP at its center. Recent research points to possible
explanations for the success of such a design and for the significant
challenges that arise when trying to evolve or change its middle
section, e.g., as partially evident in the difficulties encountered
by IPv6. The workshop had a number of other key examples to
consider, including the next generation of HTTP and real time web-
browser communications (WebRTC). The eventual success of many if not
all of these protocols will largely depend on our understanding of
not only what features and design principles contribute lasting
value, but also how deployment strategies can succeed in unlocking
that value to foster protocol adoption. The latter is particularly
important in that most if not all Internet protocols exhibit strong
externalities that create strong barriers to adoption, especially in
the presence of a well-established incumbent. That is, factors
beyond the control of the end points (such as middleboxes) can limit
deployment, sometimes by design.
The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) holds occasional workshops
designed to consider long-term issues and strategies for the
Internet, and to suggest future directions for the Internet
architecture. This long-term planning function of the IAB is
complementary to the ongoing engineering efforts performed by working
groups of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), under the
leadership of the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) and area
Taking into account [RFC5218] on what makes a protocol successful,
this workshop sought to explore how the complex interactions of
protocols' design and deployment affect their success. One of the
workshop's goals was, therefore, to encourage discussions to develop
an understanding of what makes protocol designs successful not only
in meeting initial design goals but more importantly in their ability
to evolve as these goals and the available technology change.
Another equally important goal was to develop protocol deployment
strategies that ensure that new features can rapidly gain enough of a
foothold to ultimately realize broad adoption. Such strategies must
be informed by both operational considerations and economic factors.
Participants in this workshop consisted of operators, researchers
from the fields of computer science and economics, and engineers.
Contributions were wide ranging. As such, this report makes few
recommendations for the IETF to consider.
1.1. Organization of This Report
This report records the participants' discussions. At the end,
workshop participants reviewed potential follow-up items. These will
be highlighted at each point during the report, and a summary is
given at the end.
Section 2 reviews the motivations and existing work, and Section 3
discusses the economics of protocol adoption. Section 4 covers
innovative models for protocol adoption. Section 5 delves into an
examination of recent standards issues and some success stories.
Section 6 examines different views of success factors. Finally,
Section 7 examines potential next steps.
2. Motivations and Review of Existing Work
Our workshop began with an introduction that asks the question: is
the neck of the Internet hourglass closed for business? There are
numerous instances where progress has been slow, the three biggest
that come to mind being IPv6 [RFC2480], the Stream Control
Transmission Protocol (SCTP) [RFC4960], and DNS Security (DNSSEC)
[RFC4034]. The impact of DNSSEC is of particular interest, because
it is relied upon for the delivery of other services, such as DNS-
Based Authentication of Named Entities (DANE) [RFC6698], and it could
be used for application discovery services through DNS (specifically
where security properties are part of that discovery). Thus,
slowdown at the neck of the glass can have an impact closer to the
Even when one considers the classic neck of the hourglass to be IP
and transport layers, it was suggested that the hourglass might
extend as high as the application layer.
\ Applications /
/ TCP/IP \
/ MPLS/ \
/ Framing \
/ Physical \
HTTP(s) as the new neck?
This idea was rebutted by the argument that protocols do continue to
evolve, that protocols like SMTP and IMAP in the applications space
have continued to evolve, as has the transport layer.
The workshop moved on to a review of RFC 5218, which discusses
protocol success factors. This work was presented in the IETF 70
plenary and was the basis for this ongoing work. There were two
clear outcomes from the discussion. The first was that the Internet
Architecture Board should review and consider that document in the
context of evaluating Birds of a Feather (BoF) session proposals at
the IETF, so that any working group proposal is carefully crafted to
address a specific design space and provide positive net value.
Another aspect was to continue work on tracking the value-specific
works in terms of success, wild success, or failure. On that last
point, failure remains difficult to judge, particularly at the neck
of the hourglass.
3. Economics of Protocol Adoption
Several papers were presented that looked at economic aspects of
3.1. When can bundling help adoption of network technologies or
Economics of bundling is a long-studied field, but not as applied to
protocols. It is relevant to the IETF and inherent to two key
notions: layering and "mandatory to implement". Two current examples
include DANE atop DNSSEC and WebRTC atop SCTP. The workshop reviewed
a model [Weber13] that explores how bundling of two technologies may
lead to increased or decreased adoption of one or both. This will
depend on a number of factors, including costs, benefits, and
externalities associated with each technology. (Simply put, an
externality is an effect or use decision by one set of parties that
has either a positive or negative impact on others who did not have a
choice or whose interests were not taken into account.) Bundling of
capabilities may provide positive value when individual capabilities
on their own do not provide sufficient critical mass to propel
further adoption. Specifically, bundling can help when one
technology does not provide positive value until critical mass of
deployment exists, and where a second technology has low adoption
cost and immediate value and hence drives initial adoption until
enough of a user base exists to allow critical mass sufficient for
the first technology to get positive value. One question was what
happens where one technology depends on the other. That is directly
tied to "mandatory to implement" discussions within the IETF. That
is a matter for follow-on work. IETF participants can provide
researchers anecdotal experience to help improve models in this area.
3.2. Internet Protocol Adoption: Learning from Bitcoin
The workshop considered an examination of protocol success factors in
the context of Bitcoin [Boehme13]. Here, there were any number of
barriers to success, including adverse press, legal uncertainties,
glitches and breaches, previous failed attempts, and speculative
attacks. Bitcoin has thus far overcome these barriers thanks to
several key factors:
o First, there is a built-in reward system for early adopters.
Participants are monetarily rewarded at an exponentially declining
o There exist exchanges or conversion mechanisms to directly convert
Bitcoin to other currencies.
o Finally, there is some store of value in the currency itself,
e.g., people find intrinsic value in it.
The first two of these factors may be transferable to other
approaches. One key protocol success factor is direct benefit to the
participant. Another key protocol success factor is the ability to
interface with other systems for mutual benefit. In the context of
Bitcoin, there has to be a way to exchange the coins for other
currencies. The Internet email system had simpler adaption
mechanisms to allow interchange with non-Internet email systems; this
facilitated its success. Another more simply stated approach is "IP
A key message from this presentation is that if a protocol imposes
externalities or costs on other systems, find a means to establish
incentives for those other players for implementation. As it
happens, there is a limited example that is directly relevant to the
3.3. Long term strategy for a successful deployment of DNSSEC - on all
The workshop reviewed the approach Sweden's .SE registry has taken to
improving deployment of DNSSEC [Lowinder13]. .SE has roughly 1.5
million domains. IIS (<https://www.iis.se>) manages the ccTLD
(Country Code Top Level Domain). They made the decision to encourage
deployment of DNSSEC within .SE. They began by understanding what
the full ecosystem looked like, who their stakeholders were, and the
financial, legal, and technical aspects to deployment. As they began
their rollout, they charged extra for DNSSEC. As they put it, this
didn't work very well.
They went on to fund development of OpenDNSSEC to remove technical
barriers to deployment at end sites, noting that tooling was lacking
in this area. Even with this development, more tooling is necessary,
as they point out a need for APIs between the signing zone and the
To further encourage deployment, the government of Sweden provided
financial incentives to communities to see that their domains were
signed. .SE further provided an incentive to registrars to see that
their domains were signed. In summary, .SE examined all the players
and provided incentives for each to participate.
The workshop discussed whether or not this model could be applied to
other domains. .SE was in a position to effectively subsidize DNS
deployment because of their ability to set prices. This may be
appropriate for certain other top-level domains, but it was pointed
out that the margins of other domains do not allow for a cost
reduction to be passed on at this point in time.
3.4. Framework for analyzing feasibility of Internet protocols
One of the goals of the workshop was to provide ways to determine
when work in the IETF was likely to lead to adoption. The workshop
considered an interactive approach that combines value net analysis,
deployment environment analysis, and technical architecture analysis
that leads to feasibility and solution analysis [Leva13]. This work
provided an alternative to RFC 5218 that had many points in common.
The case study examined was that of Multipath TCP (MPTCP). Various
deployment challenges were observed. First and foremost, increasing
bandwidth within the network seems to decrease the attractiveness of
MPTCP. Second, the benefit/cost tradeoff by vendors was not
considered attractive. Third, not all parties may agree on the
Solutions analysis suggested several approaches to improve
deployment, including using open-source software, lobbying various
implementers, deploying proxies, and completing implementations by
parties that own both ends of a connection.
3.5. Best Effort Service as a Deployment Success Factor
When given the choice between vanilla and chocolate, why not choose
both? The workshop considered an approach that became a recurring
theme throughout the workshop -- to not examine when it was necessary
to make a choice between technologies, but rather to implement
multiple mechanisms to achieve adoption [Welzl13]. The workshop
discussed the case of Skype, where it will use the best available
transport mechanism to improve communication between clients, rather
than tie fate to any specific transport. The argument goes that such
an approach provides a means to introduce new transports such as
SCTP. This would be an adaptation of "Happy Eyeballs" [RFC6555].
4. Innovative / Out-There Models
There were several approaches presented that examined how we look at
4.1. On the Complexity of Designed Systems (and its effect on protocol
The workshop reviewed a comparison between the hourglass model and
what systems biologists might call the bow tie model [Meyer13]. The
crux of this comparison is that both rely on certain building blocks
to accomplish a certain end. In the case of our hourglass model, IP
sits notably in the center, whereas in the case of systems biology,
adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the means by which all organisms
convert nutrients to usable energy, and thus resides centrally within
the biological system.
The workshop also examined the notion of "robust yet fragile", which
examines the balance between the cost of implementing robust systems
versus their value. That is, highly efficient systems can prove
fragile in the face of failure or may prove hard to evolve.
The key question asked during this presentation was how we could
apply what has been learned in systems biology or what do the
findings reduce to for engineers? The answer was that more work is
needed. The discussion highlighted the complexity of the Internet in
terms of predicting network behavior. As such, one promising area to
examine may be that of network management.
4.2. Managing Diversity to Manage Technological Transition
The workshop considered the difference between planned versus
unplanned technology transitions [Kohno13]. They examined several
transitions at the link, IP, and application layers in Japan. One
key claim in the study is that there is a phase difference in the
diversity trend between each layer. The statistics presented show
that indeed HTTP is the predominant substrate for other applications.
Another point made was that "natural selection" is a strong means to
Along these lines, there were two papers submitted that examined the
formation and changes to the hourglass in the context of evolutionary
economics. Unfortunately, the presenter was unable to attend due to
illness. The work was discussed at the workshop, and there were
different points of view as to the approach.
4.3. On Economic Models of Network Technology Adoption, Design, and
The workshop considered how network protocol capabilities enable
certain sorts of services that are beneficial to consumers and
service providers. This model looks at smart data pricing (SDP) in
which some behavior is desired and rewarded through a pricing model
[Sen13]. The example given was use of time-dependent pricing (TDP)
and demonstrated how a service provider was able to load shift
traffic to off-peak periods. Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN)
and RADIUS were used by the project alongside a simple GUI. This
sort of work may prove useful to service providers as caching models
evolve over time. The question within the room was how will protocol
developers consider these sorts of requirements.
5. Making Standards Better
There were several papers that focused on how standards are produced.
5.1. Standards: a love/hate relationship with patents
One of the biggest barriers to deployment is that of the unseen
patent by the non-practicing entity (NPE) [Lear13]. While this
problem is relatively well understood by the industry, the discussion
looked at patents as a means to improve interoperability. Those who
hold patents have the ability to license them in such a way that a
single approach towards standardization is the result (e.g., they get
to decide the venue for their work).
5.2. Bridge Networking Research and Internet Standardization: Case
Study on Mobile Traffic Offloading and IPv6 Transition
There was a presentation and discussion about the gap between the
research community and standards organizations. Two cases were
examined: mobile offloading and IPv6 transition technologies
[Ding13]. In the case of mobile offloading, a mechanism was examined
that required understanding of both 3GPP (Third Generation
Partnership Project) and IETF standards. Resistance in both
organizations was encountered. In the 3GPP, the problem was that the
organization already had an offloading model in play. In the IETF,
the problem was a lack of understanding of the interdisciplinary
space. The researchers noted that in the case of the IETF, they may
have taken the wrong tack by having jumped into the solution without
having fully explained the problem they were trying to solve. In the
case of IPv6 transition technologies, researchers encountered a
crowded field and not much appetite for new transition technologies.
The workshop discussed whether the standards arena is the best venue
or measurement of success for researchers. The IRTF is meant to
bridge academic research and the IETF. As we will discuss below,
several avenues for continued dialog are contemplated.
5.3. An Internet Architecture for the Challenged
The workshop engaged in a very provocative discussion about whether
the existing Internet architecture serves the broadest set of needs.
Three specific aspects were examined: geographic, technical, and
socioeconomic. Researchers presented an alternative hourglass or
protocol architecture known as Lowest Common Denominator Networking
(LCDNet) that re-examines some of the base assumptions of the
existing architecture, including its "always on" nature
The workshop questioned many of the baseline assumptions of the
researchers. In part, this may have been due to constrained
discussion time on the topic, where a fuller explanation was
6. Other Challenges and Approaches
The workshop held a number of other discussions about different
approaches to technology adoption. We should highlight that a number
of papers were submitted to the workshop on routing security, two of
which were not possible to present.
6.1. Resilience of the commons: routing security
The workshop discussed a presentation on the tragedy of the commons
in the context of global inter-domain routing [Robachevsky13]. The
"Internet Commons" is a collection of networks that we depend on but
do not control. The main threat to the commons in the context of BGP
is routing pollution, or unwanted or unnecessary routing entries.
The Internet Society has been working with service providers to
improve resiliency by driving a common understanding of both problem
and solution space and by developing a shared view with regard to
risk and benefits, with the idea being that there would be those who
would engage in reciprocal cooperation with the hopes that others
would do similarly in order to break the tragedy.
What was notable in discussion was that there was no magic bullet to
addressing the resiliency issue, and that this was a matter of
clearly identifying the key players and convincing them that their
incentives were aligned. It also involved developing approaches to
6.2. Getting to the Next Version of TLS
Originally, the workshop had planned to look at the question of
whether the IETF could mandate stronger security. This evolved into
a discussion about getting to the next version of Transport Layer
Security (TLS) and what challenges lie ahead. It was pointed out
that there were still many old versions of TLS in existence today,
due to many old implementations. In particular, it was pointed out
that a substantial amount of traffic is still encrypted using Triple
One concern about the next generation is that perfect could become
the enemy of good. Another point that was made was that perhaps a
testing platform might help interoperability. Finally, there was
some discussion about how new versions of TLS get promoted.
This wide-ranging workshop discussed many aspects that go to the
success or failure of the work of the IETF. While there is no single
silver bullet that we can point to for making a protocol successful,
the workshop did discuss a number of outcomes and potential next
7.1. Work for the IAB and the IETF
The IAB's role in working group formation consists of providing
guidance to the IESG on which Birds of a Feather sessions should be
held, reviewing proposed working group charters, and shepherding some
work so that it can reach a suitable stage for standardization. In
each of these stages, the IAB has an opportunity to apply the lessons
of RFC 5218, as well as other work such as the notion of bundling
choices, when members give advice.
In addition to working group creation, the IAB has an opportunity to
track and present protocol success stories, either through wikis or
through discussion at plenary sessions. For instance, at the time of
writing, there is much interest in Bitcoin, its success, and what
parallels and lessons can be drawn. Specifically, it would be useful
to track examples of first-mover advantages.
Finally, one area that the IETF may wish to consider, relating
specifically to DNSSEC, as raised by our speakers was standardization
of the provisioning interface of DNSSEC (DS keys) between parent and
child zone. Contributions in this area would be welcome.
7.2. Potential for the Internet Research Task Force
There are at least two possible activities that the IRTF might wish
to consider. The first would be a research group that considers
protocol alternatives and recommendations that might be useful in
areas where environments are constrained, due to bandwidth or other
resources. Such a group has already been proposed, in fact.
The second possibility is a more general group that focuses on
economic considerations relating to Internet protocol design. In
particular, there were a number of areas that were presented to the
working group that deserve further investigation and could use
collaboration between researchers, engineers, and operators. Two
examples are work on bundling and systems biology.
7.3. Opportunities for Others
Incentive models often involve many different players. As we
considered work in the workshop, our partners such as ICANN and the
Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) can continue to play a role in
encouraging deployment of protocols through their policies. Their
members can also participate in any activity of the IRTF that is
related to this work.
Specifically, RIRs have a specific role to play in encouraging
security of the routing system, and ICANN has a specific role to play
in securing the domain name service.
The suggestion was made that the IETF working groups could leverage
graduate students in many universities around the world in helping
review documents (Internet-Drafts, RFCs, etc.). This would serve as
a source of education in real-world processes to students and would
engage the research community in IETF processes more thoroughly; it
would also provide a scale-out resource for handling the IETF review
workload. Several attendees who have such students were prepared to
try this out.
8. Security Considerations
This document does not discuss a protocol. Security for the workshop
itself was excellent.