Interview with new RAI Area Directors: Jon Peterson, Cullen Jennings, conducted by Mirjam Kühne
Recently a new IETF area has been created: Real-Time Applications and Infrastructure (RAI). We wanted to find out more about the motivation behind this decision and the scope of the new area.
Question: When was it decided to set up a new area?
Jon: Already 5 or 6 years ago people spoke about setting up an area that was focused on – what they then called telephony. At that time many people viewed it as this ‘container to put all this radioactive material into, so it cannot contaminate the rest of the IETF’ and therefore resisted that idea. Now the situation is quite different with SIP and similar technologies having gained a certain prominence in the industry. We are certainly generating enough documents and working groups and have enough visibility that it easily warrants its own area.
Cullen: It also reflects what is going on in the industry and as a result there are new people with new energy in this field. 2 WGs were moved out of Applications (simple and geopriv). The rest were moved from Transport. [Editor's note: a full list of RAI WGs is included at the end of this article]. The scope of things that we were trying to cover in the Transport area was diverging further apart. It was covering an incredible range.
Jon: We needed to have at least two very distinct areas of expertise to work in Transport. You needed to understand UDP plus all the SIP related work. That makes it hard to find people to fill the job. I was brought in as a Transport AD, because I had SIP expertise. I was not really a TCP expert.
Cullen: My area of expertise is also around SIP and the whole communications area.
Jon: Another aspect is security: there are people who design security mechanisms and there are people who know how to apply security mechanisms to protocols that need them. And I think in that latter category we have significant expertise.
Cullen: over the last 5 years, the whole issue of bringing presence in and how presence works for communication systems, how to set up policies and how to deal with these various aspects, is something no one was an expert in a few years ago.
Jon: Another factor that is worth mentioning is scheduling. Having the Transport area include all of the SIP related meetings, finding time for all the meetings and trying to ensure that people can make it, became increasingly difficult.
Question: What are the main topics currently being worked on in the RAI area?
Jon: The work on emergency services for real time communications (related to emergency phone numbers like 911, 112) is important (see Emergency Context Resolution with Internet Technologies (ecrit) WG). There has been an enormous amount of work and clearly also some controversy around various ways to do the protocol. That is one of the topics that the industry at large recognises as a potentially limiting factor for deployment, for instance with Voice over IP.
Cullen: This is another example, like enum, that does not only involve technical issues, but also touches on regulatory, operational and practical issues. The emergency response work that is being developed now is likely to be better than the currently deployed systems in many ways. It takes into account mobile devices and allows a broad range of location information to be reported to the emergency responder. It also provides ways to place policy to restrict the privacy of the location information.
Jon: We had a BoF on peer2peer at this IETF 65. I believe everyone in the SIP community here at the IETF thought this was an enormously important effort. Although in this kind of environment there is bound to be disagreement about exactly the right approach. There are a lot of alternatives. There is a very strong consensus that we need to do something in this space, but we are not sure how SIP could operate in a context without service providers at all.
Cullen: We had a RAI open are meeting at IETF 65 where we talked about some issues that were relevant to lots of the WGs in the area. We spoke about how people want to organise work, how to be more effective and how to get lots of high quality documents done quickly.
Jon: The community has lots of good ideas about that.
The good news is that a lot of the core work on SIP itself is done. There is still a lot of work to do around leveraging it and building applications.
List of WGs in the Real-Time Applications and Infrastructure Area:
avt – Audio/Video Transport
ecrit – Emergency Context Resolution with Internet Technologies
enum – Telephone Number Mapping
geopriv – Geographic Location/Privacy
ieprep – Internet Emergency Preparedness
iptel – IP Telephony
mmusic – Multiparty Multimedia Session Control
sigtran – Signaling Transport
simple – SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions
sip – Session Initiation Protocol
sipping – Session Initiation Proposal Investigation
speechsc – Speech Services Control
speermint – Session Peering for Multimedia Interconnect
xcon – Centralized Conferencing
University technology Security Officer at Harvard University: "The IETF is an incredibly important forum for the creation of standards – and standards in the true sense: they are standards, because people use them, not standards in the false sense of the traditional standards bodies where governments say ‘you must use this specification.."