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New Chair hopes to bring more implementers to the IETF

2021-01-25 News

With Cisco engineer Alissa Cooper having decided not to run for another term as IETF Chair, the NomCom just has announced that Lars Eggert will be her successor. Eggert is a German living in Finland, working for US-based storage solution provider NetApp. But what will he bring to the table?

Eggert is well-known as former chair of the Internet Research Task Force, IRTF, and was one of the driving forces in bringing young researchers to the IETF community. The Applied Networking Research Prize, for which the 2021 winners were just announced 10 days ago, is just one of the many tools he has helped to shape.

Eggert worked as a researcher himself for many years, from industry labs for NEC or Nokia, to universities like the University of Southern California or the University at Aalto in Finland, to his current employer NetApp, where he has been Technical Director for Networking since 2011.

IETF needs protocol developers and implementers

Asked which category of people he would like to see increasing numbers of in the IETF community, he is quick to answer: ‘Protocol developers’. The situation has already changed in the last decade and a half, he wrote in answer to CENTR’s questions. “In 2006 developers of Linux, Microsoft or Apple were absent from the IETF's TCPM (TCP working group). Today they are all here”, he says, applauding the work of the Working Group (WG) on the new transport protocol QUIC in that regard. “QUIC was driven by implementers, it was super”, he said, expressing some remorse at having to give up the position of WG Chair for that very WG. Having more implementers, he argues, makes the output more relevant and results in robust and scalable code.

“I think it was perhaps the best WG I ever chaired”, he said. He would like to promote some of that spirit in the broader community even if he knows that some of his working ways – for example using GitHub instead of the good old email-list - are not favoured by everybody. Eggert’s selection seems to hail a next generation IETF.

What about DNS work?

The absence of implementers has also been a topic for DNS-related work at the IETF. Asked what he thinks of the discussion around the ‘DNS camel’ – meaning the continuous addition of new tweaks to the DNS – and the overlap of work in several DNS-related WGs, Eggert acknowledges that he has no ready answers, especially since his work has focused more on the transport layer than the DNS.

Asked which transport protocol would carry the DNS into the future, and if perhaps DNS over QUIC would supersede DNS over HTTP or DNS over TLS, he underlines that “everybody seems to agree they want to get away from Do53 (traditional unencrypted DNS). The ongoing discussions have two dimensions. One, how do we make the DNS more secure? TCP is already more promising when it comes to security. TLS will add security on top, as will QUIC. And two, where is my resolver coming from? This is the more interesting and much more political question”.

Eggert was not sure what he would prefer. In a country with good privacy laws like Finland, using an operator’s resolver might not be a bad idea. On the other hand, one might consider resolving locally at the end user system. If one was prepared to compromise with regard to efficiency, it would certainly be something to explore in the coming years.

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This article was written for CENTR by Monika Ermert. Monika has been working as an IT journalist for over 20 years. She has covered the evolving internet governance landscape, EU and worldwide attempts to regulate and the risks and fun of technology. She holds an M.A. in Chinese/Media Studies from the University of Tuebingen and lives and works in Munich, Germany.