For a while now, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has been looking for a role to play in relation to software defined networking (SDN).
Even as the IETF struggles to identify a clear mandate for itself as a potential standards arbiter for SDN, the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) appears ready to jump into fray. The IRTF doesn’t conflict with the IETF, so its involvement with SDN would be parallel and ideally complementary to anything the IETF might pursue.
Both the IETF and IRTF are overseen by the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). Whereas the IETF is mandated to focus on shorter-term issues involving engineering and standards, the IRTF focuses on longer-term Internet research.
Hybrid SDN Models
Cisco Systems’ David Mayer has drafted a proposed IRTF charter for the Software Defined Networking Research Group (SDNRG). It features an emphasis on hybrid SDN models, “in which control and data plane programability works in concert with existing and future distributed control planes.”
The proposed charter also states that the SDNRG will provide “objective definitions, metrics and background research, with the goal of providing this information as input to protocol, network, and service design to SDOs and other standards producing organizations such as the IETF, ITU-T, IEEE, ONF, MEF, and DMTF.”
How the research of the IRTF and the eventual standards activity of the IETF conform or diverge from the work of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) will be interesting to monitor. The ONF is controlled exclusively at the board level by cloud service providers, whereas vendors will be actively steering the work of the IETF and IRTF.