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Network Working Group                                        L. Masinter
Internet-Draft                                             Adobe Systems
Expires: April 14, 2006                                 October 11, 2005

              Formalizing IETF Interoperability Reporting

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   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2005).


   This document suggests another way of reforming IETF standards
   process by formalizing the mechanism for interoperability reporting,
   as a way of facilitating standards development.  It establishes two
   kinds of reports: a 'Protocol Feature Set', which lays out the set of
   features from IETF specifications that constitute a protocol, and a
   'Protocol Implementation Report', which is submitted by an individual
   or group to report on implementation and interoperability testing.

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1.  Introduction

   The basic idea is to create formal structures for
   o  ("Protocol Feature Set") Describing the set of specifications, and
      the features within them, that constitute a single "protocol",
      from the point of view of testing interoperability.  (See below
      for format & publication process.)
   o  ("Protocol Implementation Report") Creating a standard way that
      individuals can report on implementation and interoperability
      testing of a protocol.  (See below for format & publication
   These structures can be used to enhance the IETF standards process in
   the following ways:
   o  Working groups (or individuals) preparing specifications for new
      protocols may also prepare the initial Protocol Feature Set. The
      IETF should publish these if they represent rough consensus.
   o  Working groups preparing specifications for updating existing
      protocols or adding new options of features to an existing
      protocol may prepare a proposed extension to an existing published
      Protocol Feature Set. Again, updated Protocol Feature Sets that
      represent community (rough) consensus should be published.
   o  Individuals or groups who have an implementation of a protocol,
      and those who have tested interoperability between independent
      implementations may prepare implementation reports (which may
      include reports of successful interoperability).
   o  Implementation reports may contain comments about existing
      specifications.  Groups interested in updating existing
      specifications to facilitate their advancement in standards status
      may use comments within implementation reports to give weight to
      "running code"; they may use the lack of implementation of
      particular features as motiviation for removal of those features
      in subsequent updates.
   o  The IETF may use the existence of reports of successful
      interoperability by multiple independent implementations of every
      feature within a specification as evidence for advancing that
      specification.  Note that specifications may require updates in
      order to make them suitable for advancement, as in current
   o  Implementation reports may also include assertions about
      widespread deployment of the implementations, and the IETF may use
      these reports as part of the basis for judgement of widespread
      deployment of protocol implementations as a basis for advancement
      of specifications.

2.  Format of Protocol Feature Set


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   o  List of referenced technical specifications.
   o  List of features, where a feature is a specification with chapter,
      section, paragraph, or quoted text.
   o  A feature description may contain additional explanatory text, to
      clarify or otherwise elaborate the feature.
   o  A feature description should indicate whether implementation is
      REQUIRED or optional for the protocol.
   o  Protocols may define multiple roles (e.g., client/server/proxy).
      Protocol Feature Set can include sets of roles, and feature
      specifications can identify the roles for which the feature is
   o  May include references to other Protocol Feature Sets which are
   o  Could be specified as an XML-based format, with text format
      automatically derived, and both XML and text published.

3.  Scope and Granularity of Protocol Feature Set

   There is a great deal of judgement needed about how details to get in
   the protocol feature set.  At the coarsest granularity, a feature set
   could have a single feature, which listed a single specification, at
   least for protocols with no options.  How difficult it is to create
   the Protocol Feature Set depends a great deal on the quality of the
   original technical specifications.  Protocol Feature Sets require
   rough consensus before they are published.  However, rough consensus
   may be judged by the willingness of implementors to prepare Protocol
   Implementation Reports using the Protocol Feature Set framework.

4.  Format of Protocol Implementation Report

   o  May not cover entire PFS.
   o  Identity of implementation.  Relationship to other previously
      reported implementations, if any.
   o  If any IPR noted for any technical specification referenced in
      PFS, relationship of source of implementation to owner of IPR
      and/or other exercises of license process.
   o  Optionally, assertions about deployment
   o  Version history, for implementation report updates
   o  Identity of author, relationship to implementation, IPR.
   o  If implementation report has been reviewed by someone else
      (working group chair, interoperability event host), identity of
   o  For each feature:

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      *  Was feature implemented?
      *  If so, has feature been sucessfully tested as interoperable
         with at least one independent implementation?
      *  Optionally, the identity of the other implementations against
         which interoperability was successfully tested
      *  For asymmetric protocols (e.g., client/server, or different
         roles), repeat for each role played.
      *  Optionally, a short comment about the way in which the feature
         had to be interpreted to be interoperable.  This shouldn't be a
         place to publish a long article, however.
      *  Could be specified as an XML representation, with text format
         automatically derived, to facilitate tools for automatic
         merging and summarizing implementation reports.
   o  If Protocol Feature Set contains references to other Protocol
      Feature Sets, the Protocol Implementation Report may also
      reference corresponding Protocol Implementation Reports.
   o  QUESTION: Is it a requirement to allow for anonomous
      implementation reports, where the implementation is not
      specifically identified?  In some cases, interop events allow for
      this because product managers don't want competitors to use their
      implemetation reports in negative marketing.

5.  Process for publication of Protocol Feature Set

   Authored against template.  Should be reviewed by working group (if
   active) or IESG.  Perhaps IETF last call not necessary?  After all,
   proof is in whether there are actually any implementations willing to
   report on it.

   Updates to a Protocol Feature Set could be proposed by listing the
   proposed delta.  In general, if specifications change, feature sets
   should be extended, not updated, unless there was some mistake.  That
   is, the "feature" corresponds to the documented feature.

6.  Process for publication of Protocol Implementation Report

   Preferably produced by someone responsible for the implementation.
   Perhaps could be reported by someone else, as long as actual
   implementor can update.  May be updated at any time, old reports are
   still available.  Updates can include new information or correction
   to old information.  Perhaps there could be a mechanism for
   publishing comments on implementation reports.

7.  Tools for viewing Protocol Feature Sets and Protocol Implementation

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   If the format for submission of both kinds of reports are in XML,
   there could be tools for generating HTML and plain text versions of
   these reports.

8.  Tools for combining information for combined reports

   To facilitate seeing the "whole picture", it would be useful to have
   some tools that would take the information in the published Protocol
   Feature Sets and Protocol Implementation Reports and generate
   implementation reports that could summarize, for each feature of a
   given protocol,
   o  Whether it was not implemented
   o  How many implementations there were.
   o  How many implementations reported interoperability with an
      independent implementation.
   o  The list of all comments about the feature.

9.  Updating IETF processes

   Once we have provided a way of formalized interoperability reporting,
   we could consider ways in which IETF RFC 2026 standards process could
   be updated to make use of these.  For example, we could consider
   automating progression of specifications from Proposed Standard to
   Draft Standard if sufficient combined interoperability reports
   existed.  We would need to be clear about the minimum requirement for
   implementation reports.  Alternatively, we could consider removing
   "Draft Standard" as a formal approval step; and instead
   (automatically) report which Standards Track documents had adequate
   interoperability reports.  Since the IESG does not currently evaluate
   the accuracy of interoperability reporting, it would make it clearer
   that the judgment about the maturity of a protocol specification and
   its interoperable implementation is left to the reader of the
   specification and its interoperability reports.  This would also
   simplify the decisions about "downreference", since references from
   widely implemented specifications to those with mixed implementation
   would not result in confusion.  Finally, we could change the judgment
   of "full standard" from a judgement about the protocol specification
   to a judgement about what constitutes "widespread deployment" and
   whether the implementations reported had reached that status.

10.  Comparison with ISD and SRD

   Note that this section will be removed if this proposal advances.

   The idea for formalizing interoperability reporting was based on the

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   ideas from ISDs and SRDs that we should have a single document that
   pulls together all of the specifications of a single "protocol".
   However, basing the full description of what constitutes a single
   "protocol" on the operational need to test interoperability creates a
   better justification for putting energy into the task, motivates a
   different category of individuals to work on it, and gives it an
   operational criteria for judging success.

   I imagine that a PFS wouldn't take much more work to author than an

11.  Acknowledgements

   Thanks to Sam and others who helped flesh out the idea.

12.  Informative References

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Author's Address

   Larry Masinter
   Adobe Systems
   345 Park Ave
   San Jose, CA  95110

   Phone: +1 408 536 3024
   Email: LMM@acm.org
   URI:   http://larry.masinter.net

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