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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.
The basic idea is to create formal structures for
These structures can be used to enhance the IETF standards process in the following ways:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
Note that this section will be removed if this proposal advances.
The idea for formalizing interoperability reporting was based on the 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 ISD.
Thanks to Sam and others who helped flesh out the idea.
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