Bert Wijnen: I was in systems management and mainframes in my younger days, much younger days. And through IBM Research I got connected to network management in the space of the NSFNET backbone in the US back in the late 70s. And they were going to upgrade from 56kb lines to one and a half megabit lines, which was enormous at the time. Now you know, everybody’s house has better connectivity.
And that got me in touch with people in the IETF developing protocols for network management. And I got involved in a working group called SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol). And I got very much involved, implemented all the versions that actually were ever thought of, even those that were not published.
That way I guess I profiled myself in the IETF, and in 1998 I was chosen to be an Area Director for the Operations and Management Area. I did that for eight years. That was a very busy period, so a lot of work there trying to steer some twenty or so working groups in the direction that the whole IETF wanted to get consensus and get work done.
Then I was a few years a little bit less active, and now I have taken since 2008 a position on the ISOC board. Again, that’s something that people have to choose you for. And so that’s why you see me here this weekend.
Intertitle: Describe one of the breakthrough moments or movements of the Internet in which you have been a key participant.
Well, there are probably many favorite moments, like I worked many years on the SNMP protocol, as I just mentioned. And so by the time that became an Internet standard, I believe it was somewhere in 2006 or so—I forget the exact time when it became a full standard, that was quite an achievement.
But more important, lots of people in the industry that actually had to operate networks still thought that SNMP was not the right thing, certainly not for configuration management. And so we held a workshop with the IAB, the Internet Architecture Board, and we invited many protocol developers, people from universities, people from enterprises, people from ISPs, and operators. And that’s where we actually defined what to do next in terms of network management.
And so that in the end resulted in NETCONF (Network Configuration Working Group), that built a new data modeling language. That was actually “netmod.” So we had two working groups, one for the protocol, one for the data modeling language YANG, which used to be very successful. Especially this meeting we learned that many many other working groups are interested in using that language for data modeling. And the netconf protocol, which is also out as a standard—proposed standard, actually—and many implementations. We have done an interoperability event last year, and we have like ten or so implementations that interoperate with each other. So now we have to see how well that gets deployed, but I believe that’s happening. So that’s another good moment that we had.
Intertitle: Describe the state of the Internet today with a weather analogy and explain why.
I would certainly not consider it sunny. I mean, it is sunny in terms of we get more and more Internet users around the world, and that’s growing like hell, if that’s the nice with to use. That’s good. But we also see that we have lots of problems. People need to migrate from IPv4 to IPv6 so that everybody can indeed get an IP address, a globally-accessible and routable IP address, because many of the service providers are now giving you an address behind a NAT, a network address translation box. So that means there’s no good end-to-end connectivity. And the end-to-end connectivity allows for permissiveless innovation. That means that if you and I want to do something new, we just develop it on our own computers and we can talk to each other over the Internet because there’s no— IP is the layer that actually transports all our packets and we can do whatever we want. And that is getting worse and worse because of the shortage of IP addresses, because of slowness of migration to IPv6. And so in that sense I find it a little bit worrisome.
I find it maybe stormy, even— (So that was the cloudy side.) I find its stormy even, in the sense that there are so many security issues that need to be solved. How do you make sure that the new and innocent users can actually use the Internet and trust that what they do is safe? It’s a matter of education to these people. It’s a matter of getting more security protocols and making them such that they are more easy to deploy and all that, and that’s not easy and it’s just getting worse. And besides that, we see things like the NSA did, the prison things, which are really really bad, I think.
Intertitle: What are your greatest hopes and fears for the future of the Internet?
Yeah, so that’s one fear that I have. Another fear that I have and I have also expressed last year during the Global Internet in Geneva, that is the Internet— You know, whether you go to a news web site or no matter what, it is full of advertisements trying to take people to gambling sites or you know, all sorts of sites. Which I mean, some advertising is maybe okay. And it’s flashing left and right. It becomes a disco, if you like. And maybe I’m getting too old, you know. I liked to go to discos when I was younger, and I don’t do that that often anymore. But that’s really bad. I stopped watching the news programs many years ago because it was all advertisement, and blah blah, and short, and repeating, and what have you. And that’s what’s happening on Internet [?], too. So that sort of makes me makes me feel bad, and it’s just getting worse. That’s my fear.
So my greatest hope is that we can actually convince the world that we continue with open standards. So, you may have heard about Open Stand, which I would like people to go to and find out what exactly we mean. And that’s open standards where everybody can participate to define the network that we want to use to communicate with everybody. And Open Stand also means that you know, our principles say we need to adhere to the end-to-end principle, which means that you and I can do the things that we want to do, two other people can do something different, and we’re not standing in each others’ way.
Is there action that should be taken to ensure the best possible future?
So, clearly there is a number of actions that we need to take. They’re not easy actions. It has a lot to do in the policy, political world, where there’s competing standards organizations that make it difficult to get to that open standardization process to make the whole process inclusive so everybody can participate. It seems like there’s a little bit of a turf war there that is really too bad, and we need to find a way to break that war and to make peace and work together for these open standards. And that would be great if we could do that. But it’s a difficult action. And it’s not— I don’t think it’s necessarily at the technical level, it’s much more at the policy level these days, which is… I mean, at the technical level, we can solve lots of things. But policy is more difficult.
Intertitle: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Well, let me add something about the IETF. This is where…that we had last week here, where people develop the protocols and we should also have some fun. So, I am known in the IETF as sometimes singing a song, so that’s what we should do. And it would be great if the Internet would go to the way where we could say, [sings].
That sounds like pleasure, doesn’t it? And that’s what we need. We need pleasure in developing our protocols. And pleasure in using the Internet. Which means it should be unencumbered and open for everybody. Thank you.