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IETF 115 Hackathon: Returning to Pre-pandemic Participation Levels
- Charles EckelIETF Hackathon Co-chair
13 Dec 2022
The IETF 115 Hackathon was held 5-6 November in London. 350 people registered to participate onsite and more than 100 more registered to participate remotely to work on 39 projects across essentially all areas of IETF work, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels of participation.
IETF Hackathons started in 2015 and have evolved over time to meet the current needs of the IETF community. Contrary to many other large hackathons, IETF Hackathons are collaborative events, not competitions. They are free and open to everyone, including those not attending the IETF meeting. Primary goals include developing code that implements IETF standards, improving the clarity of standards documentation, sharing new ideas, and reaching consensus on key points that improve evolving Internet-Drafts (I-Ds) and deployments of existing Internet standards (defined in RFCs).
IETF Hackathons attract participants with a wide range of backgrounds and talents. Many participants are skillful software developers. Others are subject matter experts who may not consider themselves developers. All are welcome participants and provide valued contributions. One of the greatest benefits of each Hackathon is the mixing of people and ideas that occurs so naturally when we come together for an extended time. Running code created and improved at each Hackathon is valuable, but so are the exchange of ideas, the extension of human networks, and the building of new friendships, respect, and trust.
The IETF 115 Hackathon hosted a range of projects related to essentially all areas of IETF work. Every project is led by one of more champions who volunteer to lead work in a specific area. Project champions help organize participants with common interests into productive teams, and they provide focus, guidance, and leadership for the project. It is thanks to the efforts of these project champions that IETF Hackathons are welcoming events for newcomers to the IETF and serve as a great introduction to the IETF community. This is evident by the large number of people at each IETF Hackathon for whom the Hackathon is their first experience with the IETF.
Remote Participation Improvements
Remote participation has been a part of IETF Hackathons from the start. Due to restrictions associated with the pandemic, the Hackathon switched to an online only format in which all participation was remote. Changes were made to try to accommodate variations in schedules and time zones of participants and teams. New tools and capabilities were added to better support remote collaboration. Many of these enhancements remained in effect once it became possible to meet in person again. While by no means a complete replacement for onsite participation, remote participation in IETF Hackathons continues to improve. Great examples of enhancements include Meetecho, which is now used for the Hackathon Kickoff and for all Project Results Presentations, HackNet, which enables remote access to the same IETF network that is used by Hackathon participants onsite, and Gather, which enables onsite and remote participants alike to take a seat at a virtual table and collaborate on code and documents while engaged in a project specific video conference.
Project Results Presentations
One of the most educational parts of each Hackathon is the optional sharing of results by each project team. Some projects are closely related and collaborate on code and presentations of shared results. A great example was the Internet of Things with RIOT team working together with the OpenSCHC Development and Documentation team to add and test support for Static Header Compression and Fragmentation (SCHC) in RIOT.IETF Areas
All presentations are very brief, highlighting things such as goals, accomplishments, lessons learned, and interactions with other standards organizations and open source communities. A record number of teams shared results. In total, there were 25 presentations, 4 of which were given by a remote presenter. Due to the large number of presentations, 4 minute time limits were imposed – did we mention the presentations were brief? Willem Toorop of NLnet Labs provided an excellent summary in under 4 minutes of the many challenges the DNS team tackled.
Other projects are more distinct and related to areas of IETF work that many others may not have realized existed. One common thread across all projects is the goal of advancing the pace and relevance of IETF standards.
Thomas Graff, one of the champions of the SRv6 Data-Plane Visibility projects, had this to share about their project:
"The SRv6 Data-Plane Visibility team, with participants from Operations and Management Area Working Group (opsawg), implementeddraft-ietf-opsawg-ipfix-srv6-srh inFD.io VPP (seecode) and pmacct (seecode), and validated successfully these implementations together with another vendor implementation in an SRv6 enabled network with a real-time data processing pipeline. With this data, SRv6 traffic engineered paths could be visualized and traced, thus enabling a network operator to quickly identify which SRv6 encapsulated packets are dropped where and why."
John Gray of Entrust, who championed the Post Quantum (PQ) Keys and Signature team, provided this summary:
"The PQ Keys and Signatures team had a great Hackathon experience at IETF 115. It was the first time for everyone on our team, and we didn’t know how many people would show up. It turned out we had 8 onsite participants and 8 remote participants! We used the Table G in the Hackathon room within the IETF Gather space to keep coordinated between the onsite and remote participants. We had pre-arranged 4 meeting times over the two days, and usually had someone onsite that was connected to any chat going on in Gather in case an onsite participant and remote participant needed to collaborate. This did happen a number of times and worked out quite well.
"Our goals were to test the new PQ algorithms (Dilithium, Falcon, and SPHINCS+) in existing X.509 structures. We use the new algorithms alone and also in hybrid composite combinations with traditional crypto. We solved a number of ASN.1 encoding issues to help clarify specifications in new drafts, obtained experience in practical use of the new NIST algorithms, and created an artifact repository for interoperability testing. The repository is open to anyone who wants to perform interoperability testing with these new algorithms. We have planned monthly meetings to continue the work and to expand the artifacts and protocols that will be tested."
With so many presentations in rapid succession, it can be very hard to keep up. Fortunately, the slides for all presentations are available on the IETF Hackathon GitHub, and a full recording is available as well.
These short presentations, while too brief to dive into all the details, serve as great conversations starters for more in depth discussions that continue throughout the rest of the IETF meeting week, including as dedicated topics of discussion in corresponding working group sessions. There is also a great opportunity for all teams and interested parties to get together Monday evening at Hackdemo Happy Hour to continue their conversations over snacks and drinks.
More information on all the projects, including links to code, is available on the IETF Hackathon wiki.
Thanks to our sponsors
Tremendous thanks to our Silver Running Code Sponsor, Meta, and our Bronze Running Code Sponsor, ICANN, for sponsoring the IETF 115 Hackathon. We greatly appreciate this sponsorship and welcome and encourage additional sponsors. By sponsoring the Hackathon, you help ensure it remains a free event accessible to everyone. More information is available online.
The IETF 116 Hackathon is scheduled for 25-26 March 2023 at the start of IETF 116 in Yokohama. We look to continue past success and encourage new and returning participants to join us in working on running code related to IETF standards. Registration is open and free, both onsite and remote. Subscribe to the Hackathon email list to get all the latest information.
All photographs by Stonehouse Photographic/IETF