Important tech organizations IT pros should be familiar with
The technical standards that govern how the Internet and modern computer networks operate are debated and approved by a number of organizations. These organizations exist to ensure the proper functionality and long term feasibility of network transmission methods. IT professionals should be familiar with these organizations, how they operate, and what their specific roles and responsibilities are. After all, it is clearly within our professional purviews to intimately know the standards which dictate how the Internet’s core technologies work. For example, detailed knowledge of IPv4 (and very soon, IPv6) is a must for today’s system and network administrators. But who determines how the IP protocol operates? Who sets the standards regarding networking technologies? Read on to find out.
- Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)
- Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
- Internet Society (ISOC)
- Ethernet Alliance
- Wi-Fi Alliance
- Further reference
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)
According to IANA’s mission statement, it “is responsible for the operational aspects of coordinating the Internet’s unique identifiers and maintaining the trust of the community to provide these services in an unbiased, responsible and effective manner.” Okay, what does this mean specifically?
IANA’s functions can be summarized as follows:
- Domain name management – IANA is responsible for the operation and maintenance of a number of key aspects of the Internet’s DNS functionality, which translates easy-to-remember domain names into the IP addresses which computers understand. For example, DNS translates a domain name such as http://www.kernel.org to the IP address 184.108.40.206. If it weren’t for DNS, we would have to remember a set of numbers like this for every website we wanted to visit. Most notably, IANA is the global coordinator of the DNS root zone (which involves delegating administrative responsibility of top-level domains such as .com, .net and .org). Furthermore IANA is the operator of the Key Signing Key for the DNS Root Zone (to provide for verification of the DNSSEC signature).
- Allocation of IP addresses and AS numbers – IANA is responsible for the delegation of the publicly available IPv4 and IPV6 address space, and for Autonomous System (AS) coordination as well. IANA gives out huge blocks of IP addresses (/8’s) to the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), who then distribute them to ISPs inside their respective regions. Examples of RIRs include ARIN for the US and Canada, RIPE for Europe and the Middle East, APNIC for Asia and Pacific Rim countries.
- Protocol registries – IANA is responsible for maintaining many of the codes and numbers contained in various Internet protocols.
IANA is operated by ICANN. For a listing of the DNS root server host names and IP addresses, see root-servers.org.
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
ICANN is IANA’s parent organization. ICANN’s goal is to “preserve and enhance the operational stability, reliability, security, and global interoperability of the Internet”. Their mission statement reads as follows:
The mission of ICANN is to coordinate, at the overall level, the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers, and in particular to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems. In particular, ICANN:
- Coordinates the allocation and assignment of the three sets of unique identifiers for the Internet, which area. Domain names (forming a system referred to as “DNS”);
b. Internet protocol (“IP”) addresses and autonomous system (“AS”) numbers; and
c. Protocol port and parameter numbers.
- Coordinates the operation and evolution of the DNS root name server system.
- Coordinates policy development reasonably and appropriately related to these technical functions.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
Billing itself “the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity”, the IEEE is most well-known to IT professionals for their 802.x series of networking standards (this responsibility being assigned to the IEEE Standards Association). In particular, IT pros should familiarize themselves with the 802.1 (Spanning Tree Protocol, VLANs, Port Based Network Access Control, etc), 802.3 (Ethernet), and 802.11 (WLAN) families of networking standards.
Internet Society (ISOC)
The mission of the Internet Society is to “to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.” In technical terms, ISOC seeks to achieve this goal by:
- Facilitating open development of standards, protocols, administration, and the technical infrastructure of the Internet.
- Providing forums for discussion of issues that affect Internet evolution, development and use in technical, commercial, societal, and other contexts.
ISOC is the parent organization of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF). ISOC also sponsors the Deploy360 Programme which is intended to educate IT professionals about IPv6 and DNSSEC so that they may begin rolling out these technologies on their networks.
Internet Architecture Board (IAB)
The IAB is a committee of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). From a technical perspective, its most notable responsibilities are:
- Architectural Oversight: The IAB provides oversight of, and occasional commentary on, aspects of the architecture for the protocols and procedures used by the Internet.
- Standards Process Oversight and Appeal: The IAB provides oversight of the process used to create Internet Standards. The IAB serves as an appeal board for complaints of improper execution of the standards process through acting as an appeal body in respect of an IESG standards decision.
- RFC Series and IANA: The IAB is responsible for editorial management and publication of the Request for Comments (RFC) document series, and for administration of the assignment of IETF Protocol parameter values by the IETF Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).
The IAB’s charter is described in RFC 2850.
Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG)
The IESG is responsible for technical management of IETF activities and the Internet standards process. The IESG reviews and approves working group documents and candidates for the IETF standards track, and reviews other candidates for publication in the RFC series. The IESG performs quality checking to ensure that the documents are suitable for release as RFCs.
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
The IETF describes itself as “the principal body engaged in the development of new Internet standard specifications.” The IETF divides its work into a number of areas, each comprised of one or more related working groups. These areas are: Applications Area (app), General Area (gen), Internet Area (int), Operations and Management Area (ops), Real-time Applications and Infrastructure Area (rai), Routing Area (rtg), Security Area (sec), and Transport Area (tsv).
The IETF’s responsibilities include:
- Identifying, and proposing solutions to, pressing operational and technical problems in the Internet.
- Specifying the development or usage of protocols and the near-term architecture to solve such technical problems for the Internet.
- Making recommendations to the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) regarding the standardization of protocols and protocol usage in the Internet.
- Facilitating technology transfer from the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) to the wider Internet community.
- Providing a forum for the exchange of information within the Internet community between vendors, users, researchers, agency contractors, and network managers.
The IETF mission statement is contained within RFC 3935.
Internet Research Task Force (IRTF)
The IRTF “promotes research of importance to the evolution of the Internet by creating focused, long-term Research Groups working on topics related to Internet protocols, applications, architecture and technology”. It focuses on long term research issues related to the Internet. More details about the IRTF can be found in the following RFCs: RFC 2014, IRTF Research Group Guidelines and Procedures; RFC 4440, IAB Thoughts on the Role of the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF); and RFC 5743, Definition of an Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) Document Stream.
The Ethernet Alliance provides educational services and marketing for the Ethernet networking protocol. Its goal to to foster the growth and market acceptance of Ethernet products. The Ethernet Alliance provides resources to encourage multivendor interoperability of Ethernet products, such as multivendor Ethernet plug-fests and demonstrations of multivendor interoperability at industry trade shows and technology conferences. They also provide education materials, such as white papers, videos, and webinars for free on their website. Unlike the IEEE, the Ethernet Alliance does not develop or publish Ethernet-related standards and specifications.
There are several subcommittees within the Ethernet Alliance that are focused on more specific Ethernet-related subject areas, such as Power Over Ethernet, Energy Efficient Ethernet, 10G-EPON, etc.
The Wi-Fi Alliance offers wireless certification testing for manufacturers of wireless devices. Unlike the IEEE, the Wi-Fi Alliance does not create and ratify wireless protocol standards (e.g., the 802.11 series). Instead, the Alliance performs rigorous testing of wireless devices to check for reliability, conformance to industry standards, interoperability, backwards compatibility, security, quality of service, etc. The Alliance maintains an online listing of the products which it has certified.
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