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Protocols, the IETF, and Dyn


Chief Architect


One of the definitions of “protocol”, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a set of conventions governing the treatment and especially the formatting of data in an electronic communications system.” For two parties to communicate efficiently, there needs to be a shared understanding of the rules covering that communication. For example, who talks first? What can they say? What do they do if the other person doesn’t respond? Rules like these are needed whether it’s two people talking or two devices communicating over the Internet.

On the Internet, those rules are overseen by the Internet Engineer Task Force (IETF), a diverse group of engineers from all over the world. The IETF does most of its work electronically (no surprise there!), but nothing replaces meeting in person, so three times a year, over a thousand engineers converge for a week of concentrated work. The 93rd meeting of the IETF is in full swing this week in Prague in the Czech Republic, and Dyn has a significant presence.

Dyn attends the IETF for two main reasons. First, the IETF is responsible for the core Internet protocols that drive our solutions, including DNS for Managed DNS, BGP for our Internet Intelligence solutions, IPv6 for all our products, and several others. We’re here not only to stay current with the latest developments affecting these protocols, but to actively contribute to shaping their future.

I’ve participated in the IETF for a long time. A significant interest of mine is DNS, both the continuing design of the protocol and operational best practices. DNS is old by Internet standards and has gained complexity over the years. That means we don’t make engineering changes lightly without first making sure we understand the implications. It’s also important to stay on top of operational best practices.

DNSSEC, the DNS security extensions, has been an IETF work item for a long time, and the protocol is finally seeing significant deployment. Dyn’s Director of Architecture, Joe Abley, is a member of a design team researching the impact of changing, or rolling, the critical root zone key-signing key (KSK), the most important cryptographic key in the DNSSEC system. Joe’s also one of those contributing to the successor to RFC 2870, Root Name Server Operational Requirements, which describes requirements for operating the critical DNS root servers. You may have noticed a pattern: Joe’s an expert in designing and operating critical DNS infrastructure, including the root server system.

Victor Kuarsingh, Sr. Director of Infrastructure, is our specialist in network engineering and operations. He follows network operational issues, such as IPv6 design choices. He’s also active in the Internet routing protocol area to understand how to evolve Dyn’s infrastructure effectively as we scale and grow our network.

The second reason Dyn contributes to the IETF is to give back to the community. Working on the protocols that underpin the Internet helps not only those who operate the Internet day-to-day, but ultimately everyone who uses the Internet. There’s no better example of Dyn’s giving back than our sponsorship of Andrew Sullivan, a Dyn Fellow, better known to the community as the Chair of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).  This prestigious position leads the group that works to guide the overall architecture of the Internet.  We couldn’t be prouder of Andrew and his work.

There’s a lot going on here. Participating in these important design activities allows us to play a part in the evolution of the protocols that are relevant to our products, making sure that they are going in a sensible direction and continue to solve our customers’ problems. I’m glad my Dyn colleagues and I can bring our perspective and make our contributions to keeping the Internet going today and into the future.

Matt Larson is the CTO for Dyn, the world leader in Internet performance solutions. Matt leads technical innovation at Dyn. In addition, he oversees the engineering, labs and architecture teams and ensures that Dyn remains a leader in engineering excellence. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MatthewHLarson or @Dyn.

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