Network Management Research Group

The information below is for an older proposed charter
Document Charter Network Management RG (nmrg) Snapshot
Title Network Management Research Group
Last updated 2020-02-07
State Approved
RG State Active
Send notices to (None)


* Charter
The Network Management Research Group (NMRG) provides a forum for researchers
to explore new technologies for the management of the Internet. In particular,
the NMRG will work on solutions for problems that are not yet considered well
understood enough for engineering work within the IETF. The focus of the NMRG
will be on management services that interface with the current Internet
management framework. This includes communication services between management
systems, which may belong to different management domains, as well as
customer-oriented management services. The NMRG is expected to identify and
document requirements, to survey possible approaches, to consider new
architectural frameworks, to provide specifications for proposed solutions, and
to prove concepts with prototype implementations that can be tested in
large-scale real-world environments. The IETF Operations and Management Area
Directors are members of the NMRG mailing list and invited to NMRG meetings in
order to ensure free flow of information in both directions, and to avoid
duplication of work with the various IETF working groups. The group will report
its progress through a publicly accessible web site and presentations at IETF
meetings. Specifications developed by the NMRG will be submitted for
publication as Experimental or Informational RFCs.

** Membership
Membership in the NMRG is open to all interested parties.

** Meetings
Regular working meetings are held about three to five times per year at
locations convenient to the majority of the participants. Working meetings vary
from hours-long working sessions (typically when held as part of IETF meetings)
to days-long meetings when co-located with conferences or events related to
network management. Regular virtual meetings are also organized on a monthly or
per-need basis.

** Research Activities (2017-2022)
The constant evolution of networking technologies, in scale, versatility, and
heterogeneity, generates operational complexity and demands novel disruptive
management solutions to address it. The NMRG will prioritize investigation of
three related topics: 1) self-driving/-managing networks, 2) intent-based
networking and 3) artificial intelligence in network management. Note: beyond
these three topics, the NMRG remains open to presentation of other topics of

While the ultimate goal of self-driving/-managing networks is fully autonomous
network operations, there will be intermediate levels where the human users
remain “in the loop” and are progressively assisted and replaced by more and
more intelligent mechanisms. Interfaces between humans and a self-driving
system are important and required to allow bidirectional communications. On one
hand, the user must be able to express guidance and its needs without having to
handle the full complexity of the underlying infrastructures. On the other
hand, users must understand the decisions which were taken and the reasons why,
be informed about the future actions the system will initiate and also be
provided with recommendations. In this area, Intent-Based Networking (IBN)
provides high-level, user-friendly abstractions to describe business and
operational goals, and alleviates the need for the user to know and derive the
technical details on how to achieve those goals. IBN is an essential component
of self-driving networks but requires the introduction of intelligent
mechanisms to properly process intents with as little human involvement as
possible. Certainly, some of those intelligent mechanisms can rely on advances
in (but should not be limited to) Artificial Intelligence (AI). While different
forms of AI have been used for decades in network management, the combined
progress in amount of data, computing power, AI algorithms and flexible
capabilities of networks in recent years makes highly relevant to re-examine in
depth the coupling between AI and network management.

** Work plan
To investigate these topics, the initial set of work items comprises:

*** For Intent-Based Networking (IBN):
1. Document the problem statement, design goals and challenges.
Goal: describe the problem and solution spaces; identify the limits of current
technologies and methods and derive the associated research challenges.

2. Document fundamental concepts, background, and terminology.
Goal: provide clarity and achieve a common understanding of the various
concepts, definitions and terms of what constitutes an IBN system.

3. Develop a taxonomy and document suitable means to express intents.
Goal: categorize the different forms of intents and define what constitutes a
“well-formed” intent; describe how an intent can be expressed and what can be
expressed using an intent with means such as information models, grammars, and

4. Design and specify a common architectural framework comprising requirements,
functions and techniques to realize an archetypal IBN system; describe the
lifecycle and theory of operations. Goal: determine the elementary functional
blocks of an IBN system, their interactions, inputs and outputs; propose
different techniques applicable for the different functions.

5. Define appropriate validation scenarios and use cases describing concrete
examples of intent expressions and functions. Goal: assess the quality and
completeness of specifications and evaluate intent-based systems
functionalities in experimental settings.

6. Develop implementations and proof of concepts.
Goal: demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed framework and its functions;
detect potential design flaws, and provide a basis for interoperability

7. Study the integrability and interoperability aspects of the proposed IBN
architectural framework. Goal: enable the large adoption and applicability of
IBN with existing and emerging technologies, and provide guidance on deployment

*** For Artificial Intelligence in Network Management (AI-NM):
1. Investigate, organize and document the major research challenges in AI for
Network Management. Goal: provide a reference document which defines the
different forms and usages of AI in network management and articulates the
different goals, challenges, requirements and research directions.

2. Organize and animate a series of practical Network Management AI
challenges/competitions. Goal: promote experimental research, practical
knowledge and validation of AI techniques to solve network management problems
and foster exchanges and cross-participation of both AI and Network Management

3. Support discussion and collaboration on techniques, (meta-)data,
experimentations and best practises for the use and integration of AI with
networking management approaches. Goal: offer a forum for the Network
Management AI community to report on advances, developments and key results and
introduce its efforts to the IETF. Note: Applicability of AI techniques for IBN
functionalities and mechanisms is an example of potential joint activity
between the Network Management AI and IBN realms.

*** For Self-Driving/-Managing Networks (SD/MN):
1. Support discussion to develop a common understanding of the problem-solution
space on new architectural frameworks, articulate related requirements, survey
and propose possible novel approaches. Goal: offer a venue for the Network
Management community to debate on current Internet management frameworks and
new proposals, and how to adapt and anticipate on needs, technologies and
ecosystem evolution.

2. Investigate and document reference models and de-facto best practises.
Goal: describe how various realms and components, such as intent-based
functionality, automation and zero-touch capabilities, or else algorithmic
approaches (AI or non-AI based), compose together to form modern, comprehensive
and coherent management solutions.