Thoughts on IETF Finance Arrangements

Versions: 00                                                            
Internet Engineering Task Force                                 J. Arkko
Internet-Draft                                                  Ericsson
Intended status: Informational                         February 28, 2017
Expires: September 1, 2017

                 Thoughts on IETF Finance Arrangements


   This short memo outlines the author's thoughts of current status and
   future development questions around IETF's financing mechanisms.

   This memo is also input for discussion that the IETF community should
   have.  The memo is the first part of the author's goal to document
   the status and various challenges and opportunities associated with
   the IETF Administrative Activity (IASA), in the context of the so
   called "IASA 2.0" project.

   The memo has no particular official standing, nor does it claim to
   represent more than the authors' thinking at the time of writing.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Discussion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   4.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6

1.  Introduction

   The purpose of the IETF is to "... produce high quality, relevant
   technical and engineering documents that influence the way people
   design, use, and manage the Internet ..." [RFC3935].  This is of
   course only possible when the organisation offers a platform:
   process, and basic services that allow IETF participants to work
   Internet technology in an effective way.  One part of this platform
   is sufficient funding to run those services, maintain archives, have
   web presence, have staff that can do the final publication editing,

   The IETF's funding situation is generally in good shape: The IETF has
   multiple sources of funds, from corporate supporters to participants
   to Internet Society and to donors interested ensuring in the long-
   term sustainability of the efforts.

   But there are issues as well, such as a rising cost trend in a
   setting where the basis of our funding from attendees and sponsors is
   staying largely the same.

   And, it is always good to evaluate our arrangements, and the ongoing
   "IASA 2.0" effort to assess the IETF Administrative Activity (IASA)
   organisation is a good moment to do this analysis [RFC4071] [IASA20].
   For the finance aspects as well as other organisational matters.

   This short memo outlines the author's view of the current status and
   future development questions around IETF's financing mechanisms.  The
   memo is the first part of the author's goal to document the status
   and various challenges and opportunities associated with IASA.

   This memo is also input for discussion that the IETF community should

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   The memo has no particular official standing, nor does it claim to
   represent more than the author's thinking at the time of writing.

2.  Discussion

   Some of the trends affecting our financing arrangements include:

   Community size is stable

      The size of the IETF community both in participants and
      participating companies has been relatively stable for over ten
      years.  This is by itself neither good or bad, and it reflects
      IETF's role in the world.  While the Internet technology business
      keeps growing tremendously, standards for core Internet technology
      are only one part of the overall picture.  That is a very
      important part, and one where there has been a lot of activity.
      But one should not necessarily expect a tremendous growth.

   Continuously rising costs

      On the other hand, costs for running the operation have increased,
      and are predicted to increase.  This is partially due to external
      cost pressures, for instance the of cost hotel services such as
      meeeting space continue to increase.  But the trend is also
      affected by the need to provide more services, for instance
      related to remote attendance or tools migrating to the

   Over-the-net participation

      The ability to work together without being in the same place
      continues to improve; global communities can be built based on -
      at least to large extent - over-the-net collaboration.  As
      engineers working on real-time communication among other things,
      this trend should be apparent to IETF participants.  This is not
      to say that in-person meetings will cease to be useful.

      This will affect one leg of the IETF's funding structure:
      participant fees.  Even where remote participation might be an
      activity that can have a fee associated with it, such fees are
      likely smaller than those in physical meetings.

      While the IETF financing models have recently started evolving,
      they are still based primarily on meeting fees and meeting-based
      sponsorship.  It would be useful to build also sponsorship models
      that allow supporting the IETF's work, not just a given meeting
      for instance.

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   Professionally run services

      IETF services are increasingly run on a professional, commercial
      model, as overall number of services continues to grow, volunteer
      tools are left to be run by the secretariat as the volunteers move
      on to develop more tools, etc.

   Different types of sponsors

      There are many willing supporters of the IETF's work.  But it is
      important to recognise how they -- due to their background or in
      some cases even legal or accounting reasons -- have different sets
      of expectations.

      It is useful to cater for different classes of donors, for
      instance both large corporations capabable of, for instance,
      hosting a meeting, as well as smaller corporations still
      interested in supporting the IETF but unable to take a hosting

      Similarly, most corporate sponsorships are typically to support
      the current activities.  Meeting sponsorships are an example of
      this.  On the other hand, IETF Endowment donations are an example
      of a more long-term support for the long-term.  Both models are
      necessary, and useful.

      Finally, the IETF is backed by Internet Society, and the support
      of the IETF is one of core missions that the organisation was
      founded for.

   The sponsor experience

      While there has been a lot of support for, e.g., meeting hosting,
      getting support for the full sponsorship program is not easy.

      The value to sponsors is not always obvious, the IETF community is
      sometimes critical or unappreciative, and the same sponsors get
      tapped again and again for many related but different

      Also, and this may sound obvious, but the IETF should be open for
      getting sponsorship from the different sources.  There is one area
      that we are not as open as we should be: Traditionally, meeting
      sponsorship has been sought from the location that a meeting is
      at.  However, this may not be the best strategy when a significant
      fraction of these sponsorships come from global multinational

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      A corollary to the desire for supporting multiple different
      sponsorship models is that the IETF is clear on what the options
      give, clear how they benefit the IETF.  As the number of options
      have grown, we have not always been clear enough, or provided
      answers that were aligned with the desires of the sponsors.  For
      instance, the IETF Endowment was re-specified in 2015-2016 to make
      it about support of the IETF rather than general-purpose support
      for Internet openness and technology development.  But work
      remains in ensuring that all sponsorship options are crystal

      Finally, the basis for any financial involvement of the sponsors
      needs to be viewed in terms of the value that the IETF provides
      for the participants and the supporters.  Articulating that is
      important, and this needs work from the IETF.  Although again, the
      value is probably slightly different for different sponsors.
      Ultimately, value is the one that ensures we continue to draw the
      participants, and attracts sponsors in a thoughtful and long-term
      fashion, and helps tune IETF activities to meet the needs of the

   Expectations on the IETF

      Some factors in our environment are changing, and the role of the
      IETF is also evoling in some ways.  For instance, the IETF Trust
      took a role in managing IANA-related IPR in 2016.

3.  Acknowledgements

   The author would like to thank Kathy Brown, Andrew Sullivan, Ray
   Pelletier, Leslie Daigle, Alissa Cooper, Gonzalo Camarillo, Greg
   Kapfer, and Sean Turner for interesting discussions in this space.

4.  Informative References

   [IASA20]   Arkko, J., "Proposed Project: IETF Administrative Support
              2.0", November 2016 (

   [RFC3935]  Alvestrand, H., "A Mission Statement for the IETF",
              BCP 95, RFC 3935, DOI 10.17487/RFC3935, October 2004,

   [RFC4071]  Austein, R., Ed. and B. Wijnen, Ed., "Structure of the
              IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA)", BCP 101,
              RFC 4071, DOI 10.17487/RFC4071, April 2005,

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Author's Address

   Jari Arkko
   Kauniainen  02700


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