[hops] Proposed HOPS Research Group charter

Brian Trammell <ietf@trammell.ch> Tue, 12 May 2015 14:56 UTC

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Subject: [hops] Proposed HOPS Research Group charter
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Greetings, all,

Following up on the successful BarBoF in Dallas, we would like to propose a first HOPS (proposed) research group meeting in Prague. The draft charter text is attached for comment.


Brian and Mirja

How Ossified is the Protocol Stack? (HOPS)

There has been long term and increasing interest in deploying transport protocols with alternate dynamics and behaviors to TCP and UDP. The IETF has standardized several new protocols including DCCP, UDP-lite, SCTP and several changes to TCP including ECN and LEDBAT. All of these new technologies have resulted in deployment challenges blamed on intentional and unintentional interference by middleboxes such as NATs and firewalls. This has lead to approaches such as building new protocols over UDP or HTTP to make traffic look like something a middlebox would expect. However, both these approaches have shortcomings and a variety of ameliorating engineering approaches are being considered.

What is missing is a study with more than anecdotal evidence of the nature of the problem and the portions of the network in which it manifests. One of the best analyses to date is [1] which measures from a very small number of locations: 49 residential, 17 enterprise, and 142 locations in total. In the interest of getting ground-truth data about the nature of the problem, the HOPS research group will provide a discusion forum to coordinate efforts in research and industry -- such as network stack, browser, and middlebox vendors, as well as network and service operators -- on collecting and reporting statistics about middlebox impact on transport sessions.

[1] M. Honda, Y. Nishida, C. Raiciu, A. Greenhalgh, M. Handley, and H. Tokuda.
Is it still possible to extend tcp? In Proc. ACM IMC, 2011.


The HOPS research group follows from the successful BarBoF meeting organized by Aaron Falk at IETF92 in Dallas to bring more data on the nature and extent of middlebox interference to protocol design and engineering efforts. To this end, we aim to provide a forum for discussion and exchange of measurement insights, data, and techniques co-located with IETF meetings. The BarBoF identified the need for this forum, with many participants wanting a place to continue these discussions.

In addition, we have identified two near-term goals to be completed within the research group in support of this work.

First is the definition of a common format for reporting on middlebox impairments observed in the network, whether these observations are made passively, actively, or as a side effect of some other operation, e.g. taken from application or network stack error logs. This common format must provide for correlation and comparison among data from disjoint observations, and address end-user privacy and business confidentiality concerns, e.g. using path pseudonyms instead of paths identified by AS number and/or IP address where necessary. These measurements should be useful not only for detecting impairments but also for assessing the likelihood that a certain impairment will be experienced by traffic on certain types of networks and in the Internet as a whole.

Second is the specification of methods for analysis of middlebox interference, and associated active measurement techniques, that can scale to much larger numbers of measured paths than those presently in the literature, while minimizing network measurement traffic load on the network. These active measurements will be useful for targeted questions about specific paths as well as to fill in data not available from passive measurement.


Membership in the HOPS RG is open.


The HOPS RG will meet one to three times per year, initially always co-located with IETF meetings, to foster exchange among researchers and between research and industry on middlebox measurement topics. Meetings may in the future be scheduled to provide additional interaction with the network operations community, should operationally relevant and useful results warrant this.

We aim to hold a first meeting at IETF 93 in Prague, and already have a number of presentation confirmed.