The following text is copyright 1998 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.

Why can't we all get along?

By Scott Bradner
Network World, 12/21/98

I'm writing this column in a bright pink hotel near Walt Disney
World on the Sunday between the 43rd Internet Engineering Task
Force (IETF) meeting and the International Telecommunication
Union technical standards group's (ITU-T) IP Telccom meeting.

In the spirit of cooperation, the ITU-T scheduled its meeting for the
week after the IETF event and held it in the same hotel so people
could attend both meetings. Cooperation between the growing
number of standards bodies dealing with different aspects of the
Internet protocol suite was one of the topics of conversation at the
IETF meeting and promised to be a big issue at the ITU-T gathering.

Just about all the work done by the IETF and World Wide Web
Consortium (W3C) is Internet-related and has been for years.

For other groups, the Internet has been a sometimes important issue
but often a peripheral one. Among these groups are the ITU-T,
which has been working on H.323 and other IP telephony standards
for the past few years, and the International Standards Organization
(ISO), which has been working on Internet routing standards.

With so many people focused on the convergence of voice, data and
video traffic onto IP networks, cooperation between standards bodies
has become an ever more important concern.

At one level, cooperation between standards bodies can be easy. As
the W3C's Jim Getties put it during the IETF plenary when the issue
of cooperation came up: "Them is us." In other words, many IETF
attendees regularly participate in other standards groups.

But many standards groups are nervous about such cooperation.
That's because it can be hard to tell if an opinion or proposal
represents another standards body's official stand or is just the
opinion of an individual. The IETF has issues with receiving official
communication from other standards groups, because we at the IETF
treat everything as if it comes from individuals and give no additional
weight to official statements.

The IETF has come a long way in the last five years on the
cooperation front.

Fred Baker, the IETF chairman, received one of the biggest rounds
of applause during the recent meeting's plenary session when he
mentioned how well the IETF and ITU have been working together.
Cooperation can be a good thing if both sides understand how to do
it, which the ITU does. For example, the ITU and IETF were able to
agree on a single Internet fax standard. However, working together
is not a panacea. There are times when the underlying architectural
assumptions of the two groups are so different there is no way to
agree on a single approach. In these cases, the marketplace must be
the final arbitrator.

I do not expect that working out the balance between turf and
cooperation will be easy, but it is important, and it will be an ongoing
issue and occasionally will become quite a bitter one.

Disclaimer: Harvard, like many universities, has been defined as a
turf battle over parking spaces being fought under a common name.
But the above battle has nothing to do with Harvard.