Archive for December, 2012

Adobe’s Secure Real-Time Media Flow Protocol

Today Michael Thornburgh, Sr. Computer Scientist at Adobe, submitted a specification for Adobe’s Secure Real-Time Media Flow Protocol (RTMFP) to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Internet-Drafts repository  along with a disclosure of and grant of essential intellectual property rights under royalty-free terms.

RTMFP is a low-level endpoint-to-endpoint data transport protocol designed for real-time and peer-to-peer (P2P) communication. It presents a unified and holistic solution to a number of Internet communication problems, including security, NAT traversal, congestion control and prioritization of parallel media and data flows, variable transmission reliability for messages, and IP address mobility.

RTMFP is the foundation protocol that we use to bring the P2P and Multicast capabilities to Adobe products such as Adobe Flash and Adobe Media Server, but we believe it has applicability beyond Flash that the Internet community can use in their own innovations for next-generation real-time and P2P applications. Adobe continues to develop technologies using RTMFP within Adobe Flash and Adobe Media Server including features like Multicast and Groups, being used today by our customers to deliver high quality video experiences across public and corporate networks.

We are excited to continue making contributions to standards organizations such as the IETF that further Internet technologies for developers and users. As a technology leader, Adobe collaborates with stakeholders from industry, academia and government to develop, drive and support standards in existing and emerging technologies, policy areas, and markets, in order to improve our customers’ experience.

We welcome comments and feedback to help us improve the quality, clarity, and accuracy of this specification and we are excited to see what the Internet community creates with it.

Kevin Towes
Sr. Product Manager

(reposted from: Kevin Towes on Online Video at Adobe blog)

Congressman Jack Brooks’ Legacy to the World of Standards

In a brief footnote to history, I note with sadness that Congressman Jack Brooks has died. He had a long and interesting career as a Congressman from Texas and in the process shaped the face of standards and standardization as we now know it. He is mourned by his colleagues and friends.

I never met Jack Brooks, but I owe him – and his ideas – a great deal and probably, my career and interest in standardization. Jack Brooks was the author of Public Law 89-306 (Brooks Act), dated October 30, 1965, H.R.4845, which established the rules and requirements for buying “…any equipment or interconnected system or subsystems of equipment that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information…”

To make sure that what the government bought was “interconnectable” (since interoperable was still just a pipe dream), the Act further required that the National Bureau of Standards promulgate standards and guidelines “necessary to improve the efficiency of operation or security and privacy of Federal computer systems.”

This Act made standards and standardization a central feature of Federal procurement from 1965 on. Not only did prime contractors have to meet these standards, but all the participants down the supply chain did as well. This was significant, since the Federal government was the largest single purchaser of information technology in the world. From NASA to the Social Security Administration, from the Department of Education (another Brooks accomplishment) to the National Weather service, systems began to become “interconnectable.” Proprietary hardware (for that was the emphasis at the time) was slowly moved to interconnected and “plug compatible” systems. 

The development and creation of a whole theory of business rationale and strategic planning necessary for standards was a “green field” area and was rather challenging – and ultimately led to where we are today – with a vast and complex set of inter-relations between trade, business, politics, economics, jurisprudence, and social planning.

I doubt that Jack Brooks saw this far or anticipated the extent to which his Act would change the face of computing. He was a hard-headed realist who wanted to save the government money. But by driving standards into the procurement of Government systems, Jack Brooks changed the face of the IT industry by making technical standards necessary. And when that happened, all of the ancillary business activity, from legal basis to strategic implications to marketing to social use followed in its wake.  This is one of Jack Brooks’ unsung but tremendously powerful legacies.

Carl Cargill
Principal Scientist

 

Who’s Making the Rules About the Internet?

Governance – who makes the policies and rules (but NOT the technology) on how the Internet runs – is one of the “invisible infrastructure” activities that just happen and keeps the Internet from failing. With the explosive growth of the Web and its importance to the world economy (coupled with the fact that the Internet is global and doesn’t recognize national borders), the last decade has seen governments and policy makers start to look more closely at who actually makes the rules that run the Internet and wonder if perhaps there isn’t a better way. Things like taxation, censorship, privacy, intellectual property, libel, economic stability, and financial dealings are all aspects of Internet governance the world is coming to recognize. And governments are loathe to grant U.S. based Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) (such as ICANN and ISOC and IETF[1]) the right to make the fundamental rules that impact these sovereign rights.

Part of the reason for this is the importance of the Internet to the world’s economic well-being. The global (and globalized) economy depends in large part on the instantaneous communications afforded by the Internet, which are now reaching ever-broader audiences.

However, the major impact of the Internet is on governance of nations – and not just of the individuals of the Internet. The “Arab Spring” movement showed the power of the Internet to galvanize public reaction. This can be a worrisome thing to a government trying to maintain economic or political stability. Wikileaks also illustrated the power of the Internet to disseminate governmentally unfavorable information that impacted governmental foreign policy, and the use of malware (e.g. Stuxnet) has become a tool for both industrial and military espionage and sabotage.

But in the international geopolitical arena, governance has expanded to mean more: It also means that all nations have an equal say and stake in the creation of the rules and deployment of the Internet. Note here that the term is “nations” – not individuals – because how the Internet is governed can have a tremendous impact on a nation’s ability to pursue a national growth and governance strategy.

One of the countries most concerned about this area is China. It was noted that the non-regulated nature of the Internet, and what could be viewed as favoritism to the developed countries, poses a long term and large problem for developing countries. On September 18, 2012, the Chinese government hosted an “emerging nations Internet roundtable,” where issues of Internet governance, content management, and cyber security were discussed. The governments of Russia, Brazil, India, and South Africa all participated, and together looked at Internet governance so that the needs of developing nations are taken into consideration.

Following the meeting, a statement was released that said that participating governments would continue to meet on a regular basis and that consensus has been reached on the following four major topics:

1. Internet governance must become a governmental mandate, and the impact of social networks on society (good, bad, and otherwise) is of particular concern.

2. Content filtering needs increased regulation and legislation to both protect and promote the interests of developing and emerging nations.

3. The whole area of cyber-security needs increased transnational cooperation and coordination – but this must be balanced with the economic needs of emerging states.

4. Emerging and developing nations offer the greatest opportunity for Internet growth, and these nations must take responsibility for managing this growth.

This conference clearly delimits the debate between those who seek an unfettered (open and based in information technology) Internet and those who would like a more regulated (in the style of the regulated telecommunications industry) model.

The issue of who controls a tremendously powerful communications force is, of course, a matter of high interest to nearly everyone. But the essential issue is that this policy and governance issue is being fought in the standards arena – that is, who has the right and duty to make the rules about the standards that will drive the next generation of innovation in the massively connected world. Currently, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)[2], is proposing to assume an increased role in making rules for the Internet, with support from many of the G-30 nations. And ISOC, the IETF, W3C, and the IEEE are responding with the Open Stand (http://open-stand.org) initiative. Europe is moving to recognize consortia specifications – and the national standards bodies (with implicit support of their governments) are trying to slow and limit this change. And we will see this same type of standards-based activity in policy decisions on privacy, security, accessibility, and others. As the world becomes more and more highly interconnected, the need for and control of who creates and who mandates standards – their creation, implementation, testing, and IPR status – will become major issues in national and international policy. And this is the lesson that is being learned from the internet governance discussions.

(1)Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN); Internet Society (ISOC); Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

 (2) The ITU is a specialized U.N. Treaty Organization responsible for Information and Communications technology. It creates standards to regulate telecommunications.