Operators: the IETF's Dark Gods

David W. Hankins David_Hankins at isc.org
Thu May 31 17:42:43 UTC 2007

On Wed, May 30, 2007 at 05:34:44PM -0700, Randy Bush wrote:
> about to run out of ip space.  a half-assed design was released.  the
> press stopped screaming.  victory was declared, everyone went home.

Actually, they didn't go home.  Victory, "they" think, is never having
to go home (but IETF Dallas is another story).

I'm sorry this story is a bit long, the way I tell it, but hopefully
it is entertaining (or at least easy to delete and ignore).

At my first IETF, I attended a 'Scotch BoF'.  It was singularly the
most disturbing experience I've ever had at an IETF.  Not merely
because I don't drink, nor merely because of the antics of Internet
professionals at a level of intoxication reminiscent of college

Every drink of scotch requires a toast, and every toast must be
suffixed with "...and the Universal Deployment of IPv6."  This phrase
is uttered not jovially...not with celebratory thrust one usually
attributes to, well, a toast...but rather with a low, monotonic,
metronomic chant, in a chorus.

You could hear it from outside the room, four doors down the hall.

It is very much reminiscent of the "congregation answers" lines in
church proceedings.  Upon entry, I spent a few moments looking around
for the Dark Altar these chants were directed to, as I expected to
find chicken entrails, and black candles burning low.  Perhaps a
statue of a goat, or an incense burner, something to mark the
demonic power they're hoping has the will and fortitude to see
IPv6 "universally deployed" if only their chants will appease it.

Actually I suppose you could say there was incense, but it was the
dank, hot and humid incense of far too many people crowded in a hotel
room with open flasks of single-malt.  You could smell it down the
hall, as near as the elevators.

The point is I came to a realization:  They were praying, and the
altar they were praying to is an entity absent all too often in IETF
proceedings in numbers sufficient to exert a presence...so it's
fitting that there was no icon to represent it in their church.


They're praying to the Big Operator in the Sky to deliver them to the
promised land, an IPv6 network upon which their applications will
multiply and flourish, and their products can be sold.

Truly, I was a pilgrim in an unholy land.

> and, as usual, ops and engineering get to clean up the disaster.

Except that this time, there are masses of people who now prostrate
themselves before the Dark Altar of Operators, intoning mystic
rituals of their own invention in hopes to appease you.  Like the
world's children who write to Santa Claus every year, these people
have a list of toys they would like the Internet's operators to place
in their stockings, and they're rapidly becoming more and more
prepared to "be good children" to get them.

It's progress, I think, that this places a substantially fairer
share of power in the hands of those who can do something with
it.  For, after all, Santa Claus can always choose to give coal.

But one might hope that at some point, they will give up praying
for their answers, and will seek them instead.

Obligatory operational content:  Stock up on coal.  If someone
asks if you're a God, say "Yes."

David W. Hankins	"If you don't do it right the first time,
Software Engineer		     you'll just have to do it again."
Internet Systems Consortium, Inc.		-- Jack T. Hankins
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