On 14/07/2017, the IETF with the publication of RFC8200 announced that the Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) had become the latest Internet Standard. Great news for IPv6, but if you’re surprised and confused by this, then you’re probably not only one!
The IPv6 specification that we’ve been studying and religiously following for more than 18 years was defined in RFC2460 along with several other RFCs [RFC 5095, RFC 5722, RFC 5871, RFC 6437, RFC 6564, RFC 6935, RFC 6946, RFC 7045, RFC 7112] . However, RFC 2460 was only ever a Draft Standard, and only now moves to being a full Internet Standard.
The IETF decided to make this change as there are various RFCs defining the IPv6 specification, and it’s good to combine these along with the Errata into a single RFC. To further understand this issue, it’s necessary to first review the IETF Standardisation process.
As per RFC 2026, all work started with an Internet Draft (I-D) which were and still are intended to be rough sketches of ideas, contributed as raw inputs to the IETF process and having a lifetime of no longer than 6 months although they may be updated several times. And I-D may also be adopted by a Working Group and further refined, progressing through a number of iterations until (and only if) consensus is reached, when the specification goes through a review phase before being published as a Request for Comment (RFC).
Again with reference to RFC 2026, specifications that were intended to become Internet Standards evolved through a set of maturity levels known as the “Standards Track”, which itself has three classifications:
Proposed Standard – This generally means a specification is stable, has resolved known design choices, is believed to be well-understood, has received significant community review, and appears to enjoy enough community interest to be considered valuable. However, further experience might result in a change or even retraction of the specification before it advances. Neither implementation nor operational experience is usually required prior to the designation of a specification as a Proposed Standard.
Draft Standard – A specification from which at least two independent and interoperable implementations from different code bases have been developed, and for which sufficient successful operational experience has been obtained, may be elevated to the “Draft Standard” level. A Draft Standard must be well-understood and known to be quite stable, both in its semantics and as a basis for developing an implementation.
Internet Standard – A specification for which significant implementation and successful operational experience has been obtained may be elevated to the Internet Standard level. An Internet Standard (or just Standard) is characterized by a high degree of technical maturity and by a generally held belief that the specified protocol or service provides significant benefit to the Internet community. A specification that reaches the status of Standard is assigned a number in the STD series while retaining its RFC number.
In 2011, RFC 6410 was published as an update to RFC 2026 that replaced the three-tier ladder with a two-tier ladder. In this update, specifications become Internet Standards through a set of two maturity levels known as “Proposed Standard” and “Internet Standard” and hence the former “Draft Standard” level was abandoned with criteria provided for reclassifying these RFCs.
Any protocol or service that is currently at the abandoned Draft Standard maturity level will retain that classification, absent explicit actions as follows:
- A Draft Standard may be reclassified as an Internet Standard provided there are no errata against the specification that would cause a new implementation to fail to interoperate with deployed ones.
- The IESG may choose to reclassify any Draft Standard document as a Proposed Standard.
As of 1 June 2017 there were 81 RFCs with “Draft Standard” under the “Standard Track” and RFC 2460 – Internet Protocol, Version 6 (IPv6) Specification was one of these
The IPv6 Maintenance (6MAN) Working Group which is responsible for the maintenance, upkeep and advancement of the IPv6 protocol specifications and addressing architecture, started working on advancing the IPv6 core specifications towards an Internet Standard at IETF 93 in July 2015. The working group identified multiple RFCs to update, including RFC 2460, and decided to revise and re-classify it by incorporating updates from other 9 RFCs and 2 Errata.
The first draft was published in August 2015 as “draft-ietf-6man-rfc2460bis” and after several further changes, the final version was submitted for review in May 2017 as “draft-ietf-6man-rfc2460bis-13“. All of the changes from RFC2460 are summarized in Appendix B [Page 36] and are ordered by the Internet Draft that initiated the change. The document has gone through extensive scrutiny in the 6MAN working group and there is broad support for this version to be published as an Internet Standard.
So really nothing changes, as RFC 8200 is a combined version of RFC 2460 along with other relevant RFCs and Errata.