Hans Petter Holen

RIPE Community Report 2018

Hans Petter Holen
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When I look back at 2018, I’m struck by how much activity was going in the RIPE community. In light of the upcoming 30th anniversary of RIPE (which we will celebrate in May during RIPE 78), I thought it was a good idea to provide an overview of some of the discussions and achievements that came out of the past year. If you find this report useful, I will continue to publish one at the start of each year.

RIPE Chair Activities

I was reasonably busy in 2018. In addition to chairing two RIPE Meetings and following your discussions on the mailing lists (occasionally giving a reminder or a nudge where required), I also attended the following regional and global Internet coordination meetings as part of my role as RIPE Chair:

  • Internet New Years event, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • IETF 102, Quebec, Canada
  • ICANN 63, Barcelona, Spain
  • ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018, Dubai, UAE
  • Internet Governance Forum, Paris, France

The RIPE Chair is invited as an observer to RIPE NCC Executive Board meetings and I participated in all but one of these in 2018. I also attended a RIPE NCC Roundtable Meeting for governments and regulators in Brussels.

Five years ago, I was selected by the ASO AC to serve on the ICANN NomCom and then by the ICANN Board to serve as the chair. In 2018 I attended the following meetings as ICANN Nominations Commmittee (NomCom) Associate Chair:

  • ICANN 61, San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • ICANN NomCom meeting in Washington, US
  • ICANN 62, Panama City, Panama

Update on RIPE Chair Selection Process

When Rob passed the role of RIPE Chair to me at RIPE 68, he asked me to create a process for selecting future RIPE Chairs. While I feel that I have the support of the community, it was also clearly understood that this wasn’t how succession should work next time. I had initially proposed an ambitious timeline, but when we started to think about what a future selection process would look like, it was clear that this would require more community discussion. We also saw that it would need a consensus on what the role of RIPE Chair actually involves – in addition to the selection process itself.

Discussions on these two elements have taken place intermittently since I first opened the discussion on a new mailing list in 2016. It was finally in 2018 that we made some real progress, with discussions at both RIPE 76 and RIPE 77.

In early January 2019, we reached consensus on a role description, which is now published as a RIPE Document. We will soon be sharing an updated draft selection process that incorporates your comments from RIPE 77. My aim is to reach consensus on this at RIPE 78 so we can start the selection process at the following meeting.

Important Discussions and Developments

Below are some of the more noteworthy discussions that took place in the community last year. This does not capture everything. If you want to see a more complete overview of policy developments last year, on the RIPE NCC's website you can find the proposals that were accepted/withdrawn in 2018 as well as a list of those proposals still being discussed.

There were two RIPE Meetings in 2018: one in Marseille, France and one in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Update to Policy Development Process (PDP)

The PDP has specific timeframes for the various Discussion, Review and Last Call phases. However, it has often been the case that WG Chairs have extended a Review Phase when they felt that more community input was needed.

In April 2018, the community agreed to update the PDP to document this practice. This has been published as ripe-710.

IPv6 Working Group Provides Input to ITU SG-20

In 2016, the RIPE NCC reported that ITU-T Study Group 20 was working to develop an IPv6 addressing plan for the IoT. In its response to the Study Group, the RIPE NCC argued that the ITU was not an appropriate venue for such a document to be discussed, primarily because relevant expertise and operational input was lacking from the ITU’s process.

Study Group 20 accepted an offer from the IPv6 Working Group to provide input on the draft document and, in a move that is not common for the ITU, shared its working draft with the WG. While the ITU representative couldn’t make it to the RIPE Meeting and had to deliver a remote presentation, it was nevertheless encouraging to see that so many of you took the time to review the draft and send your comments to the mailing list.

The RIPE NCC shared a collection of these comments with Study Group 20, which were taken into consideration at its next meeting in December. In its report from that meeting, the RIPE NCC noted that, based on the community’s feedback, several member states had concluded that the document was severely flawed. Unfortunately, a motion to halt this work, which had been submitted by the RIPE NCC, ARIN and the US Government, did not reach consensus at the meeting. For now, the RIPE NCC will continue its dialogue with Study Group 20 and I’m sure they will keep us updated.

Out of Region Objects

In January 2018, the RIPE Database Working Group agreed on an approach to deal with the large number of route and aut-num objects in the RIPE Routing Registry that correspond to resources in other RIR service regions. The WG instructed the RIPE NCC to remove the ability for new out-of-region objects to be created, and to give existing objects the status “RIPE-NONAUTH”, along with a few other changes (you can find a full list on the mailing list).

This change is a positive step towards addressing longstanding security concerns while improving the quality of data held in the RIPE Database. The project was implemented by the RIPE NCC in September 2018 with minimal disruption to network operators.

You can read more on this topic in a RIPE Labs article by Denis Walker, one of the co-chairs of the Database WG.


In May 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force. The RIPE NCC set a good example by taking a proactive approach to compliance and sharing several of its legal analyses on RIPE Labs.

Much of the groundwork for GDPR had already been done by the Data Protection Task Force back in 2006. The task force created practices to ensure that RIPE complied with the various data protection regimes in place at the time. This meant that the community was already broadly in compliance with GDPR.

The RIPE NCC’s legal analysis of the RIPE Database was based on input from RIPE community members. It essentially said that personal data is entered into the database for a specific purpose – to support coordination between network operators, which can be vital in the event of an outage or security incident. Alongside this, the RIPE Database Terms and Conditions state that personal data can only be entered with explicit consent and people can send a request to the RIPE NCC if they wish to have their personal information removed.

While the RIPE NCC was able to make a strong case based on the community’s input, a presentation by Denis Walker at RIPE 77 questioned whether person objects are really needed in the RIPE Database. Aside from the high number of these objects and the fact that many likely contain outdated (personal) information, he argued that adequate coordination between network operators could be achieved with the data contained in other objects.

Denis’s argument deserves further attention from the community. This is something that we will need to address in 2019, whether through the PDP or perhaps a task force that can take a wider look at the issue.

Law Enforcement Engagement via the Policy Development Process

Law enforcement has increased its engagement with the RIPE community in the last couple of years. In 2017, the first policy proposal from the law enforcement community was entered into the PDP, which aimed to enforce the existing policy around abuse contacts. When abuse contacts were first introduced, the policy made these mandatory. However, the validity of this information in the RIPE Database was never checked. The proposal generated a healthy debate and the proposal was accepted in June 2018 and the RIPE NCC is currently working on its implementation.

A second proposal from law enforcement was published ahead of RIPE 77. This aimed to have the RIPE NCC publish the legal address information of all resource holders in the RIPE Database. This proposal generated a stronger response from the community on the mailing list and at RIPE 77 and was withdrawn by the proposer in early 2019 after they decided there wasn’t enough community support to move ahead.

It’s here that I want to remind the community that tone matters. Many people have remarked on what they saw as a hostile response from community members, which was also noted by the law enforcement community and government observers. While the PDP does not grant any party special treatment, I expect that we treat all participants with tolerance and respect. I suggest that in the future we be more mindful of how we say things and make sure that our input is constructive. Whatever the outcome of any future proposals, I trust that law enforcement (or anybody else) will be able to come away feeling that their concerns have been fairly considered and their engagement with the RIPE community was worthwhile.

ASO Community Consultation

When the five RIRs work collectively, they typically do so under the banner of the Number Resource Organization (NRO). One thing to note (and a common source of confusion) is that when the NRO works within an ICANN context, it performs the role of the Address Supporting Organization (ASO).

An independent review of the ASO in 2017 found that it was one of the better-organised and more efficient parts of the ICANN ecosystem. The report produced 18 recommendations, 17 of which were accepted. The final recommendation was that the RIRs should hold public consultations with their communities to determine the future structure of the ASO, and the RIPE NCC facilitated such a consultation at RIPE 76. Generally, the view seems to be that it’s valuable for the numbers community to maintain a presence within ICANN, but as most of our work takes place outside the ICANN system, we should take care to carefully scope our engagement and not get dragged into things that don’t concern us as a community directly.

RIPE Meeting Initiatives

Part of keeping RIPE healthy as a community is having a steady stream of new people and fresh ideas coming in. This also involves encouraging newcomers to speak at the microphones and contribute to policy discussions. While I think we actually do pretty well at this, there is always room for improvement. And as we ask whether we are doing enough to attract newcomers, we should also be asking if the future RIPE community will properly reflect the diversity in our societies and the countries in our region. It is therefore good to note the initiatives that have emerged relatively recently, all of which approach this issue from a slightly different angle.

Childcare at RIPE Meetings

At RIPE 76, we offered on-site childcare for the first time, which is an initiative that came from the Diversity Task Force. The aim here is to make it easier for parents in the community to attend RIPE Meetings. This is especially valuable when both parents want to take part in the meeting. We’ve received positive feedback from those of you who have taken part so far (one participant: “the only reason I could come to the meeting was because childcare was offered”) and from what I’ve heard, we are now seen as trailblazers among other communities.

The childcare facilities at RIPE 76 looked so inviting that some meeting attendees wanted to be kids again

RIPE Meeting Mentoring

At RIPE 77, we launched the RIPE Meeting Mentoring programme, which connects experienced attendees with newcomers to make their first RIPE Meeting a valuable one. Mentors are matched with newcomers based on areas of interest/expertise. This is a great way to build new relationships across the community and keep newcomers coming back to future meetings.

RACI / RIPE Fellowship

Two initiatives that have quickly shown their success are the RIPE Academic Cooperation Initiative (RACI) and the RIPE Fellowships. Both are aimed at attracting newcomers by covering the cost of their meeting attendance (travel and accommodation), which can be a huge factor for attendees in some countries. We aim to bring ten Fellows to each RIPE Meeting, selected from across our region. And with RACI, we’re bridging the gap between the RIPE community and academia by inviting academics and researchers in the Internet industry to share their work with us. 29 RACI attendees were supported in 2018.

The RACI and RIPE Fellowship programmes bring great new energy to the meetings

Women in Tech Lunch

Another great success has been the Women in Tech Lunch, which launched at RIPE 75 and provides an opportunity to recognise the work of women in our community, share best practices and discuss ways to increase female participation. The format at RIPE 77 changed from presentations to an expert panel that discussed two topics: for/against gender quotas and how to foster male allies. The interest in this session has grown so much that we'll be moving it to one of the plenary rooms for RIPE 78.

Other Initiatives

Rob Blokzijl Award

Wilfried Woeber was the very first person to receive the Rob Blokzijl Award at RIPE 76. Wilfried was presented with the honour in recognition of “more than thirty years of contribution to the development of the Internet.”

The award was established in memory of Rob Blokzijl, the first Chair of RIPE. It was also great to have Rob’s wife Lynn at the ceremony, which took place in a beautiful venue during the RIPE Meeting dinner. There were standing ovations and the community wholeheartedly agreed with the decision of the awards committee.

The next Rob Blokzijl Award will be presented in the second half of 2019. More information on the award is available.

RIPE NCC Community Projects Fund

Over the past two years, the RIPE NCC Community Projects Fund has supported valuable initiatives across our region. 12 projects have received funding so far, which are chosen by a panel of volunteers from the RIPE community. Many of the recipients have published articles on RIPE Labs about their projects. The next call for applications for 2019 funding will be made at RIPE 78 in May.

Supporting NOGs

We have seen many local Network Operator Groups (NOGs) starting up in the past couple of years. You can take a look at the list of all (known) NOGs on RIPE Labs to see how many there are (NOG organisers should also take a look at the dedicated section for NOGs).

Often the same people who participate in their local NOGs are also active in the RIPE community. This supports healthy information exchange between the various local groups and it seems like there is plenty we can do to support and encourage this activity. In the Friday morning session at RIPE 76, some of the NOGs presented on their work and discussed some of the challenges they had encountered. Side meetings at RIPE 76 and RIPE 77 also brought together NOG organisers to see how they could help each other out. The RIPE NCC will continue its work to support NOGs in our region and help them to build links with the RIPE community and between one another.

Task Forces/BoFs

Diversity TF

For nearly 30 years, overall RIPE Meeting attendance has gone up, but the diversity of attendees has not changed as much as we might have expected. A lack of gender diversity at RIPE Meetings was first highlighted in a lightning talk at RIPE 73. At the same time, the RIPE PC was trying to figure out how it could encourage more diversity in terms of presenters at the meetings. A workshop for the PC from diversity experts in tech eventually led to the formation of the RIPE Diversity Task Force at RIPE 74.

The efforts of the task force, supported by the RIPE NCC, are helping to bring in people from underrepresented groups into the RIPE community, which covers not just gender diversity but also regional, economic, age, industry and family diversity.

Accountability Task Force

The Accountability Task Force has been looking at the various components of RIPE to see whether they provide a high level of accountability. This exercise provides a good opportunity for the RIPE community to make sure that everything is in order. The decisions we make can have a big impact on the Internet, and this naturally leads to a certain set of questions from governments and other observers who are not as familiar with bottom-up communities like ours.  

The task force published its draft ahead of RIPE 77 and gave an overview of its findings at the meeting. The draft report can be read as general housekeeping, putting some things into context, and posing a few questions to the community. The task force aims to publish its final report soon, after which I will ask the community if it wants to accept the report and have it published as a RIPE Document.

Best Current Operational Practices (BCOP)

The BCOP Task Force has been working since 2013 to document good practices in networking. The group has already produced a number of valuable RIPE Documents and I support the good work they are doing. In 2018, the task force published an implementation guide for Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS).


At RIPE 77, a “RIPE Navel Gazing BoF” brought community members together to discuss the future of RIPE. The idea for the BoF came out of the Diversity Task Force and was also inspired by the draft report from the Accountability Task Force. There were a number of good questions raised, such as “How big do we want RIPE Meetings to get?” and “How important is keeping institutional knowledge vs getting more newcomers to the meeting?”

While there were no clear outcomes from the session, the general sentiment was to make sure we are as open and welcoming as possible, while respecting the history and knowledge of the community. Change should be evolutionary – but also conscious.

In 2018 there were also BoFs that discussed RIPE accountability, the relationship between network operators and the IETF, requesting resources for governments, and a BoF that explored the possibility of creating a new Data Centre WG.


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About the author

Hans Petter Holen Based in Amsterdam, Netherland

Hans Petter Holen is the Managing Director of the RIPE NCC. Before taking on this role in May 2020, he served as the RIPE Chair from 2014 and has been part of the RIPE community for over 25 years. He also serves as the secretary of the Number Resource Organisation (NRO) Executive Council.

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