Root Server System Advisory Committee

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The Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) advises the ICANN Community and Board on issues pertaining to the operation, administration, security, and integrity of the Internet's Root Server System.[1] RSSAC was also tasked to review the number, location, and distribution of the root name server and its total system performance, robustness, and reliability .It was created under the Article VII Section 3 (b) of the ICANN Bylaws, which gave the ICANN Board the mandate to appoint the initial Chairman of the Committee, after which the following chairman was to be elected by the members of the committee. Jun Murai was appointed as the first chairman of the RSSAC.[2]

Responsibilities

RSSAC has the following responsibilities, per the ICANN Bylaws:

  1. Communicate on matters relating to the operation of the Root Servers and their multiple instances with the Internet technical community and the ICANN community. The RSSAC shall gather and articulate requirements to offer to those engaged in technical revision of the protocols and best common practices related to the operation of DNS servers.
  2. Communicate on matters relating to the administration of the Root Zone with those who have direct responsibility for that administration. These matters include the processes and procedures for the production of the Root Zone File.
  3. Engage in ongoing threat assessment and risk analysis of the Root Server System and recommend any necessary audit activity to assess the current status of root servers and the root zone.
  4. Respond to requests for information or opinions from the Board.
  5. Report periodically to the Board on its activities.
  6. Make policy recommendations to the ICANN community and Board.

RSSAC Policy Advice Development

The RSSAC follows six basic steps to develop the advice it provides the ICANN Board and community on the operation, administration, security, and integrity of the Internet’s Root Server System.[3]

  1. An RSSAC or RSSAC Caucus member proposes a work item, which can include requests from the ICANN Board, and then submits a statement of work for the RSSAC to consider.
  2. The RSSAC reviews the statement of work, and if it is approved, a work party of either RSSAC or RSSAC Caucus members is formed.
  3. The work party writes a draft document, which its leader circulates for review and comment among RSSAC members and then RSSAC Caucus members.
  4. The work party submits the document to the RSSAC for a vote.
  5. The RSSAC shares the document with those it might affect and submits it for Public Comment proceedings.
  6. The RSSAC publishes the approved document and tracks its effects.

Structure

Representatives

The RSSAC consists of voting representatives from each of the 12 organizations responsible for operating the 13 root name servers and alternates to each of these. It also includes non-voting liaisons from a number of functions related to services pertaining to the root zone. The RSSAC Caucus provides a pool of expertise, to which the representatives of the 13 root name servers can turn to form work parties and draft advice documents.

The current composition is available at RSSAC's official web page.

Voting Members

Root Server Operator Representative Term Expires Alternate
Verisign Brad Verd (Vice Chair) 31 December 2021 N/A
University of Southern California – Information Sciences Institute Wes Hardaker 31 December 2023 Suzanne Woolf
Cogent Paul Vixie 31 December 2023 Brad Belanger
University of Maryland – ACIGS Karl Reuss 31 December 2022 Gerry Sneeringer
NASA Ames Research Center Barbara Schleckser 31 December 2022 Tom Miglin
Internet Systems Consortium Fred Baker (Chair) 31 December 2021 Jeff Osborn
Defense Information Systems Agency Kevin Wright 31 December 2022 Ryan Stephenson
U.S. Army Research Lab Howard Kash 31 December 2022 Kenneth Renard
Netnod Lars-Johan Liman 31 December 2021 Patrik Fältström
RIPE NCC Kaveh Ranjbar 31 December 2023 Anand Buddhdev
ICANN Matt Larson 31 December 2021 Terry Manderson
WIDE Project Jun Murai 31 December 2023 Hiro Hotta

Liaisons to RSSAC

There are four liaisons to the RSSAC from other organizations within the Internet community:

Organization Liaison
IANA James Mitchell
Root Zone Maintainer (Verisign) Duane Wessels
Internet Architecture Board (IAB) Daniel Migault
SSAC Russ Mundy

Liaisons from RSSAC to Other Organizations

RSSAC appoints liaisons to other groups and organizations to coordinate or communicate matters of common interest, as required by the RSSAC Operational Procedures

Liaison To Name Affiliation
ICANN Board of Directors Kaveh Ranjbar RIPE NCC
Customer Standing Committee Lars-Johan Liman Netnod
Root Zone Evolution Review Committee Daniel Migault IAB
ICANN Nominating Committee Amir Qayyum ICANN

Other Appointments

Team/Committee RSSAC Rep
Second Security, Stability, and Resiliency Review Team (SSR2) Eric Osterweil
ICANN Fellowship Program Selection Committee Amir Qayyum
ICANN Fellowship Program Mentoring Committee Rao Naveed Bin Rais
IANA Naming Function Review Team (IFRT) Suzanne Woolf
NextGen@ICANN Selection Committee Abdulkarim Oloyede
NextGen@ICANN Mentoring Committee Dessalegn Yehuala

RSSAC Working Group

The RSSAC Working Group is composed of:

Previous Leaders

RSSAC Rep Dates
Jun Murai, Chair January 1999 - December 2014
Matt Larson, Vice Chair August 2006 - July 2013
Lars-Johan Liman, Co-Chair July 2013 - December 2015
Tripti Sinha, Co-Chair January 2015 - October 2018
Brad Verd, Co-Chair January 2016 - October 2019
Fred Baker, Co-Chair October 2018 - October 2019

RSSAC Projects

Since its inception, the committee continuously performs projects under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)[4] between ICANN, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to conduct a collaborative study to address the operational and technical requirements of the root name servers to be able to establish a more robust and secure management of the Internet DNS root server system.[5]

The RSSAC was also involved in the Y2K Project between 1999 to 2000. Its objective was to make sure that the operations of the root nameserver system are in compliance with the Y2K protocol by conducting administrative services and testing.[6]

The committee is also conducting new technical developments on IPv6, DNSSEC, IDN, and their effects to the root nameserver system.

2008-9 Independent Review of RSSAC by Westlake Consulting Limited

Article IV, Section 4, Paragraph 1 of the ICANN Bylaws stipulated that a review on the performance and operations of the RSSAC by an independent organization is required to determine if the committee is still serving its purpose in the ICANN structure and if certain changes in the structure or operations are necessary to improve its functions.[7] To be able to comply with the Bylaws, the ICANN Board issued a Request For Proposal and Terms of Reference to conduct an independent review on the RSSAC in July 2008.[8] ICANN selected Westlake Consulting Limited, and in November of 2008, the company started performing face to face interviews with some individuals during the ICANN Meeting in Cairo and during the IETF meeting in Minnesota regarding RSSAC. WCL also conducted telephone interviews and accessed all available written-records regarding the committee. [9]

Findings

By April of 2009, WCL published its final report on the Independent Review on RSSAC with the following findings:[10]

  • RSSAC only provides reactions to issues instead of regularly giving updates to the ICANN Board regarding the activities and functions of the committee.
  • Communication and agreement about the expectations of the Board towards the committee is insufficient.
  • RSSAC provides minimal strategic advice to the ICANN Board because the committee is dominated by independent root server operators that are focused on operations.
  • The records of the RSSAC meetings are poor and incomplete.
  • The election process of the members of the committee and its chairman is not clear.
  • The Root Server Operators believed that some of the functions of RSSAC identified in the Bylaws of ICANN are their responsibility, and because of that, the committee reported little of its responsibilities.
  • Interaction between RSSAC and the different organizations within ICANN is limited because most of the committee's members do not or seldom participate in ICANN Meetings. RSSAC committee members frequently attend or conduct their meetings in conjunction with the meetings of the IETF.

Recommendations

Based on its final report, WCL recommended the following to improve the operational functions of RSSAC:[11]

  • Re-establish RSSAC as a strategy group which will be jointly supervised by ICANN and Root Server Operators.
  • Amend the Terms of Reference of the ICANN Bylaws and set out a new role for RSSAC to "provide a source of unbiased strategic advice to ICANN, the Root Server Operators, and the Internet community about the best way ahead for the Root Server System."
  • Reconstitute RSSAC's membership with 9 initial members who have strong technical backgrounds. The committee should be composed of 4 Root Server Operators, 1 appointed by IANA; and 4 appointed by the ICANN Board/Nominating Committee.
  • The Chairman of the committee shall be appointed by its members with a two-year term, with a limited three consecutive 2-years terms.
  • Appoint non-voting liaison members, which include an Outward liaison from the RSSAC to the ICANN Board and the SSAC and an Inward liaison to the RSSAC from IETF/IAB.
  • RSSAC should meet in conjunction with ICANN meetings and may be able to hold additional meetings as necessary; meetings shall be open for public participation and hold a closed meeting if necessary; Root Server Operators and members of the ICANN Board should be invited to the meeting even during closed sessions and shall be given the right to speak under the RSSAC Chairman's discretion.

RSSAC Working Group Review on WCL Report

In June 2010, the RSSAC Working Group submitted its final report regarding the findings of WCL's independent review. The Working Group acknowledged that the committee was not able to fully serve its purpose in the ICANN structure because of lack of regular communication between ICANN and RSSAC, the committee has insufficient knowledge about ICANN and vice versa, the role and responsibilities of RSSAC as stipulated in the ICANN Bylaws need amendment and the shared understanding between the RSSAC role, Root Server Operators responsibilities and the ICANN mission is not clear. The Working Group recommended that the full cooperation of the Root Server Operators is necessary to implement structural and operational changes to improve the operations of RSSAC.[12]

Advisories

At its regular meeting in November 2014, the RSSAC formally approved RSSAC001 and RSSAC002, the first two formal advisories produced under its reorganized structure. RSSAC001 defines the best practice service to be provided by root servers and defines the operational expectations that users might reasonably anticipate of both that service and the root server operators. This document highlights that a diversity of approaches is desirable in the root server system.[13]

RSSAC002 "identifies and recommends an initial set of parameters that would be useful to monitor for establishing a baseline and trends for the root server system. The implementation of these measurements (and future refinements to them) by root server operators will form an early warning system that will assist in detecting and mitigating any effects (or the absence of such effects) associated with the growing size of the root zone."[14]

2017-19 Independent Review of RSSAC by Interisle Consulting Group, LLC

Pursuant to Article 4, Section 4.4 of the ICANN Bylaws, ICANN initiated a second RSSAC independent review process on April 19, 2017.[15] ICANN drafted and distributed a Request for Proposals for this review.[16]

Scope of Review

In both the announcement and the RFP, ICANN presented a broad scope of subjects for review. For example, the announcement stated that the goal was a "comprehensive assessment" of the RSSAC, "includ[ing], but [...] not limited to:

  • The continued purpose of RSSAC within the ICANN structure;
  • How effectively RSSAC fulfills its purpose;
  • Whether any change in structure or operations is needed; and
  • The extent to which RSSAC as a whole is accountable to the wider ICANN community."[17]

The RFP echoed the need to investigate those issues, and also provided a "non-comprehensive" list of proposed questions to be addressed regarding the RSSAC's composition, mission, procedures, transparency, and communication.[18] On April 18, 2017, on behalf of RSSAC, Carlos Reyes submitted comments to ICANN requesting more specificity in some of the proposed questions.[19] In correspondence back to the RSSAC, ICANN submitted a draft "Self Assessment" tool for the committee utilizing the RFP's proposed questions as part of the assessment template, with changes to some questions that appear to align with the RSSAC requests for clarity.[20]

Selection of Independent Examiner

After accepting and reviewing proposals through the RFP process, ICANN contracted with Interisle Consulting Group, LLC to conduct the second independent review of RSSAC.[21] Interisle assembled a team of three consultants for the review, Lyman Chapin, Jim Reid, and Colin Strutt[22]

Assessment Report & Findings

Interisle's review included attendance at RSSAC meetings, ICANN Meeting sessions, and conference calls during the autumn of 2017 and winter of 2018.[23] In addition, they conducted 48 interviews with individuals connected to or working within the RSSAC.[23] At the end of 2017, Interisle conducted an online survey "to collect input from those who have interacted with RSSAC and/or have ideas for ways to improve it."[24] In addition to publishing notice of the survey, ICANN specifically solicited responses from the RSSAC Caucus.[23] The survey, which did not require participants to identify themselves, garnered 74 visits and 39 responses.[23]

Other data utilized by Interisle came from:

  • RSSAC's Self-Assessment, completed in September 2017;[25][26]
  • publicly available documents from a wide variety of sources that discuss the RSSAC and related activities; and
  • Interisle's "own extensive knowledge of ICANN, the RSSAC, and the DNS root server system."[23]

Interisle subjected this data to a structured qualitative analysis[27] and presented its findings in an Initial Assessment Report to ICANN.[28] The draft assessment report was the topic of meetings between members of RSSAC's Review Work Party and Interisle's consultants.[29][30]

The Assessment Report listed a total of forty-two findings in response to the issues and questions posed by ICANN.[31] Of these, Interisle identified eight principal findings, which they highlighted in the report and its executive summary[32] of the assessment:

  1. The ongoing RSSAC reformation that began in 2013—revised RSSAC charter, new operating procedures, and creation of the RSSAC Caucus—has substantially improved the structure and operation of the RSSAC.
  2. The RSSAC has become more open, transparent, and accessible since the last review, but this has not been widely recognized by outside observers.
  3. As the only visible interface between ICANN and the RSOs, the RSSAC is expected to deal with every root service issue that arises within ICANN, whether or not the issue is properly within its scope.
  4. The RSSAC’s ability to serve as a shared space for RSO–ICANN communication and cooperation is complicated by a persistent legacy of distrust of ICANN by some of its members.
  5. The current RSSAC membership model excludes non-RSO participants and their different skills and perspectives.
  6. The RSSAC’s continuing purpose in the ICANN structure may include serving as the focal point for issues of mutual concern to ICANN and the RSOs, such as future operational and funding scenarios for serving the root.
  7. Because RSSAC members do not agree on who its stakeholders should be, it is not clear for what and to whom it should be accountable.
  8. The relative roles and responsibilities of the RSSAC, the RSSAC Caucus, the RZERC, and the SSAC are unclear to both outsiders and insiders.[31]

Response to Assessment Report

The Assessment Report was submitted for public comment and response prior to the development of recommendations. At an open meeting on March 14, 2018 at ICANN 61,[33] Lyman Chapin explained:

And this reflects a process that MSSI has fairly recently adopted for doing organizational reviews, which is to divide them into two distinct phases. The first phase is an assessment phase in which the idea is not to anticipate what recommendations might be made but simply to report on what the independent examiner found after conducting interviews, and surveys, and document reviews, and so forth.[34]
Chapin presented the principal findings at the ICAAN 61 meeting, and received no questions from the attendees.[34]

On March 28, 2018, RSSAC issued RSSAC032: Feedback on the Independent Review of the Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) Assessment Report for Public Consultation.[35] RSSAC032 begins with a discussion of the ICANN Bylaws and the committee's expectation of the focus of the review:

RSSAC’s interpretation of the stated assessment report’s purpose is that an organizational review would look at the organization – its chairs, its procedures, its guiding documents including charter and bylaws, its meetings, and the publications it has produced.[35]

This interpretation substantially diminished the scope of ICANN's announcement of the review, and the parameters defined in the RFP. Based on that narrow definition of scope, the committee found "three...surprising categories of findings" that they viewed as outside the purpose of the review:

However, we found that the initial assessment report included three additional surprising categories of findings.

i. Out of Scope Findings: Findings related to items that RSSAC could never include within its charter, such as items related to the technical day-to-day operation of the Root Server System (RSS) or the confusion surrounding a contributor’s lack of understanding of multiple ICANN bodies such as SSAC. ii. Factually Incorrect Findings: Findings that are factually incorrect about RSSAC and/or the RSS.

iii. Tone: Findings and tone related to public opinion and sensational anonymous quotes about RSSAC or its purpose, but not providing any other insight.[35]

The committee argued that it is only empowered to do that which is within its charter, and that any findings or recommendations should specifically address the tenets of that charter, the ICANN Bylaws, and RSSAC's "structure and procedures, [...] in line with relevant process documents and bylaws."

Final Report & Recommendations

Interisle received and incorporated feedback from the Assessment Report, and presented draft recommendations to the Review Work Party on April 3, 2018.[36][37] The draft recommendations were the subject of a teleconference meeting between Interisle, MMSI, and the RWP on April 12, 2018.[38][39]

On April 20, RSSAC issued its feedback on the draft recommendations to Interisle.[40][41] Interisle responded on April 25 with comments appended to the RWP's feedback document.[42][43]

On May 1, 2018, Interisle released its Draft Final Report for public comment.[44] The final report listed six principal recommendations; there was no change from the draft to the final report.

  1. Modify the RSSAC membership criteria to allow the RSSAC to recruit a variety of skills, perspectives, and interests that include but are not limited to those available from the root server operator organizations.
  2. Resolve the apparent mismatch between the charter and operational procedures of the RSSAC and the requirements and expectations of the ICANN Board and Community for interaction with the root server system.
  3. Formalize the responsibilities of the RSSAC to the ICANN Board and Community in a work plan that is periodically reviewed and published, and hold the RSSAC accountable for work plan deliverables.
  4. Develop and implement a leadership training and succession plan.
  5. Engage more actively with the rest of ICANN and its Community.
  6. Clarify the role and responsibility of the RSSAC with respect to other groups with adjacent or overlapping remits, including the SSAC, the RZERC, and the RSSAC Caucus.[45]

The Draft Final Report received public comments from a variety of sources. On June 8, 2018, RSSAC published RSSAC036: RSSAC Statement on the Draft Final Report of the Second Organizational Review of the RSSAC.[46] The RSSAC repeated its objections to the scope and focus of the review in its statement. ALAC published a response that commented on three of the proposed recommendations.[47] Notably, its response to Recommendation 2 strongly favored action to ensure that ICANN had a sufficiently robust relationship with RSOs:

Although there is no clear way to address the issue, since ICANN has a part to play in ensuring that the DNS is a trusted and reliable resource, then it must have the ability to interact with all players who have a role in carrying that out and that must include the Root Server Operators. Simply lowering expectations does not address the issue. Whether this is done by widening the scope of the RSSAC or through some other mechanism is less important than noting that the current chasm must be bridged.[48]

The Business Constituency agreed: "The BC requests that this recommendation be prioritized, noting it is 'highly concerned...that RSSAC does not consider itself accountable to ICANN Board and Community.[49]'"

RSSAC, for its part, "conclude[d] that neither the ICANN Board nor the ICANN community harbor the mismatch raised in the draft final report."[50]

After the public comment period closed, the draft final report was a topic of an open session at ICANN 62.[51] Interisle released its final report on July 2, 2018.[52]

Implementation Plan Phase

The ICANN Board instructed RSSAC to develop a Feasibility Assessment & Initial Implementation Plan in the wake of the publication of the Final Report.[51] The RWP released its plan on October 2, 2018.[53]

References

  1. Root Server System Advisory Committee
  2. www.icann.org
  3. RSSAC Procedures
  4. CRADA
  5. www.icann.org
  6. RSSAC Statement on Root Nameserver Year 2000 Status
  7. ICANN Bylaws 2002
  8. Request For Proposals
  9. RSSAC Review
  10. WCL Final Report
  11. Final Report Independent Review on RSSAC
  12. RSSAC Working Group Final Report
  13. ICANN RSSAC approves advisories on service expectations Domainpulse, Retrieved 17th December 2014.
  14. ICANN RSSAC approves advisories on service expectations Domainpulse, Retrieved 17th December 2014.
  15. Approved Board Resolutions - ICANN Special Board Meeting, April 19, 2017
  16. Request for Proposal for the RSSAC Organizational Review
  17. Request for Proposal for the RSSAC Organizational Review
  18. [https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/rfp-rssac-review-05jun17-en.pdf Project Overview to the Request for Proposal For REVIEW OF THE ICANN Root Server System Advisory Committee - June 5, 2017 (PDF)]
  19. Email: Carlos Reyes to Lars Hoffman, April 18 2017
  20. Email: Angie Graves to RSSAC-Review2 listserv, May 4, 2017
  21. ICANN Announcement of Selection of Independent Examiner, Interisle - September 28, 2017
  22. ICANN's RSAAC2 Dashboard - Independent Examiner
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 Independent Review of the ICANN Root Server System Advisory Committee: Final Report; July 2, 2018 (PDF)
  24. ICANN Announcement of RSSAC Survey - November 27, 2017
  25. Email: Carlos Reyes to MSSI staff, September 8, 2017
  26. RSSAC Organizational Review 2: Self-Assessment (PDF)
  27. For a primer on structured qualitative analysis, see Herz, Peters, & Truschkat: "How to Do Qualitative Structural Analysis: The Qualitative Interpretation of Network Maps and Narrative Interviews;" Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 16 No. 1, January 2015
  28. RSSAC2 Review: Assessment Report Published - ICANN announcement, February 27, 2018
  29. Recording of RSSAC Review2 Work Party, February 15, 2018
  30. The RSSAC Work Party Meetings Archive lists a meeting on February 20, intended to cover feedback provided by the RWP. However, a recording is presently not available.
  31. 31.0 31.1 RSSAC Review - Assessment Report for Public Consultation
  32. [1]
  33. ICANN 61 Meeting Archive
  34. 34.0 34.1 Transcript of RSSAC Organizational Review Session at ICANN 61
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 RSSAC032
  36. Email from April Graves to RSSAC Review2 listserv
  37. RSSAC Review Draft Recommendations (PDF)
  38. Archive audio, Meeting #10, April 12, 2018 (M4A)
  39. Independent Examiner Slide Presentation - Draft Recommendations (PDF)
  40. Email from Carlos Reyes to RSSAC Review2 listserv
  41. RSSAC RWP Feedback on Draft Recommendations (PDF)
  42. Email from Angie Graves to the RSSAC Review2 listserv, April 25, 2020
  43. Independent Examiner's Response (DOCX)
  44. Draft Final Report for Public Comment
  45. RSSAC Organizational Review Final Report (PDF)
  46. RSSAC Statement on the Draft Final Report of the Second Organizational Review of the RSSAC (PDF)
  47. ALAC Statement Regarding RSSAC Organizational Review
  48. Draft Statement of ALAC - ratified without change (PDF)
  49. Summary Report of Public Comment Proceeding, p.4 (PDF)
  50. RSSAC Statement on the Draft Final Report of the Second Organizational Review of the RSSAC, p. 4 (PDF)
  51. 51.0 51.1 Adobe Connect Archive - ICANN 62
  52. RSSAC Organizational Review Final Report (PDF)
  53. RSSAC2 Review - Feasibility Assessment & Initial Implementation Plan