Network Administration: NTCP/IP Standards and RFCs

The TCP/IP protocol standards that define how the Internet works are managed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). However, the IETF doesn’t impose standards. Instead, it simply oversees the process by which ideas are developed into agreed-upon standards.

An Internet standard is published in the Request for Comments (RFC) document. When a document is accepted for publication, it is assigned an RFC number by the IETF. The RFC is then published. After it’s published, an RFC is never changed. If a standard is enhanced, the enhancement is covered in a separate RFC.

At the time of this writing, more than 3,500 RFCs were available from the IETF website (www.ietf.org). The oldest RFC is RFC 0001, published in April, 1969. It describes how the host computers communicated with each other in the original ARPANET. The most recent RFC (as of February, 2010) is RFC 5777, a proposed standard entitled “Traffic Classification and Quality of Service (QoS) Attributes for Diameter.”

Not all RFCs represent Internet standards. The following paragraphs summarize the various types of RFC documents:

  • Internet Standards Track: This type of RFC represents an Internet standard. Standards Track RFCs have one of three maturity levels, as described in the following table. An RFC enters circulation with Proposed Standard status but may be elevated to Draft Standard status – and, ultimately, to Internet Standard status.

Maturity Levels for Internet Standards Track RFCs
Maturity Level Description
Proposed Standard Proposed standards are generally stable, have resolved known
design choices, are believed to be well understood, have received
significant community review, and appear to enjoy enough community
interest to be considered valuable.
Draft Standard Draft standards are well understood and known to be quite
stable. At least two interoperable implementations must exist,
developed independently from separate code bases. The specification
is believed to be mature and useful.
Internet Standard Internet Standards have been fully accepted by the Internet
community as highly mature and useful standards.
  • Experimental specifications: These are a result of research or development efforts. They’re not intended to be standards, but the information they contain may be of use to the Internet community.

  • Informational specifications: These simply provide general information for the Internet community.

  • Historic specifications: These RFCs have been superceded by a more recent RFC and are thus considered obsolete.

  • Best Current Practice (BCP): RFCs are documents that summarize the consensus of the Internet community’s opinion on the best way to perform an operation or procedure. BCPs are guidelines, not standards.

RFCs for Key Internet Standards
RFC Date Description
768 August 1980 User Datagram Protocol (UDP)
791 September 1981 Internet Protocol (IP)
792 September 1981 Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP)
793 September 1981 Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
826 November 1982 Ethernet Address Resolution Protocol (ARP)
950 August 1985 Internet Standard Subnetting Procedure
959 October 1985 File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
1034 November 1987 Domain Names — Concepts and Facilities (DNS)
1035 November 1987 Domain Names — Implementation and Specification
(DNS)
1939 May 1996 Post Office Protocol Version 3 (POP3)
2131 March 1997 Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
2236 November 1997 Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) (Updates RFC
1112)
2616 June 1999 Hypertext Transfer Protocol — HTTP/1.1
2821 April 2001 Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)