MEF plans to have its SD-WAN and LSO Sonata API standards published late in the second quarter of this year, along with a slate of other activities on tap throughout the remainder of the year.
The forum is aligning various key components this year to aid operators with orchestrating their services across software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV)-based networks.
That alignment is taking place across its MEF 3.0 framework that includes standardized services, LSO (Lifecycle Service Orchestration) APIs, services, technology and professional certification, proof of concept demonstrations and other community activities.
Two key areas of MEF's overall body of work this year are the SD-WAN and inter-carrier LSO Sonata standards. Using a programmatic API-to-API interface, the LSO Sonata APIs allow service providers to automate and provision their services between their separate software-defined networking (SDN) architectures.
With the LSO Sonata APIs, carriers can reach beyond their physical networks to offer on-demand services, such as Carrier Ethernet, to customers that are doing business outside of their own footprints. The LSO Sonata APIs enable the SDN network-to-network interfaces (NNI) engagements.
Telcos that have SDN-enabled networks in place that plan to launch Carrier Ethernet services this year using Sonata include AT&T, Orange Business Services and Colt Technology Services, all of which said at MEF18 that they would have their respective LSO Sonata implementations, mainly E-Line services, available in the first quarter of this year. AT&T declined to comment on whether it has deployed a live service using those APIs while Orange and Colt didn't reply by deadline Friday.
"We have quite a few service providers, a growing number, that are interested in the work around LSO Sonata," said MEF's Stan Hubbard, director of communications and research. "But many of the service providers have to address this first hurdle, which is updating their OSS BSS systems and automating their processes. So a lot of this transformation has to take place internally."
At the MEF18 conference in October, MEF announced that the LSO Sonata APIs were available as a developer release. MEF also announced its MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Attributes and Service Definition Standard project at the same the conference.
"The goal here with the SD-WAN s standardization is that we want to make sure that people are using the same terminology when buying and selling and assessing SD-WAN services," said Hubbard. "The key points here are that the service provides a virtual overlay network that enables application aware, policy driven and orchestrated connectivity."
"With the standard, we're getting into the various service attributes, and we have content in there related to the policies as well. So it goes through the various characteristics of the service, the components of the service and how the attributes relate to the policies."
While MEF is taking a service provider, managed services approach to SD-WAN with its standard, not all of the more than 50 SD-WAN vendors in the marketplace think there's a need for it. Amir Zmora, co-founder and CEO of SD-WAN startup flexiWAN, said in an interview with FierceTelecom earlier this month that even large enterprises might not want the full-suite of what's in the SD-WAN standard as well as being told which firewall or security vendors they should use.
"As somebody who was vice president of product for a company that implemented standards, I can't say that I'm in favor of standardizing this because I think the important thing is really to standardize the API," Zmora said. "Why should the standard dictate to them (enterprises) what to do? So in reality, everybody will do whatever they want regardless of the method."
The MEF 3.0 initiatives are focused across three primary areas: enabling service providers to transform their businesses, services, and networks; federating on a global basis; and certifying that their service offerings comply with MEF 3.0 standards
As part of its MEF 3.0 certification programs, MEF is working on new pilot MEF 3.0 SD-WAN and LSO Sonata Orchestrated Services certification programs that it plans to release later this year. Drawing on its many years of Carrier Ethernet certification, MEF expanded its professional certification program last year include SDN and NFV certification.
"So in order to be able to achieve this goal of having this entire global ecosystem interoperate with each other, we've got to move through several key steps," Hubbard said. "One of the big challenges service providers have is this skills gap with SDN/NFV professionals in particular. This is the only training and certification program in the industry that addresses the skills that are required to support this transformation with SDN and NFV."
MEF has also put all of its demonstration and implementation actives under the MEF 3.0 Proof of Concepts.
"The idea here is that the proof of concepts that were core elements at last year's MEF18 will continue to live on and mature over time," Hubbard said. "So it becomes a nice opportunity for members that are already engaged to work with other members to continue to make advances and feed that back into the standards development process. So that's one of the key things that we're doing this year."
In January, MEF came out with a security-as-a-service project, which is called MEF 3.0 SECaaS, that's focused on application protection in SD-WAN environments.
"There's a lot of focus on really addressing the security right up front when enterprises are looking to purchase services, and we want to make sure that we cover the SD-WAN angle here with the application protection," Hubbard said.
Last year MEF published its first optical transport services specification (MEF 63) for subscriber services that support Ethernet and fiber channel client protocols as well as SONET/SDH client protocols for legacy WAN services.
MEF is working toward the release of a companion optical transport services standard for operator services in the fourth quarter of this year that it says will enable simplified, faster interconnection between operators and service providers.
"So for 2019, one of the key things that we're doing is focusing on helping service providers transform across the board, including their services and their networks, but also at the business and organizational levels," Hubbard said.