MEF paves own SDN/NFV path with its 'Third Network' concept

The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) is making its own play in the network virtualization industry with a new network as a service (NaaS) initiative called the "Third Network," one that could potentially complement or challenge existing efforts to develop SDN and NFV by focusing on connectivity services.

Touting a vision that is set on three key attributes--"Agile, Assured, and Orchestrated Network as a Service worldwide"--the Third Network initiative is set on bridging the divide between private and virtual private networks based on Carrier Ethernet 2.0 that can take days or even months to implement and the unmanaged public Internet.  

Under the MEF's vision, agile represents delivery of new dynamic, on-demand services, while assured means delivery of performance and security assurances; orchestrated means automating service lifecycle management within and across network operator domains.

"At the time we launched CE 2.0, we said that it was a framework for the future of simpler, automated services and that day has come," said Nan Chen, president of the MEF, in an interview with FierceTelecom.

Chen added that the Third Network is about marrying the best of CE 2.0 and the Internet together.

"There are two types of the networks: the Internet has on-demand ubiquity, but no quality of service assurance or security, while CE 2.0 has service assurance and security but does not have the agility like the Internet where you can provide services on your own," Chen said. "The question we're asking ourselves is there a need for a new type of network service that combines the best of both worlds, which includes the Internet-like agility and ubiquity with service assurance?"

Initially focusing on service orchestration, the MEF's initial work includes three main concepts: defining Service Orchestration lifecycle elements; extending information models to be dynamic and protocol independent; and developing open-standards-based APIs where needed. 

MEF's Third Network concept is complementary to the SDN and NFV efforts taking place. While SDN and NFV has been gaining momentum amongst vendors and service providers, Chen said the focus of those concepts are on network infrastructure and not network connectivity services.  

"SDN is mostly concerned with network elements and infrastructure functions and controls, but not the network connectivity services that people are buying and selling," Chen said. "We're managing the end-to-end services people are buying and selling."

For an enterprise, the NaaS concept could help a service provider deliver what MEF calls dynamic business services "across multi-carrier networks, initiated by end-users, cloud applications or service providers directly."

Service providers such as CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), which has been expanding its cloud and Ethernet service portfolios, also praised the MEF's vision.

"Standardized MEF NaaS APIs will play a critical role in giving network operators the agility needed to deliver dynamic, on-demand services across multi-vendor, multi-technology networks," said James Feger, vice president, Network Strategy and Development at CenturyLink, in a release. "We envision these APIs will remove significant operational burdens and enable us to rapidly deliver new and innovative services across multi-operator networks."

For more:
- see the release

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