MEF picks up pace of multiple-vendor SD-WAN Implementation project

MEF is working to define SD-WAN as well as interoperability challenges. (Pixabay)

The Metro Ethernet Forum is building out multivendor SD-WAN use cases while also working on a common definition for the popular service.

MEF's Multi-Vendor SD-WAN Implementation project is one of the real-world results of the MEF 3.0 framework that was announced at MEF 17 in November. In a nutshell, MEF 3.0 is a transformation framework for defining, delivering and certifying agile, assured and orchestrated network services across a global ecosystem of automated networks.

RELATED: MEF unveils MEF 3.0, eyes orchestrated, automated network focus

In parallel to the SD-WAN Implementation project, MEF members are working to define an SD-WAN service specification that outlines the required components, such as application-centric quality of service and priority policy requirements.

While SD-WAN has earned buzzword status across the telecom industry, a lot of different offerings are available in the marketplace from a host of vendors. Currently, there are no clear definitions of what an SD-WAN service is.

MEF is using the same blueprint that it successfully deployed when it defined Carrier Ethernet services 10 years ago—which led to the creation of an estimated $80 billion global market for Carrier Ethernet—to create the SD-WAN service definition specification. 

"The significance of this work is that if you look at what MEF has done for the initial carrier Ethernet definition before that came out there were many, many different implantations," said Ralph Santitoro, head of SDN/NFV/SD-WAN solutions for Fujitsu. "You weren’t really sure what you were buying. The SD-WAN service market today is in exactly that same kind of state where you can go to different service providers and get an SD-WAN service but it's apples to oranges to peaches and whatever, but it's all different because there is no industry standard.

"The MEF is really the only organization in the industry that is actually putting a stake in the ground by defining what an SD-WAN service is."

MEF hopes to have the specification finished ahead of its MEF 18 conference in October. When the specification is finished, MEF said it would pave the way for MEF 3.0 work on its Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO), MEF information models, policy-driven orchestration, intent, and other major projects that could be applied to SD-WAN services. All of those SD-WAN elements would then be integrated into the MEF 3.0 ecosystem to help service providers increase their automation efforts.

MEF's Implementation Project features managed SD-WAN use cases that were driven by MEF's membership that includes service providers. Because of mergers and acquisitions, service providers are faced with an increasing number of interoperability challenges where they need to support more than one SD-WAN solution.

In this first phase of the project, Nokia's Nuage Networks, Riverbed and VMware's VeloCloud are putting their SD-WAN products on MEFnet, which is MEF's cloud-based test platform, and then interconnecting them through a gateway.

The SD-WAN services were orchestrated by a single, LSO-based service orchestrator via the LSO Presto Network Resource Provisioning API in order to span two or more SD-WAN vendor offerings, all of which bypasses the need for interoperability between SD-WAN controllers and SD-WAN edge devices from different vendors.

"In this case we actually have service providers who are posing the use cases, which are then put into an agile methodology to implement in MEFNet," said Joseph Ruffles, Riverbed's global standards architect for strategy and direction. "What we have to do is take what we learn there and propagate it into the spec work. It's all of us working together to come up with a definition of SD-WAN as a service, the attributes that are required and also describing use cases, deployment models, and bringing a lingua franca to the market.

"It could also lead up to the possibility of future certification of SD-WAN services. If somebody is offering SD-WAN as a managed service and they say that meet a certain MEF definition of it then consumers know what they are actually getting."

Using the APIs and network-to-network interfaces (NNIs), MEF's work would allow service providers to provision multiple SD-WAN services from various vendors across geographies, Ruffles said.

"The implementation project is going on right now where they are trying to do the NNIs because a big problem is making multiple vendors work together from a high level, but more importantly orchestrating from the top level LSO into any vendor's product," said MEF CTO Pascal Menezes. "There's already ongoing work with rapid prototypes to prove out the APIs, and the NNIs."

The second phase of the implementation project will include security functions to the various SD-WAN implementations in order to add security as a service to SD-WAN deployments. Future phases will include development of an intent-based LSO Presto NPR API, a virtual network function license management mechanism and real-time media-orientated LSO orchestration.

"It's a very, very important milestone of SD-WAN market, I think," said Menezes of MEF's SD-WAN work. "We're tackling SD-WAN from a managed deployment level coming from service providers and managed service providers who have to think about scale, performance objectives, and how to deliver the proper SLAs that they are on the hook for. They also have to think about multitenancy."

MEF also announced new MEF 3.0 Ethernet and IP specifications and a Layer 1 service definition specification.

As an addition to its MEF 3.0 Ethernet services, MEF has published its Managed Access E-Line Service Implementation Agreement (MEF 62), which was designed to simplify management of services that go across multiple operators' footprints.

"E-line delivers the ability to do better fault management and performance management," Menezes said.

Menezes said that access E-Line has management capabilities that allow service providers to provide a single network interface device for both buyers and sellers instead of each of them having to deploy their own.

MEF has also published a new IP specification, which is called the Subscriber Attributed Technical Service specification. MEF 61 specifies a standard set of services for describing IP VPNs and internet access services offered to end-to-end users. It will also serve as a starting point for defining attributes for operators' IP services.

Lastly, MEF is in the final phase of reviewing and approving a new specification that defines a subscriber Layer 1 service for Ethernet and fiber channel protocols, which can be used in LAN and SAN extensions as well as on SONET and SDH client protocols for legacy WAN services.