MEF's long-in-the-works Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Sonata API is nearing its first full-release date.
LSO Sonata represents an intercarrier API set that purports to enable a "groundbreaking" level of automation for inventory management, pricing/quoting, ordering and customer experience. MEF has been developing it since at least 2015. It is currently slated for a full release on or before March 31—although Stan Hubbard, MEF's director of communications and research, cautions that MEF's "formal approval process with incorporation of comment could impact that date."
Carriers have been kicking the tires on Sonata for several years. FierceTelecom previously reported that Colt and Verizon planned to launch two-way, intercarrier network orchestration for services across each other's networks sometime this year.
Using a programmatic API-to-API interface between their separate SDN architectures, Colt and Verizon will use automation to provision a Carrier Ethernet service across their production networks. The LSO Sonata standardization effort is being conducted under the auspices of the MEF 3.0 Global Services Framework.
In addition to Carrier Ethernet, SD-WAN appears to be a priority application for those APIs. MEF announced at the MEF18 conference late last year that it would create a standard for SD-WAN for its service provider and vendor members. Hubbard said that the draft SD-WAN standard is progressing with another round of comments currently underway, with the expectation of moving to the final stage of membership voting by the second quarter of this year.
MEF officially introduced Sonata to the world in October in the form of an initial developer release. The TM Forum's Open APIs were used for the development of the LSO Sonata APIs for orchestrating MEF-standardized services.
"When we started this, no one else had APIs on these reference points; neither did we," said Pascal Menezes, MEF's CTO. "And TM Forum had a lot of these APIs that were very generic, but it had nothing to do with what was carrying the payload. You could use them for anything, from ordering Coke to ordering bandwidth."
In particular, among other areas, MEF has targeted using APIs like Sonata to help translate the "language" and "vocabulary" of proprietary SD-WANs. This is especially notable insofar as discussions of APIs in the SD-WAN context typically revolve around north-south traffic.
Sonata, for its part, is an east-west API operating on an overlay network of business applications between vendors and service providers. According to Claudio Scola, CenturyLink's director of product management for the EMEA region and a member of MEF, Sonata thereby allows the connectivity providers to "move forward on off-net agility" when working with their customers.
"We would be left with an SDN island if it wasn't for the progress in east-west API standards," said Scola. "We all want to be able to reduce delivery intervals for off-net access from months to minutes. We can't do that unless the APIs are standardized, and Sonata is key for that off-net access part of the service."
Still, it is early. Scola notes that LSO Interlude, a related east-west API operating at the orchestration layer, "needs work" before those goals can be realized. Meanwhile, spokespeople for Colt Technology Services say that while the LSO framework has been made "generic enough to support any kind of services," the associated APIs are not yet expressly designed for SD-WAN support. Instead, they said, the initial work was focused on Carrier Ethernet.
MEF's LSO Cantata is an API between a service provider and an enterprise. At last year's MEF18 conference in Los Angeles, MEF announced that it was forming an enterprise advisory panel to get input from large multinational enterprises, which are prime targets for LSO Cantata.
At this point, MEF's far-out plans for API development shed light on its nearer-term strategies.
"We're trying to modernize the API, eventually," said Menezes. "But really, before you can get to the APIs and modernizing them, you have to get to having the right policy framework in place, and the right modeling.
"APIs have to start thinking about more than just how you can describe your information—but also how they'll relate to each other."
To wit, as Menezes prognosticates, API evolution in this space must be driven by the need for context and subtext presented by intent-based models. While everything must eventually break down to uber-explicit commands that themselves break down to 0s and 1s, APIs moving forward must be able to take high-level abstractions and interpret every intended nuanced command from there. At this point, the evolutionary concepts begin to sound a lot like AI.
Accordingly, the state of the telecom sector—and the attendant demand for digital transformation surrounding it—appears to be building up API development for an SD-WAN destiny.
"SDN in itself is comprised of hundreds of open-source projects and standards just to address the WAN—let alone the data center, LAN, and security services," offered Scola when asked about this. "This is a long journey, but the market has growing pressures for WAN solutions that address cloud-enablement and agility right now. I like to think of SD-WAN as an industry package release that helps address the pressure."