Q&A—AT&T's Roman Pacewicz on bringing order to SD-WAN

AT&T's Roman Pacewicz talks about the need for MEF to develop standards and certification for service providers' SD-WAN offerings. (FierceTelecom)

LOS ANGELES—The Wild West days of software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) are over, at least from MEF's perspective, after it announced its first take on standards and certification on Monday.

AT&T's Roman Pacewicz, chief product officer, who sits on MEF's board of directors, has been knee-deep in SD-WAN ever since AT&T launched its hybrid offering two years ago. The provider uses VMware's VeloCloud for SD-WAN and offers two flavors of the tech: an over-the-top version on an AT&T FlexWare device and a network-based offering that uses the FlexWare virtualized platform.

RELATED: MEF tunes up LSO Sonata in a developer release, defines SD-WAN and bows enterprise community

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MEF's Multi-Vendor SD-WAN Implementation project, which was first announced in May, is one of the real-world results of the MEF 3.0 framework that was announced at MEF17 last year.

On Monday, MEF released the industry's first SD-WAN service specification along with a developer release of its LSO Sonata APIs. During the press conference, MEF executives said the forum was on track to ratify and release the MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Attributes and Service Definition Standard in the first quarter of next year.

MEF plans to introduce a pilot version of the certification for MEF 3.0 SD-WAN services in the first half of next year. Its standards and certification efforts are targeted toward service provider implementations of SD-WAN, so the ecosystem doesn't include vendors such as Aryaka and Cato Networks.

During this Q&A, which was edited for length and clarity, Pacewicz spoke about the benefits of standardizing and certifying SD-WAN services.

FierceTelecom: Can you explain the need for MEF to standardize and certify SD-WAN services?

Roman Pacewicz: I think in general, the SD-WAN industry is fragmented, and the providers of technology that we all use to deliver SD-WAN services define the services differently. There's some confusion in the market. What is SD-WAN? It's a very broad definition.

The first thing that the standard does is it provides the common vernacular, defines from a bottom-up perspective what SD-WAN is and what functions are required. That will eliminate some confusion. Then it helps create some standards around how these services should be developed with standards-based APIs so they can be better adapted in the context of a service provider framework.

Then there's also service provider-specific capabilities that are more customer-centric that are also being standardized to allow customers to better adapt the particular SD-WAN technology to their own environment.

Certification is important to validate that this is being implemented in the way that it was intended. The value of these interfaces is that we create assured services, validate a service and the standards help ensure that that actually is what's being implemented.

FierceTelecom: From a market perspective, will all of these remove some of the confusion around what constitutes a true SD-WAN service?

Roman Pacewicz: Exactly. I think the providers of the technology don't have a consistent definition, and so that is an important aspect of it, is just defining things. What is SD-WAN? It's dynamics and inspection. It's flow based. Whatever those definitions may be, they should be consistent and agreed to by the industry.

FierceTelecom: Switching gears a bit, what do you think we'll be talking about next year at MEF19?

Roman Pacewicz: Well, I'm hoping what we will be talking about is the significant adoption of the standards that we talked about during this MEF forum. Number one, seeing significant implementations across the carriers, which would create much more efficient processes and quicker implementation times and more dynamic services that all of our customers need as they transform to their digital business models.

That, to me, would create a significant amount of value for the whole ecosystem and for our customers. I think continued progress on the definitions of some of the standards, whether it's SD-WAN and moving towards implementation on the SD-WAN standards, and moving toward more dynamic SDN controller-based implementations beyond BSS/OSS implementations. It's all about creating environments that are very flexible and dynamic and going beyond just the carrier-specific network, but across the whole ecosystem. That's really the value of all of this.