MEF Goes Global With Its Latest Specs Effort

Carol Wilson

ORLANDO -- MEF 2017 -- In an effort to meet the expanding needs of its communications network industry members, industry body MEF has broadened the scope of its latest specification/certification program, MEF 3.0, to embrace a broader set of services well beyond Carrier Ethernet.

And as the industry association's leadership was keen to stress here late Monday afternoon, this is not Carrier Ethernet 3.0, it is MEF 3.0, which the group is touting as a "Transformational Global Services Framework."

The bottom line, according to a line-up of senior MEF executives, is a focus on getting new services to market faster in a way that allows network operators to seamlessly interconnect on an end-to-end, global basis, so that automated provisioning, driven by users themselves, is possible. (See MEF 3.0 Goes Agile, Incremental.)

MEF Brains Trust
MEF Panel 3.0 (from left): COO Kevin Vachon; CTO Pascal Menezes; President Nan Chen; Senior Vice President Dan Pitt; and Chairman Michael Strople.
MEF Panel 3.0 (from left): COO Kevin Vachon; CTO Pascal Menezes; President Nan Chen; Senior Vice President Dan Pitt; and Chairman Michael Strople.

MEF President Nan Chen didn't deny the ambitious nature of the new effort and the fact it goes well beyond the group's previous scope. MEF 3.0 can deliver "unprecedented user-driven and application-driven control over network resources," he claimed. "We believe we have the track record to do this. [MEF] spearheaded the effort to create an $80 billion market with 5,500 certified professionals. We've done it before and we can do it again."

The MEF's certification process, run as ever by long-time partner Iometrix Inc. , is also changing, underpinned by new algorithms that can deliver certification testing for vendor gear and operator services on an almost on-demand basis, according to Iometrix president and founder Bob Mandeville. MEF certification will shift to a cloud-based subscription model that allows members to choose the capacity of testing they require -- with some direction from Iometrix -- and then do all the testing they want or need as part of the subscription. That is a very different approach from the weeks required in previous certification efforts.

There are four key components to MEF 3.0, starting with standardized orchestrated services -- as defined by MEF -- from Layer 1 optical offerings up through layer 3 IP services, including SD-WAN and security-as-a-service. The critical application programming interfaces defined within MEF's Lifecyle Service Orchestration (LSO) framework are also part of this effort, as are the service and technology certifications by Iometrix. Finally, there is increased community collaboration that will engage other standards development organizations (SDOs) and open source groups, as well as a new Enterprise Advisory Council, the developer community and MEFnet projects and proofs of concept.

The enterprise group will comprise large corporations that use carrier services. "This has been missing," said Pascal Menezes, MEF CTO. "We will launch big and have a large pipeline so stay tuned."

Process change
One of the real drivers for change was the shift by network operators to on-demand services, a move designed to meet the changing demands of enterprise customers that are increasingly becoming used to ordering cloud services on demand, noted Kevin Vachon, MEF COO. The ability to deliver on-demand services is hampered for all if network operators can't automate the process of interconnecting their networks, since no one operator has access network connections everywhere.

Service providers "have connections in place with those partners -- they want those partners to move up and have API capability for automation," Vachon said. "So from an access point of view, it will move from defining services that providers can implement to enabling the providers to implement orchestrated services, which are a bundling of service functions with certain types of APIs -- that is real power of this whole thing."

In a series of proofs of concept, the LSO APIs are delivering the ability for this level of automation, Menezes said, offering network operators a model for automating, orchestrating and even communicating subscriber intent. Sonata and Interlude, the two primary east-west APIs -- for inter-carrier connectivity -- were delivered within a nine months timeline, as promised, he noted.

There will be a major education process required, the MEF execs agreed, particularly with smaller network operators. The larger ones are pushing this whole process forward, as was obvious in show floor demos. But there will be those for whom the dramatic changes, including the new certification process, will be less clear.

"The biggest obstacle is for all of us to take on a different mind-set and move from static thinking and 'waterfall' thinking to DevOps," said Dan Pitt, MEF executive vice president. "We have done it, we have felt pain and tension, and we have succeeded."

As Menezes pointed out, he was the one who stood on stage at last year's MEF event and promised to make this traditional SDO into a scrappy and agile group: He now says the MEF 3.0 effort delivers on that promise. The key now is execution, and he promises MEF has brought on board the project management talent to make that happen.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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