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Inter-Carrier APIs Get Major Push

Carol Wilson
2/28/2017
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In a major industry collaboration effort, MEF and TM Forum are combining forces with ten major service providers from around the globe to define the application programming interfaces that will enable Carrier Ethernet services to be orchestrated across multiple carrier networks, ultimately in an automated fashion that will drive business service revenue. (See MEF, TM Forum, Carriers Collaborate on APIs.)

The APIs will be incorporated into MEF's Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) framework, and draw on the Open API framework of the TM Forum, but also are built on pioneering work done by AT&T, Colt and Orange to accelerate adoption of software-defined networking by creating inter-carrier APIs. And while initially applied to Carrier Ethernet services, they are expected to be applied to general connectivity services, including fiber, as well. (See AT&T, Colt Claim Major SDN Advance, AT&T, Orange Unite to Press for SDN, NFV Standards and AT&T: MEF Could Catalyze Key Specs.)

While most efforts to create open APIs are focused on intra-carrier operations -- allowing network operators to add new technology and best-of-breed vendor solutions to their existing networks -- this initiative is focused on inter-carrier connections, defining how services can be ordered, quoted, billed, delivered and assured across multiple carrier networks. This creation of "east-west" interfaces -- versus north-south within a single operator network -- is critical to enabling global business services, since no operator has physical facilities everywhere their customers need to communicate.

Initially, AT&T, Colt and Orange worked with MEF and TM Forum to "incubate" efforts to develop eight critical APIs that would become part of the LSO, and that work has now been joined by Comcast, Level 3 Communications, PCCW Global, Sparkle, Verizon, CableLabs and Kyrio . (See AT&T, Colt, Orange Team with SDOs on Global API Standards.)


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MEF COO Kevin Vachon says this work is an extension of what MEF did in defining Ethernet interconnectivity to this point. "With the support of all these Tier 1s here saying these are the APIs we are going to us with our partners, we are now able to provide a road map that gets the industry on a trajectory toward end-to-end automation via LSO," he comments in an interview with Light Reading.

Specifically, the group is now working on defining the first three of eight APIs for LSO Sonata Release One, expected in six months, and those are address validation, service availability and ordering. The next five -- quoting, billing, assurance, testing and change management -- will be worked on in sequence, as part of an "agile" software development process.

Multi-carrier effort
AT&T had been working with Orange Business Services on defining APIs for SDN deployment across carriers, and had done an interoperability demo with Colt to prove multiple carrier SDN architectures could be interconnected. That work is being fed into this effort, which is intended to eliminate the need for bilateral connections between network operators, a process that is timely, expensive and ultimately slows the deployment of new services, notes MEF's Daniel Bar-Lev, director, Office of the CTO.

TM Forum is contributing its Open API framework, which developed generic open APIs for functions such as ordering and billing, he adds.

"What we are doing is creating specific use cases, for multi-telecom networks and Carrier Ethernet," Bar-Lev comments. "There is the generic aspect but also a more specific aspect, that is why we need to collaborate."

Network operators can then reprogram their interfaces once, to the open APIs, rather than doing it multiple times for bilateral agreements with individual carriers.

The APIs alone won’t enable end-to-end service orchestration, that will also require OSS/BSS transformation, Vachon notes, but that can be done using this common API framework.

What LSO will do is create a layer of abstraction between the legacy OSS/BSS and the underlying networks, including newer SDNs, virtualized functions and legacy functions, Bar-Lev says. The junction point for LSO is its Presto reference point and operators who are "LSO Presto-enabled" are able to use the lifecycle automation features of LSO effectively, he adds.

The operators involved in this effort are now very much committed to making this happen, Vachon claims, and that is certainly true at Verizon, as Shawn Hakl told Light Reading a week ago. (See Verizon Using Ericsson Platform to Orchestrate Virtual Services.)

There are also close ties between this LSO Sonata project and open source MANO efforts such as the newly reconfigured Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) which combined the OPEN-O project and the open sourced ECOMP effort that originated at AT&T.

"We have been collaborating with OPEN-O and OSM and ECOMP," Bar-Lev says. "Now that ONAP is coming to the Linux Foundation, that is something very important for us. ONAP will sit above what we called LSO Presto. For us ONAP is a major component of that whole service orchestration. For us, it is not just about the MANO -- that is an important part but relative to the whole service orchestration piece, it is minor. We are looking to service orchestration and what ONAP can bring -- making sure it is aligned with what we are doing."

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


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