LOS ANGELES -- MEF19 -- While MEF specifications can help cut through the noise in the SD-WAN market by defining terminology and feature sets, Heavy Reading Principal Analyst Sterling Perrin asked panelists here yesterday if standards could threaten to turn SD-WAN into a commodity.
On the heels of MEF publishing SD-WAN service attribute specifications (a.k.a. MEF 70) this fall, the industry organization is now providing certifications for SD-WAN services and professional training on the technology. If the industry at large supports the standard and starts certifying SD-WAN services, how will service providers and vendors differentiate in an already crowded market? That's the question Perrin asked panelists from Verizon, Sparkle, Bell Canada, Comcast Business and PCCW Global.
Standards provide a common framework that delivers a necessary foundation to meet customer needs from their SD-WAN service, said Mehmet Toy, Ph.D, Associate Fellow, Verizon. "You can innovate further and develop additional functionality … It's great to have a common ground for all of us to use and manage."
Bob Victor, senior VP of product management at Comcast Business, delivered a food metaphor to lend support to the argument for SD-WAN standards. Just as consumers want certified milk to ensure they're receiving a safe, quality product, industry standards provide reassurance that an SD-WAN service meets a consensus of requirements.
"It's to allow the service providers to get scale. If all the SD-WAN platforms are different, it's really hard to support many of them," said Victor. To the extent we can get to them into a common framework, it reduces our costs, we become efficient and pass those [cost savings] off to enterprises to adopt it more quickly."
Having a solid foundation of standards in turn will drive adoption of SD-WAN in the telecom industry -- even among web-scalers.
"We're trying to drive adoption and the challenge is to get up the adoption curve … At some point we can convince cloud providers to jump into the ecosystem and add value there. [Standards] are really in everyone's interest," Victor added.
Standards set the bar for "what 'really good' looks like," said Jeremy Wubs, senior VP of marketing for Bell Business Markets, Bell Canada, but it's up to the industry to go above and beyond "really good" by adding features and functionality that differentiate SD-WAN services (perhaps the difference between 2% milk and chocolate milk?).
In addition to certifications for SD-WAN services and the establishment of SD-WAN standards, Daniele Mancuso, chief marketing solutions and business development officer for Sparkle, said vendor interoperability is an important goal to pursue in the future to maintain interoperability between connection points and avoid SD-WAN service disruption.
"Interoperability in multivendor characteristics becomes critical for a service like SD-WAN. You should at least be sure if you leave one vendor-based domain for another, at the interconnection points you have full interoperability and you don't lose the connection."
— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading