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MEF Seeks to End SD-WAN Confusion

Mitch Wagner
8/21/2019

A few days after we first moved to San Diego, we decided to order pizza. It went like this:

ME: "I'd like a pie for delivery please."
PIZZA GUY: "A pie? What?"
ME: "Yeah, a pie."
PIZZA GUY: "What?"
ME: "What?"

That was how I learned that an individual pizza is not universally known as a "pie," like it was where I grew up in New York. While I visualized the thing on the left in the photo below, the pizza guy was visualizing the thing on the right:

MEF is looking to avoid that kind of problem with SD-WAN. The organization on Wednesday announced approval of SD-WAN Service Attributes and Services, aka MEF 70, to provide a common language for enterprises buying SD-WAN services from service providers, so enterprises know what they're buying and service providers know what they should be selling. MEF 70 is an extension into SD-WAN of MEF's mission to provide standards to allow service providers to partner across networks.

"MEF has defined the language and how a subscriber would specify and measure behavior for a service provider delivering managed SD-WAN," MEF CTO Pascal Menezes tells Light Reading. "It allows everybody to implement in their own ways, but yet it all has to behave the same way, which means we can measure that and certify that."

More technically: "The SD-WAN standard describes requirements for an application-aware, over-the-top WAN connectivity service that uses policies to determine how application flows are directed over multiple underlay networks irrespective of the underlay technologies or service providers who deliver them," MEF said in a statement. (See MEF Publishes SD-WAN Standard.)

Enterprises can be assured they're buying equivalent services from multiple providers, MEF President Nan Chen tells Light Reading. For service providers, benefits include increased customer satisfaction, shorter time to sale, faster service deployment, and enabling buying equipment from multiple suppliers that interoperates and meets common standards.

MEF 70 defines service attributes for externally visible behavior of SD-WAN services as experienced by the subscriber; rules for how traffic is handled; and key technical concepts. Benefits include enabling "a wide range of ecosystem stakeholders to use the same terminology when buying, selling, assessing, deploying, and delivering SD-WAN services," making it easier to implement policies. MEF 70 includes a certification process to assure that particular operators' SD-WAN implementations meet standards; testing will begin in pilot in the fourth quarter, MEF says.


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The next step will be MEF 70.1, which will define service attributes for application flow performance and business importance, SD-WAN service topology and connectivity, application security and more.

"As a carrier, we're not just in the network business; we're also in the cloud business," Jack Pugaczewski, a distinguished architect at CenturyLink and MEF distinguished fellow, tells Light Reading. "We compete with other providers, but we also interoperate with other providers."

The customer, he adds, "wants ... that Amazon- or Netflix-like experience, where things are immediate. I want my services, my products and I want them immediately. Well, that's what this MEF 70 spec does; it is a key component. It becomes the cornerstone for us to now start developing the automation functionality in the form of APIs that will enable us to automate how a customer requests and activates an SD-WAN service that happens in seconds or minutes, not days or weeks. This will align with our cloud automation, which will then allow our partners and our customers to have a fully automated experience of tying their cloud services and their network services together. And at the same time, this enables carriers to start building vertical solutions. We're reducing our operational costs and we're creating new revenue generating opportunities."

MEF 70 will help users connect to essential applications in the cloud while controlling service levels and costs, Mehmet Toy, distinguished member of the technical staff for Verizon, tells Light Reading.

Standardization brings many benefits, but it also carries a risk of stifling innovation. MEF 70 avoids that problem, Chen says. "MEF defines the revenue generating services but it doesn't care how you deliver it," he says. "We don't put a constraint on innovation."

"Standardization provides a common ground," Toy says. "There is nothing that prevents us from offering additional capabilities for our customers."

Related posts:

— Mitch Wagner Visit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on TwitterJoin my Facebook GroupRead my blog: Things Mitch Wagner Saw Executive Editor, Light Reading

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