MEF Tackles SD-WAN Standards

The MEF is wading into the SD-WAN arena, saying it will standardize the managed services that network operators deliver, by developing open APIs, along with common terminology and components. This effort builds on MEF's Lifecycle Service Orchestration effort and is intended to enable automated operations of large-scale software-defined WAN deployments, including interoperability among vendors and service providers.

The MEF action involves many of the SD-WAN vendor players and comes as SD-WAN is gaining steam and growing in importance to network operators as service businesses want to ensure cost-effective and secure connections to cloud applications from a multitude of sites. As the number of different approaches to SD-WAN by vendors and service providers proliferates, so does the need to scale these deployments which, in turn, requires automation and a level of interoperability that early, smaller-scale deployments didn't need, says Pascal Menezes, MEF CTO. (See MEF Tackles Defining & Orchestrating SD-WAN Managed Services.)

"We feel the MEF is the right place to do this because we are driving Lifecycle Service Orchestration and we are driving the APIs involved -- the east-west, we already announced, along with other various projects," he tells Light Reading in an interview. "SD-WAN becomes another area, another service CSPs want to offer."

MEF already represents a large base of service providers and now counts among its members the leading SD-WAN vendors serving the network operators -- as opposed to enterprises. Those include VeloCloud Networks Inc. , Versa Networks , Silver Peak Systems Inc. and Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD), Menezes says.

That doesn't mean MEF is wading into the process of standardizing SD-WAN services or equipment, however -- those largely remain the purview of the vendors, which have developed their own approaches and their own intellectual property, Menezes says. What MEF wants to standardize is what happens above the SD-WAN controller level, and the way SD-WAN is tied into the network operating system, recognizing that SD-WAN traffic is likely to traverse other parts of a CSP's operation, such as the packet optical network, and ultimately move across multiple carrier networks.

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Initially SD-WAN vendors developed their own element management, network management and orchestration schemes but, to fit into large networks, they must "be able to plug into the modernized OSS system and that's the LSO," Menezes says. That means agreeing on universal ways to do things such as performance guarantees, policy definitions and applications management.

MEF has already established an OpenCS (Open Connectivity Services) SD-WAN project, led by Riverbed and VeloCloud, with contributions from a wide range of vendors and others. It is now launching an SD-WAN Market Education project, including a white paper that "captures a standard set of terminologies that are used for elements used to build an SD-WAN managed service," says its principle author, Ralph Santitoro, a MEF distinguished fellow, and head of the SDN/NFV solutions practice delivering SD-WAN managed services at Fujitsu. There will be a webinar and proof-of-concept demonstrations to come.

As part of that effort, MEF is defining the base service for SD-WAN, as well as the range of options now being layered on top, such as security and WAN optimization.

In addition, MEF has developed six SD-WAN use cases and is going to define the information that crosses those open APIs for provisioning and policy but also for telemetry that comes back up to the LSO, Menezes says. That's important because efforts to automate orchestration such as ONAP will depend on data from the network to do analytics that further enable the automation process.

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

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