What Is an SD-WAN, Anyway? Ask MEF

A British man thought he was getting a great deal on an online sale of an Xbox One, soon after it was released in 2013. But it was a rip-off -- he ended up buying the grainy photograph of the product, not the product itself.

Descriptions of products matter. Things can get confusing even when both the buyer and seller are honest. That applies to SD-WAN, where service providers and suppliers offer different services and technologies with the SD-WAN label.

To reduce confusion, MEF released the the final draft of its SD-WAN specification today, describing SD-WAN services and attributes, so that enterprises understand what they're buying and service providers and suppliers know what they need to sell. "When the subscriber buys something, they know what they're buying, and they understand the language," MEF CTO Pascal Menezes tells Light Reading. "Enterprises want to know what they're getting, and service providers want to sell more by eliminating confusion."

"Any vendor can implement however they want. We don't do the low-level stuff; we do the service behavior definition," Menezes says.

The standard, with the catchy title "SD-WAN Service Attributes and Services (MEF 70)," now moves to the final stage, membership and board approval. "MEF expects official publication in mid-July, "but we are making the final draft publicly available now because broad industry alignment on common terminology will be helpful for market growth," Menezes said in a news release.

The definition requires that SD-WANs run over-the-top over a variety of underlay networks, providing application-aware, policy-driven connectivity. Standardization will allow buyers, sellers and other parties to use the same terminology, accelerating sales, market adoption and certification, MEF says.

MEF defines the SD-WAN UNI, or User to Network Interface, as the point of demarcation between the service provider network and the enterprise network, determining where each party's functionality and responsibility ends. SD-WAN Edge defines the services available on the customer premises, which could be available through on-premises equipment or in the cloud. And the Underlying Connectivity Service, or UCS, is the underlay wide-area network, typically MPLS, LTE, cable broadband -- likely in combination -- and possibly from multiple vendors. Additionally, MEF defines the Tunnel Virtual Connection as overlay tunnels that are built over the UCS, which provide interconnects between locations.

MEF plans to launch certification for SD-WAN technology compliance this year, as well as certification for professional services.

Planning for the next Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York begins as soon as the current one ends. MEF is like that -- it's starting work on the next version of SD-WAN standardization, 70.1, covering more complex service attributes related to application business importance and prioritization, underlay network characteristics, and connectivity to public and private cloud services.

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— 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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