SDN architectures

Exclusive: MEF to Rival ONF, OpenDaylight With SDN Strategy

The Metro Ethernet Forum is to challenge the emerging dominance of SDN specifications such as OpenFlow and the open source code coming from the OpenDaylight project with its own APIs for physical and virtual network connectivity and service orchestration.

The MEF is calling this network-as-a-service (NaaS) play "The Third Network," and is set to announce the details this week, Light Reading has learned. (See Defining SDN & NFV.)

The MEF is currently best known for its Carrier Ethernet specifications. The Third Network strategy represents a new, but perhaps not unexpected, direction for the organization, which has been a significant industry player during the past 15 or so years as Ethernet became widely adopted in wide area networks, but which has been left behind by the network virtualization trend. (See Is 2014 the Year of Carrier Ethernet 2.0?)

Now the organization is looking for a piece of the SDN specifications action.

"The goal of the MEF's NaaS vision is to enable agile and assured networks and connectivity services orchestrated across internal and external network domains between physical or virtual service endpoints," the organization states in a strategy document shared with Light Reading by an industry source.

To that end, the MEF is focusing on:

  • Defining NaaS information models providing service, resource and technology abstraction.

  • Standardized NaaS definitions allowing for service differentiation.

  • NaaS orchestration requirements and functions.

  • NaaS APIs for applications such as self-service customer portals and OSSs to dynamically order, create, modify, suspend, or delete a service.

  • NaaS APIs to abstractly control network resources and functions within an operator's network such as Universal Network Interface (UNI) or External Network-to-Network Interface (ENNI) service endpoints and the virtual connectivity between them.

  • The MEF aims to define its NaaS APIs such that they can function using a variety of networking technologies and architectures.

The Third Network strategy from the MEF aims to rival the SDN specification efforts of multiple other organizations and groups, most particularly the Open Networking Foundation , which has achieved significant industry support and adoption for its OpenFlow protocol, and OpenDaylight, the open source group that has also attracted significant support. (See Brocade Debuts OpenDaylight SDN Controller, OIF, ONF List Vendors in Transport SDN Demo, Putting Your SDN Knowledge to the Test, HP Doubles Down on OpenDaylight, A New Ethernet Contender, Why OpenFlow Isn't Like Active Networking and OpenFlow Comes to Bat.)

Want to know more about SDN? Check out our dedicated SDN content channel here on Light Reading.

The MEF is hoping to exploit its relationships with carriers to give its NaaS plans an advantage over other vendor-driven efforts, Light Reading understands.

This represents something of a new direction for the MEF, whose carrier and vendor members are very largely orientated towards the definition and promotion of Carrier Ethernet standards. But times have changed, and with SDN and NFV now the hottest acronyms in town, the focus of the IP and Ethernet community now is how to adapt to the arrival of network virtualization in data centers and service provider networks as cloud services become the norm. In order to align "with an on demand, cloud-centric world ... network connectivity services must evolve," the MEF notes in its strategy paper.

While the MEF is just unveiling its SDN strategy, its members have long been embroiled in the shift towards programmable networks and virtualized functions. Indeed, the organization has two members that are currently focused on orchestration efforts -- Amartus and CENX Inc.

CENX, which boasts MEF President Nan Chen as its co-founder and executive vice-chairman, has just unveiled its service orchestration strategy in advance of the MEF's Third Network announcement. (See CENX Reinvents Itself as Service Orchestrator.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

Atlantis-dude 9/24/2014 | 3:30:14 PM
Re: What took so long? seems like they r moving from EaaS to ENaaS .. the first question is whether large CE nets are being built.
R Clark 9/23/2014 | 10:24:23 PM
Re: What took so long? Good story, Dan. Plus you're surely right about the reasoning behind it. MEF is so late to the party that fear/dissatisfaction over vendors is the the only explanation that makes sense (though not completely ruling out relevance deprivation syndrome).

At an MEF briefing in HK last week Chen said the two biggest obstacles to the 3rd network were the lack of standards between carriers and the lack of layered abstraction within carriers - the kinds of problems where legacy-prone vendors would get in the way.

DanJones 9/23/2014 | 3:45:11 PM
Re: What took so long? Not limited to ONF or ODF for sure, there are other groups and forums out.


As it was put to me, there is a window of opportunity seen because some in the vendor community (*cough* Cisco *cough*) say they support SDN/NFV specs and standards but are actually nervous and slow-pedaling on this seachange because it will affect their core business of selling custom hardware. I paraphrase a bit but that's the reasoning in a nutshell.

I would doubt that the MEF are going to say that exactly in their messaging on this. 

sam masud 9/23/2014 | 2:56:44 PM
Re: What took so long? Dan,

Are you sure these MEF APIs are intended to rival ONF and/or ODP's efforts--or could it be that what the MEF plans to announce is really a supplement to the efforts of the ONF/ODP? Reason I say that is MEF is all about specifying Ethernet services, regardless of whether the data plane is separate from the forwarding plane or not. Because would be kind of strange if MEF were to challenge ONF-ODP this late in the game, or relatively late in the game.
DanJones 9/23/2014 | 1:37:15 PM
Re: What took so long? Well the MEF will no doubt have more to say this week.
Mitch Wagner 9/23/2014 | 11:58:47 AM
Re: What took so long? Nice job on this scoop, Dan!

All sorts of interesting questions raised by this development: 

What advantage does this technology have over OpenFlow and ODL, which are pretty mature? How will MEF get carriers to adopt it? How will they get vendors to adopt it? The MEF may well say, well, this is better than OF/ODL because it's CARRIER BACKED not VENDOR BACKED. Nobody cares about that -- what network operators care about it results, not who's backing the technology. Also, ODL at least is open source, so there's nothing stopping carriers from adopting ODL and adapting it to their own needs.

Who gets a competitive advantage from this technology?

"The MEF is hoping to exploit its relationships with carriers to give its NaaS plans an advantage over other vendor-driven efforts.... "

You know who else has a relationship with carriers? Vendors. 

This is looking like a me-too effort. If there's information proving me wrong, I'm looking forward to seeing it. 

DanJones 9/23/2014 | 9:54:53 AM
Re: What took so long? Ray

The strategy paper has been out for a while apparently. The Third Network strategy is expected to be a hot topic at the MEF's GEN14 show in November.
EtherealMind 9/23/2014 | 9:32:19 AM
Re: What took so long? This is comedy gold. 

The MEF will be attepting to define "Ethernet as a Service" because that is the only answer to every question. 

In fact, this smells like the agenda from the clown show that is the grandiosely named "Cloud Ethernet Forum" where all questions are "what is the cheapest short term solution I can have?" and the answer is always "ethernet". 

I just love how MEF can keep the laughs coming. 

[email protected] 9/23/2014 | 9:19:29 AM
What took so long? Amazed it has taken this long for the MEF to mobilize in the SDN sphere. The arrival of SDN and NFV and its accompanying industry orgs and open source projects has shifted the focus of the carrier Ethernet's gaze elsewhere.

Can the MEF establish itself as a relevant outfit in the SDN era?

Answers on a virtual postcard please...
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