As reported yesterday exclusively in Light Reading, the Metro Ethernet Forum today announced its plans to develop service orchestration, APIs and service model definitions that will enable new dynamic services to be provisioned across multiple networks in the era of virtualized network infrastructure. (See Exclusive: MEF to Rival ONF, OpenDaylight With SDN Strategy.)
The earlier Light Reading report characterized MEF as a rival to existing organizations developing the open standards for SDN and NFV, but in their formal release, MEF officials stressed the work they are doing with those organizations, in particular the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specifications Group.
MEF and the ETSI NFV ISG held a joint board meeting this summer, in which the two organizations were able to define and carve out specific pieces of work, with the MEF focused at the service orchestration layer, above the NFV infrastructure, says Nan Chen, MEF president. MEF's service orchestration will utilize services from the NFV's management and orchestration layer, commonly known as MANO.
"MEF is working on layered abstraction to automate network as a service starting with the Carrier Ethernet layer," Chen says in an interview. "NFV and SDN are concerned with network elements and functions and controls within the network infrastructure, but they are not concerned with bandwidth connectivity services which an individual or business can actually purchase. MEF is layering the service orchestration on top of NFV and SDN to provide service manageability."
The organizations are individually focused "on what they do best," Chen maintains. MEF has greater expertise related to services and to network-to-network interconnection (NNIs) which will be critical in a world of virtualized services and network elements, he says.
"We have people involved understanding where each group stands and how we can work together, not just to keep from overlapping but in addition figuring out where the interconnect points are," Chen says. "In our case, not only do we need to define lifecycle service orchestration elements, but also the APIs between the SDN controller and service orchestration as well as the management capabilities on top of NFV."
MEF has created a program called Unite, which establishes liaison and collaboration agreements with the Open Networking Foundation on SDN and with the ETSI NFV ISG on NFV, as well as with a number of other telecom industry standards groups including the TM Forum, IEEE, the ITU, OpenStack, OpenDaylight and others.
The key goal of the MEF's work is to define the service orchestration capabilities that will allow network operators to combine the ubiquity and flexibility of Internet service with the predictability and security of Carrier Ethernet. The combination of those two is what MEF has dubbed "The Third Network."
This new network must be agile, which means being able to deliver services on-demand; but also assured, which means it is secure and has performance level guarantees; and orchestrated, so it can be automated across multiple service provider networks, according to the MEF announcement.
The idea is to create the ability for a consumer or business to engage a mobile phone app or access a business portal in order to set up the network connection they need at that time, Chen says. The MEF's work to make that possible will involve defining how networks will interoperate at the services level so that they can seamlessly deliver the network service at the bandwidth requested with the level of performance and security sought as well.
This inter-operator lifecycle service orchestration, shown below, will break down the separate service management silos that exist today for the optical, Ethernet and IP layers of the network, Chen says, and create a single layer that sits above the existing wide area network and the new virtualized networks. That layer will handle service inventory, ordering, provisioning/fulfillment, control, performance, assurance, usage and analytics
MEF is already engaged in defining lifecycle service orchestration elements and an information model that will be both dynamic and protocol independent, Chen says.
APIs to be defined as part of this process will connect to portals and business applications for service ordering as well as to the existing WAN and to both NFV and SDN architectures.
Chen says work the MEF does will be constantly fed back into other standards groups, who will be sharing their work with the forum as well, to keep the process operating smoothly.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading