Ethernet services

MEF: New Initiatives Tied to Existing Standards Groups

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's Lifecycle Service Orchestration
Source: MEF
Source: MEF

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

mendyk 9/25/2014 | 2:50:22 PM
Re: MEF critics MEF has a tendency to favor self-interest over its stated mission. TM Forum also has done that sort of thing. It's not easy to balance the organizaton's priorities with the priorities of its membership, especially when industry groups become revenue-generating machines. In comparison, IETF set a high standard for putting the greater good first.
sam masud 9/25/2014 | 11:51:00 AM
Re: MEF as we know it Agree with most of your post, but until MEF came along no one was talking up carrier-grade Ethernet, and their specs and conformance testing surely did much to promote Ethernet services.
cnwedit 9/25/2014 | 8:26:13 AM
MEF critics I have heard these criticisms of the MEF for some time now and anticipate this go-round won't be any different. 

There is no reason for the critics to be silent until MEF produces what it is promising, which is service orchestration that goes beyond Ethernet into the IP and optical domains.

So whether or not industry folks are "fooled" by the MEF is not the issue here. Unlike previous technology transitions, which were often vendor led or at least vendor co-opted, this move to virtualize networks to make them flexible, agile and scalable is being driven by the large Tier 1 service providers. No one organization will be able to insert itself into this process and have an impact unless it is producing something useful. 

If the MEF does that, its contributions will be welcome, if it doesn't, it will quickly become irrelevant. The same thing goes for every other organization developing a standard or specification or in any way intending to contribute work to this process. 
t.bogataj 9/25/2014 | 8:13:03 AM
MEF as we know it This is typical for MEF, there's nothing new about it.

Recall ATM forum? Only when it was clear that ATM was loosing against Ethernet, and the guys from ATM forum eventually understood they needed to do something against their personal obsolescence, they initiated MEF. With little essence and good marketing they managed to convince the community that they really contributed to Ethernet (though they did not).

And MEF today? The SDN did not want to go away, so MEF guys had to wake up and do something, whatever. Hence these announcements. I hope the community is wiser today then it was back then... not buying their "efforts".

This just confirms that MEF feels threatened by SDN/NFV. Panicked?

DanJones 9/24/2014 | 8:56:04 PM
Re: Aha! Sure, and no company or group ever has an agenda beyond what they tell you in their marketing pitch right?
sam masud 9/24/2014 | 2:22:41 PM
Aha! Carol,

Not tooting my own horn, but as I posted yesterday the anticipated MEF announcement would pertain to Ethernet services because specifying services is what MEF is all about. I did not think the MEF would horn into ONF/ODP terriroty.


Just thought I'd mention it, but not saying "I told you so... :-)
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