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AT&T: MEF Could Catalyze Key Specs

BALTIMORE -- MEF 16 -- The telecom industry needs to agree on some key elements of the virtualized services landscape, to enable network operators to move faster in deployment and in developing what will truly differentiate their services, AT&T's Josh Goodell said here Tuesday.

In a keynote address and later interview, Goodell stressed the need for the industry to tackle some key functional aspects of moving to NFV and SDN, to include finding an easier way to onboard virtual network functions, agreeing on open universal CPE and federating software-defined networks between network operators. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is already working with Orange (NYSE: FTE) on these common specifications and yesterday announced successful interoperability testing of software-defined networks with Colt Technology Services Group Ltd . (See AT&T, Colt Claim Major SDN Advance and AT&T, Orange Unite to Press for SDN, NFV Standards.)

Now the company is hoping other operators will engage in the effort -- possibly under the leadership of a group such as MEF , Goodell added. "MEF should be in the middle of this, they could be a real catalyst," he commented, adding hastily that he wouldn't want to see yet another forum emerge to tackle this, alongside the growing roster of open source and standards groups in this space.

Interestingly, AT&T was part of another organization's effort at tackling VNF onboarding, as a sponsor of a TM Forum Catalyst project on that process. (See Latest NFV Headache: Software Licensing.)

None of the things AT&T seeks industry agreement on represent ways network operators will differentiate their services, Goodell noted, but left unresolved they represent potential stumbling blocks. Where VNF onboarding -- the process of adding VNFs to an NFV infrastructures -- is concerned, for example, it's not that AT&T can't sort that out on its own, he said, but single-operator approaches introduce inefficiency that hurts everyone.

AT&T's Josh Goodell Addresses MEF16

"If we just tackle it on our own, the providers of VNFs won't have an efficient way to introduce their software across the industry," he said. An industry-wide approach to VNF onboarding would enable something like a VNF app store, which in turn could spur VNF development and innovation, Goodell says.

The VNF onboarding process isn't as simple as loading up some software, he explained, or dealing with a single applications programming interface. It involves making the function operate within a broader framework that includes legacy OSS/BSS systems and managing that bit of software over its lifecycle.

The work with Colt showed SDN interoperability is technically possible. The next step for AT&T is to determine where the company wants to take that commercially, and that may pose its own challenges, Goodell acknowledged.

And that effort could fall to a group like the MEF, with its experience helping network operators interconnect to deliver Carrier Ethernet services and its current Lifecycle Service Orchestration focus as well.

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

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