March 18, 2020
Four service providers – Comcast Business, PCCW Global, Spectrum Enterprise and Telia Company – are now the first operators to achieve MEF 3.0 SD-WAN service certification.
As part of the pilot certification program, Spirent tested these service providers' SD-WAN services against the requirements outlined in the SD-WAN Service Attributes and Services (MEF 70), which is MEF's SD-WAN specification. The standard defines service attributes for externally visible behavior of SD-WAN services as experienced by the subscriber, traffic handling rules, and key technical concepts and definitions.
Now that MEF's SD-WAN certification process is generally available, Divesh Gupta, VP of New Technology & Sales Operations for PCCW Global, says there will likely be an uptick in service providers choosing to go through the certification process. With so many vendors and service providers offering SD-WAN, it can be difficult for enterprises to compare and select SD-WAN services, says Gupta.
"Now there's a common framework that if you go with a service provider who has certified their services across a global standard, then you comply with a set of standards and are sure you will get that with the service," he explains. In addition to the SD-WAN service certification, several of PCCW's employees also participated in MEF's pilot training program for professional certification for SD-WAN.
PCCW utilizes MEF's APIs to allow users to order and provision MPLS VPN and Carrier Ethernet services. Gupta says a logical next step would be to develop a LSO Sonata API to provision an SD-WAN service end-to-end.
MEF 90 – the SD-WAN certification test requirements – tests areas such as IP forwarding, application flows service attributes, policies service attributes, IPv4 and IPv6 connection addressing and more. The testing process examines three distinct sites with live SD-WAN overlay instances but also tests the underlay connectivity to ensure they're certifying the actual service and service behavior, explains Marc Cohn, head of Virtualization for Spirent.
Of the 125 service provider professionals MEF and Heavy Reading recvently surveyed, 76% indicated that SD-WAN services certification is "critical" or "important" to accelerating SD-WAN market growth, according to a 2019 Heavy Reading report.
Figure 1: Source: Heavy Reading, SD-WAN Services Strategies, November 2019. Based on survey responses from 125 service provider professionals from around the world.
Service providers replied similarly when asked about the importance of SD-WAN technology certification and SD-WAN professional certification. That shows that across the board, service providers believe there's value in a SD-WAN standard certification process, says Jennifer Pigg Clark, principal analyst with Heavy Reading. Clark says that service providers offering SD-WAN have been supportive of MEF's standardization efforts as the operators are looking for a "yardstick" to ensure they comply with what constitutes an SD-WAN service.
In addition, the SD-WAN certification will "make it easier to interface between SD-WAN services and create a virtual, global SD-WAN service as opposed to paying a premium to a service provider that offers a seamless, global service – just speaking the same SD-WAN language makes it easier to link these services together," says Clark.
Having the option to select a service provider that meets set SD-WAN standards is also valuable to enterprises as they increasingly move away from a DIY approach to a managed SD-WAN offering from service providers, adds Clark.
SD-WAN service certification is a competitive differentiator for SD-WAN service providers and offers enterprise customers the assurance that service providers have a "seal of approval" and are on top of industry standards, says Rosemary Cochran, principal and co-founder of Vertical Systems Group – echoing Clark's assessment.
SD-WAN vendors have also been taking part in MEF's SD-WAN certification process – Nuage Networks, Versa Networks and Infovista were among the first vendors to become certified MEF 3.0 SD-WAN technology vendors in January.
MEF is in the process of developing the second phase of standards – MEF 70.1 – which will outline additional service attributes related to application business importance and prioritization, and underlay connectivity requirements for deploying an SD-WAN service. MEF's Stan Hubbard says the next phase will also focus on defining parameters for security and orchestration of SD-WAN services.
— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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