While most of us would consider putting on jeans and brushing our hair as plenty productive during a pandemic, MEF's members are clearly overachievers as over 60 service providers and vendors are now MEF 3.0 certified.
MEF says certifications are up 75% since May 2020 among service providers – of the 60 certifications, 42 are service providers. Drilling down from the 42 certified operators, 37 have Carrier Ethernet certification, eight are SD-WAN certified and three went the extra mile to achieve certifications in both categories. Stan Hubbard, director of communications and research for MEF, says 85% of the organization's service provider members have achieved some type of certification in MEF 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0.
"The interest in certification is a reflection of the role that operators see Carrier Ethernet as playing in their networks," says Kevin Vachon, COO for MEF. Vachon says the desire for CSPs to achieve CE and SD-WAN certification is partly motivated by wanting to show enterprise customers that their network services are up to date, tested and meet industry standards.
"Often certification is proactive, but it's also reactive and tends to be strategic," adds Hubbard. "In some cases, when a company is certified, it also puts pressure on their competitors to become certified. It's also reactive of their customers asking for it."
AT&T, Verizon, Comcast Business and Windstream are among the service providers with MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Certification, and they also rank within the top five of Vertical Systems Group's 2020 US Carrier Managed SD-WAN Leaderboard. In addition, Cisco, VMware, Fortinet and Versa, which Dell'Oro Group lists as the top SD-WAN technology providers, have attained MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Certification.
"There is value in these certifications, as they align with the telecommunications industry to help deliver the highest quality in networking functions," said Will Eborall, AVP for product marketing management for AT&T Business, in a statement. "As companies continue their digital transformation, these standards assist to demonstrate the managed service providers' compliance in critical service functions around performance, assurance and agility. It's definitely accelerated many aspects of our business."
In addition to the MEF 3.0 certifications by CSPs and vendors, 7,500 individuals in 85 countries representing over 400 employer organizations have achieved MEF professional certifications in SD-WAN, SDN/NFV and CE.
"You want to be able to engage with your customers using common terminology and engage internally on your own planning. Bringing people up to speed with MEF certifications is also important," says Hubbard about why professional certifications are important to MEF members.
MEF 3.0 was initially launched in 2017 as a "transformational global services framework for defining, delivering and certifying assured communications services orchestrated across a global ecosystem of automated networks." Since then, MEF 3.0 has expanded to include SD-WAN standards and define Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) services. There isn't an official SASE certification just yet, but last fall, the organization released MEF W117 to define SASE further and work toward a framework to standardize SASE services based on MEF's current standardization work on SD-WAN, security and automation.
A MEF LSO API certification is also currently under development. Former Light Reading Editor Carol Wilson once described MEF's LSO API as an "initiative focused on inter-carrier connections, defining how services can be ordered, quoted, billed, delivered and assured across multiple carrier networks."
MEF says this API certification will provide organizations with the ability to validate that their MEF LSO Sonata and Cantata APIs conform to use case and business requirement specifications. Sparkle, TIME dotCom and UFINET are the three CSPs that took part in the LSO API certification pilot program and are now LSO Sonata-certified for automated ordering of CE Access E-Line services.
— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading