With an emphasis on SD-WAN interoperability, the newest phase of MEF 3.0 should dramatically accelerate broadband providers' ability to enter or expand SD-WAN managed services cost-effectively and efficiently.
All involved in the SD-WAN industry use variations of terminology that make comparisons challenging at best. It can take 12 to 24 months, for example, for managed service providers or enterprises to wade through vendors' variations on these themes, said Ralph Santitoro, Distinguished Fellow and Head of SDN/NFV/SD-WAN Solutions at Fujitsu Network Communications and a director of MEF, in an interview with Broadband World News.
"Every service provider does this: You go through and do an RFP. You get a short list and you evaluate it. How do you evaluate these different technology providers? They use different terminology. Some say they do WAN optimization, but that means something… from what another technology vendor would say," he explained. "Most service providers have taken somewhere from 12 months to two years to go through that process and come out with an SD-WAN service. There's just so much technology to evaluate; there's so much terminology, there's so much stuff. It's so risky because you're not sure if you're coming out with the right thing."
To address this, MEF 3.0 has two major SD-WAN initiatives underway today. One focuses on orchestration interoperability; in the second, MEF members are collaborating on an SD-WAN service spec that ultimately will define service components, their attributes, and application-centric QoS, security, and business priority policy requirements to create SD-WAN services, according to MEF. (Check out Carol Wilson's coverage on Light Reading for more about MEF's news, including its use of agile development.)
Looking to tackle the issue orchestrating services over multiple SD-WAN deployments based on various technologies and vendor products, three SD-WAN vendors (Riverbed, VMware-owned VeloCloud and Nuage Networks from Nokia) and software development services provider Amartus are participating in Phase 1 of the MEF 3.0 Multi-Vendor SD-WAN Implementation project. MEF will document the process; service providers then can use this information to accelerate their SD-WAN adoption within the MEF 3.0 framework, said Ralph Santitoro, Distinguished Fellow and Head of SDN/NFV/SD-WAN Solutions at Fujitsu Network Communications and a director of MEF, in an interview with Broadband World News.
Each vendor implements an SD-WAN using MEFnet -- the organization's cloud-based dev/test platform, available solely to members -- and then interconnects its product via a central gateway. Each SD-WAN is orchestrated using a single LSO-oriented service orchestrator through the recently standardized LSO Presto Network Resource Provisioning (NRP) API, thereby creating connectivity services that bridge multiple vendors' SD-WAN controllers and edge devices.
"We are actually discovering, through real implementation and making things work, how to solve problems that are of interest to the MEF member community. We're following an agile process, where our members -- mostly service providers -- are posing questions or use cases, things they see as issues or expect to be issues, and putting them in a backlog (to use an agile term) and take items off of that and implementing that, then going back to the backlog and prioritizing for the next project," Joe Ruffles, co-leader of the MEF 3.0 Multi-Vendor SD-WAN Implementation project and global standards architect at Riverbed, told BBWN.
On the same page
Equally important to service providers, vendors and enterprises is a common vernacular that all industry professionals can use to compare apples -- or, more accurately, SD-WAN RFP components, performance expectations and service level agreements (SLAs) -- to apples, said Santitoro.
Too often, customers -- whether it's service providers, enterprises or government agencies -- spend too much time defining expectations and terms, he said. Or they agree on something only to discover their definitions differ, Santitoro added. This, he noted, is a task MEF took on with Ethernet; now, it's tackling the same task for SD-WAN, as well as IP services and Layers 1, 2 and 3.
"One reason is for buyers and sellers to understand what they're buying and selling better, but to orchestrate and automate them you have to have a common model," said Santitoro. "We're normalizing the playing field there to facilitate the automation in layers 1, 2 and 3."
The broadband bounce
Being an IP service, broadband obviously can benefit from MEF's efforts. Standard LSO APIs will allow providers to do dynamic bandwidth changes and set up IP peering agreements, said Santitoro.
"Every broadband provider, maybe they're only providing first-mile or middle-mile and then eventually they have to have an IP peering agreement with a backbone ISP and so that'll help them set up additional connections more quickly," he said.
Having standard definitions will be even more crucial, ultimately, to providers' ability to enter the SD-WAN market, Santitoro predicted.
"More importantly… broadband providers can now get into the SD-WAN space and become an SD-WAN managed service provider to compete head-on with the traditional connectivity providers," he added. "From that perspective, our SD-WAN service definition and implementation projects will enable them to accelerate their understanding of SDWAN and be able to take what the MEF defines and go off and build that service themselves. That will accelerate lots of MSPs, especially if you're already an ISP or any type of service provider."
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.