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MEF’s Third Network Vision Comes to Fruition with MEF 3.0 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 December 2017 10:20

The annual MEF Forum took place in Orlando, Florida this year. The event centred on the launch of an extension of MEF’s Third Network vision, MEF 3.0, a framework comprised of four major elements: standardized, orchestrated services; open LSO APIs; service and technology certifications; and expanded community collaboration.

MEF is an industry association of 210+ member companies. MEF produces LSO frameworks, open LSO APIs, software-driven reference implementations, service specifications, and certification programs. The organization’s work aims to enable automated delivery of standardized wavelength, Carrier Ethernet, IP, SD-WAN, and Layer 4-7 services across multiple provider networks.

The annual MEF Forum brings together key industry players who are enabling agile, assured, and orchestrated services optimized for the digital economy and hyper-connected world. This year’s event was especially significant with the launch of MEF 3.0, a framework that expands upon MEF’s CE 2.0 (Carrier Ethernet 2.0) services and technologies that provide the high performance digital fuel for today’s digital economy.

Nearly 150 companies – including 100 service providers – sell CE 2.0 certified solutions that form the core of the estimated $80 billion annual global market for CE services and technologies. MEF 3.0 takes this to the next level by “enabling service providers to retool their networks, operations, and service portfolios to be more flexible and able to quickly address customer needs,” said Pascal Menezes, CTO of MEF.

MEF’s focus, he said, is to make it clear how existing CE 2.0 certified companies can migrate to MEF 3.0. It’s the realization of MEF’s Third Network vision, added MEF President, Nan Chen: “It’s the next step in our journey to transform the industry with services and networks that are easy to manage and monetize and that deliver lasting value to customers.”

Chen added, “We are unleashing the full potential of industry innovation by enabling dynamic services to be orchestrated across multiple provider networks powered by LSO (Lifecycle Service Orchestration), SDN (Software Defined Networking), and NFV (Network Function Virtualization).  Inter-provider automation is a huge driver for MEF 3.0.”

Four elements of MEF 3.0

MEF’s new framework is comprised of four elements – the first being ‘Standardized, Orchestrated Services’. The MEF 3.0 service family includes dynamic Carrier Ethernet, wavelength, IP, SD-WAN, Security-as-a-Service, and other virtualized services that will be orchestrated over programmable networks using LSO APIs.

MEF 3.0 CE R1 is the first release within the MEF 3.0 framework, while work on standardizing orchestration-ready wavelength, IP, SD-WAN, and security services currently is progressing within MEF.

The second element of the framework is ‘Open LSO APIs’. MEF’s LSO Reference Architecture guides agile development of standardized LSO APIs that enable orchestration of MEF 3.0 services across multiple providers and over multiple network technology domains (e.g., Packet WAN, Optical Transport, SD-WAN, 5G, etc.).

MEF recently announced the first releases of two LSO SDKs (software development kits) that feature inter-provider APIs for address validation, serviceability, and ordering and an intra-provider API for network resource provisioning. The LSO APIs included in these SDKs are available for experimental use by MEF members and associated MEF programs.

The third element of the framework, ‘Service and Technology Certifications’, is about MEF increasing the ability of its popular certification programs to accelerate availability and adoption of MEF 3.0 certified services and technologies. MEF 3.0 certification is delivered by MEF’s testing partner, Iometrix, using an advanced cloud-based virtualized test platform that empowers subscribing companies to certify that their services and technologies comply with the latest MEF 3.0 standards.

The final element of the framework, ‘Expanded Community Collaboration’, focuses on MEF’s new compute, storage, and networking platform – MEFnet – that enables development, testing, integration, and showcasing of prototype MEF 3.0 implementations using open source and commercial products. MEFnet projects will help accelerate the understanding and adoption of MEF 3.0, as well as provide immediate feedback for standards development within MEF.

The 3.0 framework has been well received by the telecommunications community, with executives from Verizon, CenturyLink, Sparkle, Tata Communications, Ciena, among others, expressing their support. Ciena CTO, Steve Alexander, said the framework “aligns with Ciena’s mission to drive network automation and create a global virtual fabric where the connect, compute and storage functions work seamlessly together.”

Shawn Hakl, Senior Vice President Business Products, Verizon, said he’s confident the framework “covers the critical areas needed for the next generation of innovation in SDN/NFV based services. Standardization of the orchestration and interoperability of software based services will help providers launch products which provide the quality, visibility and control that customers demand.”

MEF 3.0 is the “biggest, the boldest, and the most revolutionary framework” MEF has ever put in place since the formation of the organization, said Nan Chen speaking at MEF 2017. The organization was built on the vision of delivering a new network and a new set of services based on Ethernet, Chen explained. The organization said the technology was going to transform the telecom industry – and sure enough, within the following ten years, MEF realized that its vision was correct. 

“We really did transform this industry not only in terms of providing services but also making a lot of money – we talk about $80 billion as we continue to grow,” said Chen. “What we have done is set out the vision and actually executed on it.”

Three years ago, MEF announced a new vision called the Third Network following the second network based on Ethernet. The Third Network is “a big vision,” said Chen, adding, “We want to deliver a service that has internet-like agility and ubiquity, but carrier Ethernet-like performance and security. This isn’t the Internet or Carrier Ethernet, but a new network and services that are the best of both worlds of those two network domains.”

It’s a massive vision, Chen emphasized. MEF has been working hard for the last three years working towards this vision, he said, and has now come to the fruition of MEF 3.0 which is a “completely visionary framework which will put together working as a community to make things happen.”

It’s transformational in the sense of being able to deliver a new set of services that have a bigger impact than carrier Ethernet has brought to the industry. It encompasses defining, delivering and certifying agile, assured, orchestrated services across a global ecosystem of automated networks.

“People sometimes ask why we are doing this. One of the key reasons is that MEF 3.0, for the very first time in the industry, empowers users with dynamic performance to thrive in this digital economy,” said Chen. “It has the ability to deliver a set of services with unprecedented user and application directed control over network resources as well as the service capability on a global scale. In other words, the entire world of networking resources and services is at everyone’s fingertips.”

Chen said the organization is optimistic about its ability to create a new community including service providers and technology providers, in addition to the developer communities. Within that community MEF created MEFnet which is a “virtual community to be able to develop, test and integrate the new MEF 3.0 programs to be able to help unite the community whether they’re in Asia, the US or Europe,” Chen explained.

“We have also focused on certification,” he added. “We will continue to drive this forward and we have upgraded it into cloud on-demand certification, which allows us to be able to do that for those implementing MEF 3.0, at the press of a button. This cuts the certification time from days to minutes.”

MEF has built MEF 3.0 on its track record of Carrier Ethernet success. The organization has 5,300 certified MEF professionals who are helping progress MEF to the next level of sophistication. “We are very confident in our ability to deliver this vision based on the work we’ve done in the past and because of the support of our members,” said Chen.