CenturyLink's Dugan puts an edge on cloud strategy and MEF's LSO Sonata

LOS ANGELES—MEF has big plans to use its LSO Sonata API to provision applications and services between carriers and cloud providers at the network edge, which bodes well for CenturyLink.

During a keynote address on Wednesday, MEF CTO Pascal Menezes outlined how the LSO Sonata API could be used, along with Carrier Ethernet, to provision services from a cloud provider to a carrier's network edge.

RELATED: Industry first: AT&T and Colt team up on deployment of MEF's LSO Sonata

In June, AT&T and Colt Technology Services laid claim to being the first carriers in the telecom industry to implement MEF's Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Sonata Application Programming Interfaces (APIs.)

The cloud providers need the carriers' networks to deliver their services at the edge in order to enable low latency.

"Latency is the new game in digital services," Menezes said. "Not only that, our members have a huge asset called the real estate at the edges. For low latency, it means the user device, or the application, the closer they are to the service the better they're going to get that experience with the new emerging digital applications including security."

RELATED: CenturyLink draws up its playbook for edge compute services

In August, CenturyLink announced its blueprint for edge compute services. CenturyLink has booted up more than 100 initial edge compute locations across the U.S. to provide a range of managed services and hybrid cloud solutions to its customers. The edge compute services blend compute, storage and networking capabilities into one package.

CenturyLink's edge compute services include 5 millisecond transport time from its existing locations to the edge, which is ideal for low latency applications such as virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence (AI.)

On the sidelines of the MEF19 conference, CenturyLink CTO Andrew Dugan outlined his company's edge investment and the role the edge will play going forward, including with cloud providers.

"Our customers are very interested in talking to us about it. For our first round of [edge} investment, we've sort of targeted that 5 millisecond latency between the end user and the edge," Dugan said. "When we do the analysis on our network, we can get to within 5 milliseconds of 98% of the demand in the U.S. by making available 106 locations on our network. That's a small fraction of what we have, because we have thousands of central offices."

Menezes said that in order to deliver services to the edge using LSO Sonata, service providers need to federate to enable them across each other's networks. The initial steps for federation are underway as service providers, and SD-WAN vendors, are working with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google, among others, to build on ramps into the clouds.

Using Sonata would entail cloud services providers' applications and services moving the other direction to carriers' edge networks. Telcos and cable companies have the network assets in place at the edge that cloud providers lack.

"We have internally the APIs that we can expose to (cloud) customers," Dugan said. "They're not Sonata yet, but they will evolve in that direction."

RELATED: CenturyLink grows on-demand network connectivity to Google Cloud Platform

In addition to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, CenturyLink announced earlier this month that it had expanded its on-demand network connectivity to Google Cloud Platform (GCP.) Dugan said CenturyLink will have similar relationships in place with IBM before the end of the year and Oracle early next year.

While the cloud providers currently don't consume CenturyLink's services going down to the edge, they will need to at some point.

"I believe they're going to have to, and it's going to have to happen in the next year or two," Dugan said.  "And to do that they can either choose to integrate with non-standard APIs, that providers like us might have, or the better way to do it is to implement a standardized LSO API. That way they can order from us, they can order from AT&T, they can order from any MEF member."

Dugan, who is on MEF's board of directors, said CenturyLink has done internal development and prototyping with LSO Sonata, and will start to "expose" some of those capabilities next year.