Editor's Corner—MEF is closing in on approval of LSO Sonata APIs

Over the past few weeks, there's been some grumbling in regard to the MEF's Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Sonata APIs not being fully baked. The wait for the LSO Sonata APIs is almost over.

The LSO Sonata APIs, which are used for intercarrier orchestration, were among the top topics at this week's MEF Annual Meeting. Using a programmatic API-to-API interface, the LSO Sonata APIs allow service providers to automate and provision their services between their separate SDN architectures.

The APIs allow carriers to reach beyond their physical networks to offer on demand services, such as Carrier Ethernet, to customers that are doing business outside of their own footprints. The LSO Sonata APIs enable the software-defined networking network-to-network interfaces (SDN NNI) engagements.

Cross-carrier, automated services across SDN architectures have been in the works for a few years, but four service providers are close to putting services into production this year.

In an email to FierceTelecom, MEF's Stan Hubbard, director of communications and research, said MEF approved LSO Sonata APIs would be released later this year.

"Our current plan is to release formal MEF-approved LSO Sonata APIs for product offering qualification, inventory, quotes, and ordering in 4Q18, around the time of MEF 18," Hubbard wrote. "We will have many proof of concept demonstrations at MEF 18 that will incorporate these LSO Sonata APIs as well as other LSO APIs related to the various reference points in the LSO Framework."

MEF hosts its annual conference Oct. 29-Nov. 2 in Los Angeles.

All of which is probably music to Colt's Mirko Voltolini's ears.

"What is important is we need to come up with a standard API definition," said Voltolini, head of network on demand, in an interview a few weeks ago with FierceTelecom. "We have done lots of work with the MEF to define the API. We need to get that piece of work to a conclusion so we don't have to do things 20 times with 20 different suppliers. I think what is missing—we've done a lot of work and everybody is behind it—is the speed.

"We need to close that piece of work so it's available for everyone to use it.  Getting this API definition, particularly the Sonata one which is the business API between carriers in the MEF LSO framework, is a key thing."

While the LSO Sonata APIs are awaiting the final stamp of approval, Hubbard said MEF member companies currently are able to use several experimental LSO Sonata APIs, which has already happened in proof-of-concept (POC) demonstrations. 

At MEF 17 last year, AT&T, Orange, Colt, and a handful of vendors showed a POC demonstration using the LSO Orchestration Sonata software development kit (SDK) to provision Ethernet services across AT&T and Orange's SDN architectures.

After conducting a proof-of-concept trial earlier this March, Colt Technology Services and Verizon will go live in September with two-way, intercarrier network orchestration of Carrier Ethernet services across each other's networks.

RELATED: Colt, Verizon will go live this year with cross-carrier Ethernet service

Last month, wholesale carrier Epsilon and China's DCConnect announced a two-way, intercarrier network service that will be provisioned across each other's networks using an API-to-API interface between their separate SDN architectures. That service is set to launch in the third quarter of this year. But it doesn't appear as though they are using the LSO Sonata APIs.

Epsilon CEO Jerzy Szlosarek did talk about the importance of APIs during a email interview earlier this month with FierceTelecom.

"There’s a lot of opportunities in interoperability and APIs," he said. "Interconnecting SDN platforms is the next step in global networking. It is a natural progression and APIs are accelerating how fast this can happen. The SDN islands we see today must go away.

"APIs enable new platforms and models to be created and global infrastructure to be used in new ways. Through APIs, networking is becoming a utility that can be integrated into existing platforms and be used by all kinds of service providers and start-up unicorns."

While the LSO Sonata APIs focus on carrier-to-carrier APIs, there's work being done by the TM Forum to define other APIs that can be used in the business-to-consumer, business-to-business mobile worlds. MEF and the TM Forum have been working together on APIs to speed up the development and avoid duplicating their efforts.

All of which leads back to the work that MEF is doing with the LSO APIs. MEF's Hubbard said that experts from many service and technology provider companies were involved in a recent LSO Sonata Early Adopters Workshop that explored LSO Sonata use cases, the LSO Sonata roadmap, and tech vendor support for LSO Sonata-based commercial offerings.

"Also, on the LSO Sonata front, we are collaborating with TM Forum to build on their open API work and contribute back to TM Forum any changes we make here in MEF," Hubbard said.

The telco industry is moving at a rapid clip and sometimes it's hard to wait for open source communities, standards bodies or organizations like MEF to come up with specifications and definitions that work for everyone. But it will be worth the wait when service providers are able offer their customers on demand services in previously unreachable areas. — Mike

Editor's Corners are opinion columns written by a member of the Fierce editorial team. They are edited for balance and accuracy.