MEF puts its stamp of approval on industry's first SD-WAN standard

MEF announced on Wednesday the publication of its SD-WAN Service Attributes and Services standard (MEF 70) which it says is an industry first.

MEF first announced its MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Attributes and Service Definition Standard project at the MEF 18 conference last fall. In May, MEF pushed out the final draft for review prior to MEF 70 being ratified by MEF members at its recent annual members meeting.

RELATED: MEF pushes out final draft of SD-WAN services standard

Similar to what MEF did to spur Carrier Ethernet services, the MEF 70 standard defines a common terminology and the various attributes for an SD-WAN service.

MEF 70 describes SD-WAN as a service instead of detailing the underlying protocol level implementations, according to MEF CTO Pascal Menezes. With more than 70 SD-WAN vendors, the SD-WAN service standard seeks to induce some commonality between buyers and sellers.

"We describe the language, the behavior models and service definition attributes of how a subscriber would buy a service from an operator and how they can talk that language together," Menezes said. "That's what drove Carrier Ethernet, and we're cookie cutting that into SD-WAN with the same rinse and repeat model. It's a very well proven model and has a huge track record."

MEF 70 also defines the rules associated with how traffic is handled. Some of the key definitions described in MEF 70 include SD-WAN UNI, the SD-WAN edge, SD-WAN tunnel virtual connections, SD-WAN virtual connection end points and underlay connectivity services.

Technology aside, MEF 70 also benefits the customers that are increasingly using SD-WAN. In Futuriom's recently released 2019 SD-WAN Growth Report, Futuriom now expects $2.2 billion in SD-WAN platform and tools revenue by 2020, $2.75 billion in 2021, and​ $2.5 billion by 2022. 

"It (MEF 70) essentially creates a positive customer experience with an easy integration," said Verizon's Shawn Hakl, senior vice president of business products at Verizon and a MEF distinguished fellow. "It might not be the way the market started out but it's definitely the way the market needed to evolve for SD-WAN to really realize its true potential.

"It's clear that software-defined controls are going to be the way of the future, and we might as well have a clear, positive customer experience from day one with it as well."

Source: MEF

MEF 70 is part of the MEF 3.0 framework that also includes standardized services, LSO (Lifecycle Service Orchestration) APIs, services, technology and professional certification, proof of concept demonstrations and other community activities.

Jack Pugaczewski, distinguished architect at CenturyLink and a MEF distinguished fellow, said the LSO APIs, which include the Cantata and Allegro APIs, will automate service fulfillment and service assurance.

"We can now bring together architects, product sales, operations, and software developers that are all talking a common, similar language that allows the development of these open standard APIs that are the key components in the support of automation," Pugaczewski.

Menezes said the first LSO API for SD-WAN is Legato, which is from the BSS to the service orchestrator while the LSO Allegro and Cantata APIs sit between the service providers and customers' self service portals.

"If you think about it, most service providers are running multiple SD-WAN vendors," Menezes said. "It's a managed SD-WAN service so the service provider has to operate this thing at scale. They have to plug these vendors' environments into their operation system, their orchestrators and their portals. Jack and the team are modeling the service definition of SD-WAN and then realizing that into the APIs across various reference points."

MEF is already working on MEF 70.1, which slated to be out in the middle of next year and will cover more complex service attributes related to application business importance and prioritization and underlay network characteristics and connectivity to private/public cloud services. MEF also is progressing standards work around its application security, and intent-based networking for SD-WAN services.

MEF expects to launch its pilot MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Certification program in the fourth quarter of this year. The certification program will test a set of service attributes and their behaviors defined in the MEF 70 standard and described in detail in the upcoming MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Certification (MEF 90) document. 

As SD-WAN evolves from the earlier "do it yourself" implementations by enterprises and their SD-WAN vendors, MEF President Nan Chen said he expects the SD-WAN marketplace will converge, similar to what the Carrier Ethernet space did after MEF became involved, and create a bigger SD-WAN pie.

While MEF has a large number of SD-WAN service providers and vendors in its ecosystem, other SD-WAN vendors, such as Aryaka and Cato, will continue doing business as usual despite the new standard.

"I think it's a laudable effort to try to provide some structure over the wild-west that is SD-WAN today," said Roy Chua, the founder and principal at AvidThink, in an email to FierceTelecom. "Even getting SD-WAN components identified, typical deployment architectures documented, and nomenclature standardized is a good first step. In the longer term though, it'll be tricky to herd the bunch of cats in the space. SD-WAN vendors today hail from a wide variety of backgrounds, from former NGFW vendors, to WAN optimization vendors, to wireless and branch access vendors.

"However, I'm cautiously optimistic that some common models can be created and at least northbound APIs for orchestration developed. Cross-vendor compatibility might be a long journey, but I'm just expecting baby steps right now. Participation from multiple vendors and pressure from service providers gives me some hope that progress will be made. Whether it will be fast enough to catch up with rapid SD-WAN evolution and the eventual coalescing with the cross-cloud networking fabric efforts remains to be seen."