MEF tunes up LSO Sonata in a developer release, defines SD-WAN and bows enterprise community

LOS ANGELES—MEF's long-awaited Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Sonata APIs for intercarrier services are now available as a developer release.

MEF announced the news about LSO Sonata today at its MEF18 conference in Los Angeles. At the same time, it also released the industry's first SD-WAN service specification.

"I'm really excited about the Sonata APIs," MEF President Nan Chen said at yesterday's press conference. "It's the first time in the industry that we can enable service providers to automate a service across multiple service providers on a global basis."

MEF executives said at press conference yesterday that MEF was on track to ratify and release its MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Attributes and Service Definition Standard in the first quarter of next year.

"One of the key things in terms of this speciation is it's really about a common framework and a language to buy and sell automated and deliver SD-WAN services," said Chen. "Today services are defined by the vendors, and service providers want to have a homogeneous language across the industry."

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More than 30 service providers and vendors worked on the SD-WAN specification while 70 took part in the development of LSO Sonata.

MEF also announced today that it was forming an enterprise advisory panel to get input from large, multinational enterprises. MEF CTO Pascal Menezes said MEF wants to include large multinational enterprises in discussions with its service provider and vendor members because they face some of the same issues as service providers, such as connecting to the cloud and enabling automation.

Chen said all three of the announcements showed that MEF is moving forward on its MEF 3.0 initiatives that were announced last year at MEF17.

Stepping outside the footprint with LSO Sonata

The LSO Sonata standardization effort is being conducted under the auspices of the MEF 3.0 Global Services Framework. Using a programmatic API-to-API interface, the LSO Sonata APIs allow service providers to automate and provision their services between their separate software-defined networking (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 SDN network-to-network interfaces (NNI) engagements.

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At MEF 17 last year, AT&T, Orange, Colt and a handful of vendors showed a proof-of-concept demonstration using the LSO 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 went live with two-way, intercarrier network orchestration of Carrier Ethernet services across each other's networks using LSO Sonata.

Speaking at a work session Monday morning at MEF, executives from Orange, Colt and AT&T said they would have their respective LSO Sonata implementations, mainly E-Line services, available in the first quarter of next year.

In addition to Ethernet, MEF said that Sonata can also enable carrier-to-carrier SD-WAN, IP, optical transport, security and other virtualized services down the road.

The Developer Release will receive feedback from the MEF community, and then MEF expects a full release will be out in January of next year. Menezes said the full release would under go intellectual property rights examination for about two months following the full release. The LSO Sonata APIs are dynamic which means they will continue to evolve over time.

"On the API front, we've something remarkable," Menezes said. "We're actually developing APIs not just on paper but in a software development kit where a developer can take and be able to start building APIs right away. These APIs are for the north-south direction. Today Sonata between providers is very powerful."

Currently, there are four technical specifications for Sonata related to serviceability, product inventory, quoting and ordering, all of which cover business requirements and use cases between service providers.

The LSO Sonata SDKs are available in GitHub and each SDK includes a developer guide, a Swagger data model and other features to help developers built out the APIs within their business systems.

Unifying SD-WAN specifications

The goal of the SD-WAN service definition is to get everyone on the same page when it comes to buying, selling assessing, deploying and delivering SD-WAN services. 

MEF's SD-WAN service specifications describe requirements for an application-aware, over-the-top WAN connectivity service that uses policies to determine how application flows are forwarded over multiple underlay networks.

Menezes cited a survey of 70 service providers by Vertical Systems Group that found that nearly 80% of the respondents identified the lack on an industry standard service definition as a significant challenge for service providers to offer or migrate SD-WAN services.

"There has been a lack of standardization," Menezes said. "There is a lack of terminology and framework definition. Everybody calls it different ways. We have to crystal the language, the vocabulary, the terminology, and the concepts."

MEF plans to introduce a pilot version of the certification for MEF 3.0 SD-WAN services in the first half of next year.

"MEF is the first organization to define a standard for SD-WAN and to be able to certify that, and be able to have APIs to orchestrate that from BSS/OSS systems or the orchestration systems from service provider," Menezes said. "This is about managed SD-WAN and  not enterprises doing their own do-it-yourself [SD-WAN service]."