MEF19 kicks off with new SD-WAN certification programs for professionals and service providers

LOS ANGELES—After publishing its SD-WAN standard this past summer, MEF is pushing forward with its certification efforts around SD-WAN for both professionals and companies.

At its MEF19 conference in Los Angeles, MEF introduced its SD-WAN Certification Program for service providers and vendors, as well as the SD-WAN Certified Professional (MEF-SDCP) program for professionals.

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In August, MEF published its MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Service Attributes and Services standard (MEF 70), which was first announced last year at MEF18. 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.

With the standard in place, MEF is moving forward on connecting more pieces of its SD-WAN puzzle with the certification programs. Sprirent Communications, a company with a rich history in testing, has been brought on board as the SD-WAN Authorized Certification Test Partner to help develop the program.

As the name implies, the MEF 3.0 Certification program allows service providers and technology providers to validate that their SD-WAN services and products are meeting the requirements of the MEF 70 standard. The certification will test the service attributes and the behaviors defined in MEF 70 and described in the upcoming MEF SD-WAN Certification Test Requirements (MEF 90) standard.

Providing a baseline of what SD-WAN is and then testing the defined attributes will help users cut through the current SD-WAN market noise. According to research by Heavy Reading, 76% of the surveyed service provider professionals believe that SD-WAN services certification is "critical" or "important" for accelerated SD-WAN growth.

MEF has been down the certification road before as it conducted a similar process for the validation and adoption of Carrier Ethernet services. MEF COO Kevin Vachon said at a Monday press conference that certification also gives MEF members a competitive advantage in the SD-WAN market and helps them scale their services.

MEF and Spirent started a pilot program for certification that included seven service providers and technology vendors. The first certified companies are slated to be announced early next year, according to Vachon. While MEF wasn't saying who the participants were, it does have members from SD-WAN vendors such as AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Comcast Business, Orange Business Services and Colt Technology Services on its board of directors.

"We're thrilled to have Spirent onboard," Vachon said. "There's a lot of interest. We have a lot of companies that are waiting to see what the time slots are after the pilot to queue up. There's a lot of preparation to be compliant to the standard and certifiable."

Vachon said that MEF had more than 200 professionals from 80 companies take part in the MEF-SDCP beta trial that ended a few weeks ago. Those beta participants will receive their certification credentials next month. The beta test included 60 questions, but Vachon said the test would probably be whittled down to 40. General availability for MEF-SDCP is slated for the middle of next month.

The test is designed for SD-WAN professionals ranging from presales to network and service engineering and operations for the service providers, vendors and enterprise communities. Three training academies are offering training programs for MEF SD-WAN certification—Perpetual Solutions, SD-WAN Academy and Tech 200—with more expected to follow.

According to Vertical Systems Group, the carrier managed SD-WAN market is projected to reach $4.5 billion the in the U.S. alone by 2023.

In addition to the certification programs, MEF also released a new MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Services white paper to go over the attributes and definitions of SD-WAN, and the use cases and service requirements for various industry verticals.