A world of connected networks

A world of connected networks

The industry is building a global ecosystem supporting third network services with lifecycle service orchestration, writes Nan Chen of the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF)

The communications industry is in the midst of a paradigm shift to agile, assured and orchestrated services that are optimised for the digital economy and the hyper-connected world. 

These new so-called “Third Network” services provide an on-demand experience with user-directed control over service capabilities. They are enabled over automated, virtualised and interconnected networks that build upon a Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (CE 2.0) foundation and are powered by lifecycle service orchestration (LSO), software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV). 

It is great to see that dozens of service providers at this year’s ITW event are offering on-demand connectivity services and NFV-based virtual services or planning to do so within the next few years. But the most exciting development to witness right now is the tremendous collaborative work taking place to build out a worldwide ecosystem of connected networks that will support orchestration of these dynamic services across multiple provider networks.

Global ecosystem

MEF is working closely with many of the world’s leading service and technology providers, open source projects and industry organisations to accelerate the creation of this global ecosystem, which will be enabled by standardised open LSO APIs that are used to orchestrate standardised services.

MEF has dozens of projects in several major work areas supporting this goal, including: 

•  Third network services: MEF is expanding beyond CE 2.0 to drive the development of standards-based orchestrated wavelength, carrier Ethernet, Layer 3 IP, and SD-WAN overlay services.

•  LSO Open APIs: MEF is spearheading transformational initiatives to standardize LSO APIs for orchestrating connectivity services across multiple provider networks and over multiple technology domains within provider networks. 

In February, we jointly announced with TM Forum that AT&T, Orange, Colt, Comcast, Level 3, PCCW Global, Sparkle, Verizon, CableLabs, and Kyrio are leading an effort within MEF to develop a complete suite of inter-provider LSO APIs that use the MEF LSO Framework and the TM Forum Open API framework. 

We expect the first of these LSO APIs – called Sonata, associated with address validation, service availability, and ordering – will be available in the third quarter of this year.

Meanwhile, more than one dozen service providers, technology vendors and software services companies are leading MEF projects focused on developing intra-provider LSO APIs that support network resource provisioning, performance monitoring and other orchestration functions over packet WAN, optical transport, SD-WAN, 5G and other technology domains. 

The first of these intra-provider LSO APIs – called Presto, the network resource provisioning (NRP) API – is on track to be completed in the third quarter of the year. This can be used to provision widely deployed MEF-defined CE services and can also be used in the future for optical and IP services being defined by MEF. 

Open networking 

CenturyLink is leading the LSO Presto NRP API project that involves collaboration with the Open Networking Foundation and contributions from multiple technology vendors.

During 2017, MEF is enhancing and expanding all of our popular certification programmes to include new elements related to orchestrated services. 

MEF has just introduced the third network professional certification framework for creating a global ecosystem of certified professionals with leading-edge skills required to build automated, virtualised and interconnected networks powered by LSO, SDN, NFV and CE 2.0. 

This framework – including a new third network foundations certification – builds upon our highly successful MEF carrier Ethernet certified professionals (MEF-CECP) programme, which now includes 5,000 certified professionals from more than 440 companies in 83 countries. 

This year, MEF is transitioning to an orchestrated services certification programme and aligning our technology certification programme. Stay tuned for more certification news in the second half of 2017. The industry transition to agile, assured and orchestrated third network services is well underway. We’re pleased to participate at ITW alongside many innovative service providers helping to accelerate this transition. We encourage you to join our exciting journey.

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