Building a community of automated networks that deliver on-demand services

Industry association MEF is the driving force enabling agile, assured and orchestrated Third Network services for the digital economy and the hyper-connected world. While SD-WAN has grabbed headlines of late, another major industry development has emerged, writes Stan Hubbard

In last September’s Carrier Ethernet supplement, I shared a MEF perspective that the industry transition from static connectivity to agile, assured, and orchestrated services was well underway. At that time, we could point to dozens of service providers offering or planning to offer on-demand Carrier Ethernet services and NFV-based virtual services to help speed digital transformation of enterprises. 

While the explosion of SD-WAN activity has grabbed headlines over the past year, another major industry development has emerged during this same period that should catch the attention of service providers around the world as well. 

A tremendous amount of collaborative work has been going on to build out a global community of automated, virtualised, and interconnected networks that will support orchestration of on-demand services across multiple providers. This process will take a number of years but will have game-changing implications for service innovation, competition, revenue generation, and customer experience. 

Third Network orchestrated services

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

MEF’s current strategic work is focused on four major areas: 

MEF has expanded work beyond CE 2.0 (Carrier Ethernet 2.0) to drive the development of orchestrated wavelength, CE, IP, SD-WAN, and Layer 4 - 7 services (e.g., NFV-based virtual security). MEF has been working for more than a year on creating a standard set of attributes that can be used to define wavelength and managed IP services delivered over multiple interconnected provider networks. Standardised attributes consistent with those of globally adopted CE services will allow service providers to leverage MEF’s LSO work to deliver a full range of orchestrated Layer 1 – 3 services. 

MEF also has extended its work to standardise SD-WAN managed services and recently published a white paper on this topic. MEF is defining SD-WAN service terminology, components, and implementations in the context of the MEF LSO Framework. This work will ensure consistency of performance, policy, and security of SD-WAN services orchestrated across multiple provider networks.

MEF will have more to share about its work on agile, assured, and orchestrated services later this year.


More than 25 MEF member companies have been involved in advancing groundbreaking initiatives to standardise open LSO APIs for orchestrating services across multiple service providers and multiple technology domains. MEF has just completed major work on the first releases of two LSO API Software Development Kits (SDKs) associated with (1) the LSO Sonata interface reference point that deals with management, operational, and business interactions between service providers and (2) the LSO Presto interface reference point that deals with management of network infrastructure. Let me take a moment here to explain their relevance.

LSO Sonata APIs and SDK: AT&T, Orange, Colt, and 20+ other companies are working to create a complete suite of standardised inter-provider LSO Sonata APIs defined in MEF Interface Profile Specifications (IPS) dealing with serviceability, ordering, address validation, quoting, billing, assurance, testing, and change management. MEF expects to publish the first two LSO Sonata IPSs for serviceability and ordering in the near future. In the meantime, the first release of the LSO Sonata SDK that includes serviceability and ordering APIs based on this definitions work is now available for experimental use by service providers and the market in general. 

LSO Presto APIs and SDK: CenturyLink, Amartus, Ciena, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, NEC and others have been working to standardise LSO Presto APIs that support service orchestration functions like network resource provisioning and performance monitoring over various technology domains (e.g. Packet WAN, Optical Transport, SD-WAN, 5G, etc.). Leveraging collaborative input from the ONF, MEF expects to publish the LSO Presto NRP (Network Resource Provisioning) IPS in the near future. In the meantime, the first release of the LSO Presto SDK that includes the API for network resource provisioning for Packet WAN implementations is now available for experimental use by the market. The LSO Presto NRP API already is supported within an OpenDaylight SDN controller plug-in contributed into the UNI Manager project. Service providers can expect additional LSO Presto-enabled SDN controllers and proprietary NMS/EMS solutions to appear in the market in 2018. 

Software-driven reference implementations and MEFnet

As part of MEF’s agile standards development process, member companies are creating OpenLSO and Open Connectivity Services (OpenCS) reference implementations to maximise alignment of market implementations with MEF’s published and emerging LSO and connectivity services specifications. MEF has created a new compute, storage, networking platform called MEFnet that enables development, testing, integration, and showcasing of reference implementations based on both open source and commercial closed source products. 

Industry professionals will have the opportunity to learn more about several ongoing reference implementations on MEFnet – including projects dealing with service orchestration across multiple operators, analytics, and more – during the MEF17 event to be held on 13-16 November. 

Certification programmes for services, equipment, and professionals

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

In May 2017, MEF 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. 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 about 5,200 certified professionals from 440+ companies in 83 countries. 

MEF currently is the process of transitioning to an “orchestrated services” certification programme and aligning our technology certification programme with that as well. Stay tuned for MEF certification news in 4Q 2017 that will have broad implications for service providers and technology vendors. 

We look forward to you and your company joining us in this exciting journey to transform the industry!