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Combining APIs and Blockchain technology to deliver automated service and assurance across multiple service providers

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Standards-based APIs make it faster and easier for carriers to introduce third-party APIs into their digital platform, extending the reach and availability of services to end-customers.

The main benefit of a standardised approach is that it makes the entire process more efficient and less tedious. However, technology and use cases are now evolving so quickly that requirements often outpace the scope of an API standards development effort, resulting in a need for forward-thinking carriers to lead the development of extensions.

Ahead of MEF19, November 18-22, in Los Angeles, Calif., its an exciting time to explore how PCCW Global, headquartered in Hong Kong, has created an extension to the MEF 3.0 LSO Sonata API to make it more relevant for fully automated network services.

Great advances have been made by standards bodies such as the MEF - of which PCCW Global is a member - in getting networks operated by different providers to not just talk to each other, but to allow the provisioning of connections across networks quickly and easily.

MEF 3.0 LSO Sonata API standardisation is one of the key initiatives here, being conducted within the context of the MEF 3.0 Global Services Framework and is part of a broader effort to standardise multiple sets of APIs enabling service automation across multiple providers and over multiple network technology domains.

For companies like PCCW Global that are pushing the boundaries even further, some of the most exciting work is being done with the integration of Blockchain as a complementary technology to Software Defined Interconnection® (SDI®). Together these technologies are jointly responsible for the cross-network provisioning of connections and settlement and service assurance. 

PCCW Global is participating in two proofs of concept (PoC) at MEF19. The first showcases MEF 3.0 LSO Sonata automated orchestration of a Layer 2 Ethernet service across three different service provider domains using the Sonata API. The service extends on a live network from the United States to Europe and then to Asia, where it ends in a direct connection to a cloud hosted in Hong Kong.

With Console Connect, PCCW Global already has a fully automated, secured and assured Layer 2 Ethernet service that allows users to provision connectivity via the platform. Enterprises can order a port in any of the 120 on-net data centres worldwide and order a direct connection to cloud service providers of their choice. Using the Console Connect interface, service parameters can be modified on the fly - such as the upgrade of bandwidth. Within one of the proof of concepts all transactions - and this is the exciting bit - are also recorded on a Blockchain.

The Sonata API covers a lot of aspects from ordering to billing, but so far, implementation has mostly been limited to getting a quote and creating an order. However, it has not yet touched upon billing or service assurance.

Blockchain for billing and settlement and service assurance is more complex because now we’re talking automated networks. We can change parameters within the contract itself, which is highly relevant for inter-carrier settlements.

PCCW Global is prototyping the distributed ledger technology (DLT) of the Ethereum blockchain for completely automated billing and settlement between carriers.

For the second PoC showcase at the event, PCCW Global is partnering with a carrier service provider to extend a Layer 2 Ethernet connection from a customer in China to Hong Kong and further using an NNI to connect to the AWS cloud in Singapore.

Here again we utilise the unique Console Connect SDI® capability, with ordering automated using the Sonata API. The ordering transaction itself is recorded on the Corda R3 ledger. Also in this PoC we are using Corda Blockchain technology to record smart contracts between participating carriers and inter-carrier service level parameters are captured in real time compared with typical predefined SLAs. As per the bilateral smart contract, performance rating is set in real-time.

This demonstrates the use of Blockchain in providing a high level of service assurance to end customers, while delivering a fully automated service on a multi-carrier global backbone.

For PCCW Global, which is blazing a trail here, this is different from traditional APIs which were built for semi-manual processes, where a human had to go and get a quote from the downstream provider. With these latest developments, a capacity check is not needed and service can be turned on right away. We need some extensions to the Sonata APIs as they don’t really cater to a fully on-demand product. The original scope was defined over two years ago, so MEF has to catch up with the latest developments in that timeframe.

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