Big Interview

MEF Advances SD-WAN Standardisation, raises bar with certification

Nan Chen 1.jpg

MEF published the industry's first global standard defining SD-WAN. Capacity recently caught up with Nan Chen, president, MEF, to discuss what's next.

Q. What role do you see MEF playing when it comes to SD-WAN?

We published the SD-WAN Service Attributes and Services (MEF 70) standard to help accelerate SD-WAN market growth and enable creation of powerful new hybrid networking solutions optimised for digital transformation. MEF’s SD-WAN work is not being done in isolation. Where needed, we’re working with other organisations, including most recently, ONUG, to accelerate the development of standards and related certifications that yield the greatest benefit for industry participants and end users.

The MEF19 event this 18-22 November will bring together all the key players involved in MEF SD-WAN work. We’ll have many SD-WAN-related presentations and panels, along with multiple live MEF 3.0 Proof of Concept demonstrations tied to the SD-WAN topic.  

Q. How does SD-WAN relate to MEF’s role in the broader connectivity services market?

SD-WAN standardisation is taking place within the context of the MEF 3.0 Global Services Framework. It is part of our initiative to define, deliver, and certify a family of dynamic carrier ethernet, optical transport, IP, SD-WAN, and security services orchestrated across automated networks using LSO APIs.

Combining standardised overlay SD-WAN services with dynamic high-speed underlay connectivity services will enable service providers to offer MEF 3.0 hybrid networking solutions with user and application-directed control over network resources.

As Shawn Hakl, a MEF board member and SVP of business products at Verizon, noted, SD-WAN is the way to interface policy with an intelligent software-defined network. Standardisation makes it easier for integration to work across multiple types of underlying transport services. In the end, the combination of standardised and orchestrated overlay and underlay services will provide a better customer experience with improved service capabilities and guaranteed resiliency.

Q. What is in the current SD-WAN standard?

MEF 70 describes requirements for an application-aware, over-the-top WAN connectivity service that uses policies to determine how application flows are directed over multiple underlay networks irrespective of the underlay technologies or service providers who deliver them.

Among other things, the standard defines (1) service attributes that describe the externally visible behavior of an SD-WAN service as experienced by a subscriber, (2) traffic handling rules, and (3) key technical concepts and definitions like an SD-WAN UNI, the SD-WAN edge, SD-WAN tunnel virtual connections, underlay connectivity services, etc.

Q. What is next for SD-WAN standardisation?

MEF already has begun work on the next phase of SD-WAN standardization, MEF 70.1. This work includes defining (1) service attributes for application flow performance and business importance, (2) SD-WAN service topology and connectivity, and (3) underlay connectivity service parameters. MEF also is progressing related standards work focused on (1) application security for SD-WAN services, (2) intent-based networking for SD-WAN, and (3) information and data modeling standards that will accelerate LSO API development for SD-WAN services.

Q. What’s happening with ONUG and why is it important?

In October, MEF and ONUG, which represents Fortune 2000 enterprise, announced we are collaborating to ensure that enterprises are provided with SD-WAN services optimised for digital transformation in the multi-cloud era. MEF will leverage ONUG’s hybrid multi-cloud enterprise end user requirements to accelerate development of MEF 3.0 SD-WAN standards and certifications.

Q. What is the status of MEF’s SD-WAN certification programs?

MEF will soon publicly introduce our new MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Certification program that will enable service and technology providers to validate that their solutions conform to MEF 70. MEF 3.0 SD-WAN certification will be a valuable reference baseline for users choosing a service provider in the inevitable confusion of a fast-growing and relatively new market. Interest in certification is strong, and we already have companies lined up to participate in the pilot.

On the professional front, MEF will be formally introducing a new MEF-SDWAN Professional Certification program that will help organisations overcome skills gaps that can impede successful network and service transformation in the domain of SD-WAN. We expect the MEF-SDWAN Professional Certification exam will be generally available in mid-December 2019.

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