MEF Works to Define, Connect SD-WAN

July 19, 2017

By Paula Bernier - Executive Editor, TMC

SD-WAN has become a hot area of adoption and industry focus in recent months. As it has heated up, more service providers have jumped into the fray to offer SD-WAN as a managed service.

But while it’s clear that businesses and carriers want to be part of the SD-WAN movement, what exactly constitutes SD-WAN is rather muddy. And the tools for enabling SD-WAN vendors’ orchestrators to easily interface with carriers’ billing and operational support systems are lacking.  

So the MEF (News - Alert) has stepped in to help define SD-WAN and its use cases, and to deliver application programming interfaces that can be used to connect SD-WAN orchestrators to carriers’ modernized BSSs and OSSs (which the MEF refers to as Lifecycle Service Orchestration systems).

MEF published its Lifecycle Service Orchestration Reference Architecture and Framework about a year ago. The LSO framework offers up the Allegro and Cantata interfaces through which carriers can interact with tenants, and the Interlude and Sonata interfaces through which telco systems can interact with one another.

And now the MEF is working to add to that with a family of Presto APIs. Presto APIs will enable connections to be made between SD-WAN vendors’ orchestrators and LSO systems. That will allow carriers to implement policy, collect statistics, and leverage analytics related to SD-WAN offerings. As a result, SD-WAN will be able to more easily scale and otherwise address the needs of carriers as they bring this new service type into their portfolios, MEF CTO Pascal Menezes told me in an interview earlier this week.

The reference code, profile spec, documentation, and other MEF deliverables related to the SD-WAN Presto APIs are expected to be available by the end of this year. Those APIs are intended for use by both SD-WAN vendors and commercial and open source LSO suppliers.

“To meet these demands and remain competitive, service providers are looking to integrate SD-WAN into a portfolio of orchestrated services delivered in a seamless, automated fashion,” Menezes noted. “MEF is uniquely positioned to bring together managed service providers, orchestration experts, and SD-WAN vendors to address this challenge and accelerate SD-WAN managed service deployments on behalf of the enterprises.” 

The MEF’s Open Connectivity Services SD-WAN Project is led by Riverbed and VeloCloud, with contributions from Amartus, Cox, Fujitsu Network Communications, GBI, Huawei, and Nokia (News - Alert)/Nuage. And SD-WAN solutions suppliers Silver Peak (News - Alert) and Versa Networks recently joined the MEF to contribute to the SD-WAN work.

When asked how MEF’s work around SD-WAN differs from work on this front by other industry groups, Menezes said ONUG is more focused on the enterprise SD-WAN space while the TMF is coming at it from a higher layer OSS/BSS angle. He added that the MEF is taking a network as a service layer approach, and is collaborating with the TMF on the information model and east-west API.

At the same time, the MEF is working to define SD-WAN and laying out its use cases. According to the MEF, the five service components of SD-WAN include the edge, the controller, an orchestrator that builds end-to-end service, a subscriber web portal leveraging the Cantata interface, and a gateway to add new customers and locations.

The MEF has also defined the functions that a solution must have to fall into the SD-WAN category, explained Ralph Santitoro, a member of the MEF’s board of directors. That includes being a secure overlay, being independent of the transport network, offering service assurance for each of the SD-WAN connections, being application aware, allowing for different policy on different connections, and leveraging service automation and centralized management.

The new MEF white paper “Understanding SD-WAN Managed Services: Service Components, MEF LSO Reference Architecture, and Use Cases,” offers more detains on SD-WAN functions, service components, and other terminology; explains how SD-WAN components fit into the LSO Reference Architecture; and discusses SD-WAN managed services use cases.

Edited by Alicia Young