MEF targets multivendor interoperability for network services

Vendors participating in MEF's SD-WAN implementation project aim to develop better multivendor interoperability that can lend itself to improved automation.

MEF this week touted its progress in multivendor interoperability by announcing its active software-defined WAN implementation project. Three SD-WAN vendors -- Riverbed Technology, Nuage Networks from Nokia and VMware's VeloCloud -- are leading the MEF project, focusing on multivendor SD-WAN use cases. Software development services provider Amartus is also participating with the SD-WAN vendors.

MEF -- a Los Angeles-based association, with more than 200 members -- launched its multivendor SD-WAN implementation project last year in an attempt to standardize services across multiple providers and technologies. But multivendor interoperability has numerous aspects, according to Joe Ruffles, global standards architect at Riverbed, based in San Francisco, and co-leader of the SD-WAN implementation project. Companies merge; they need to partner with somebody to increase geographic reach, or they want basic interoperability and service chaining, he said.

The implementation project allows member vendors to get their hands dirty, while actively testing and proving out proposed SD-WAN interoperability issues, Ruffles said. Each vendor uses MEF's cloud-based dev-test platform, MEFnet, to develop its respective SD-WAN technology. They then interconnect and orchestrate those SD-WAN implementations using MEF's Presto API, which is part of MEF's Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) framework.

The Presto API communicates with orchestration and management to help service providers manage multiple SD-WAN implementations with a single orchestrator. Additionally, it helps create better multivendor interoperability among SD-WAN controllers and edge devices, according to Ralph Santitoro, head of SDN, network functions virtualization and SD-WAN at Fujitsu and MEF distinguished fellow.

"Member companies can get together and connect their appliances or run software in the environment and actually do things," Santitoro said. "They can actually prove out different topics or items that are important to them or the industry."

Other MEF members can build from the existing SD-WAN implementation project or suggest additional projects and issues, Ruffles said. "It's not so much a phase as it is continuous, depending on who has an issue and who's available to work on it," he added.

Standardized specs lead to better automation processes

The SD-WAN implementation project work benefits more than its current participants, according to Santitoro. By "playing in the sandbox," members can feed the knowledge learned from the testing environment into MEF's work on SD-WAN specifications. For example, participants can more accurately define SD-WAN requirements, capabilities, architecture and what's needed for multivendor interoperability.

"We learn by hand what has to be done, and then we use that information to make changes or additions to the API," Ruffles said.

In addition to the SD-WAN specs, MEF this week published specs for retail and wholesale Ethernet services, subscriber and operator Layer 1 services, and IP services. These services -- especially IP services -- have historically been defined in various ways, Santitoro said, which can impede automation. To combat the discrepancies, MEF is defining the fundamentals of IP services and their attributes, which will then help define and build broader services.

"We'll create things like the VPN [virtual private network] service, internet access service, private cloud access service and operator wholesale services -- particularly the IP-VPN case," said David Ball, MEF's services committee co-chair and editor of the MEF IP services project.

These definitions and specs will then be fed into MEF's LSO architecture to help establish a standard vocabulary, so SD-WAN buyers and sellers understand what they need or get with particular services, Santitoro said. Further, defining services and their requirements helps create standardized processes for orchestration and automation, he added.

"Automation is really about consistency and being able to create a model of a service, so services are deployed, designed and implemented in a similar fashion," he said.

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