MEF Expands Orchestration Ambitions


By: Michael Vizard

MEF, an organization that coordinates standards for the service-provider and cloud community, today significantly expanded its charter to include a consistent approach to software orchestration of networks across Ethernet, IP, SD-WAN (software-defined wide-area network), and Layer 1 networking services.

The goal is to make it easier for service providers and cloud operators to interoperate with each other and create more automated connections between a variety of networks and cloud services. Previously, MEF had focused its efforts on defining orchestration interfaces for Ethernet services as part of a MEF transformational global services framework. Version 3.0 of the MEF framework announced today effectively extends that initiative to every major class of networking service.

This effort will help define orchestration interfaces that will serve to make service providers more agile at a much faster pace as the lines between how different classes of network services are managed continues to blur, says MEF CTO Pascal Menezes.

“The silos are coming down,” says Menezes.

MEF is in the final phase of the review and approval process for a new specification that defines the attributes of a subscriber Layer 1 service for Ethernet and Fibre Channel client protocols as well as the attributes of SONET and SDH client protocols for legacy WAN services. Nokia, Bell Canada, Cisco, and HFR have contributed to this project.

As a proof point of the viability of the MEF framework, MEF today also revealed that members of the consortium are working on two SD-WAN projects involving usage of the MEF framework to provide a common layer of orchestration. The first project is focused on orchestrating services over multiple SD-WAN deployments that are based on different vendor products. MEF member companies led by Riverbed, VMware/Velocloud, and the Nuage Networks unit of Nokia and Amartus are working on a standard LSO Presto Network Resource Provisioning (NRP) application programming interface (API) to address that issue.

The second SD-WAN project defines the service components, attributes, application-centric QoS, security, and business priority policy requirements. This initiative is led by Riverbed and VMware/Velocloud with major contributions from Fujitsu.

The rise of multiple approaches to delivering virtual network overlays on top of any number of physical underlays is creating a need to unify management and orchestration (MANO) that span multiple service providers, says Menezes.

By publishing the Managed Access E-Line Service Implementation Agreement (MEF 62), which defines a new service with a specific set of management and Class of Service (CoS) capabilities, it could help accelerate service provisioning and to simplify management of services that traverse multiple operators. The MEF 3.0 Managed Access E-Line (MAEL) service is derived from the MEF 3.0 Access E-Line service specified in the MEF 51 specification.

A new MEF 62 specification reduces ordering and provisioning complexities when a service provider requires an Operator Virtual Connection (OVC) service by defining a MAEL service with a simplified set of CoS requirements that are coupled with a simplified set of management requirements for service orchestration and management. AT&T, Bell Canada, Canoga Perkins, Ciena, Cisco, HFR, and Zayo joined Verizon in contributing to MEF 62.

MEF has published the Subscriber IP Service Attributes Technical Specification (MEF 61) as the first in a planned series of MEF 3.0 IP specifications. MEF 61 specifies a standard set of service attributes for describing IP VPNs and Internet access services by introducing IP UNIs and IP UNI Access Links for describing how a subscriber is connected to a service provider in addition to IP Virtual Connections and IP Virtual Connection End Points for describing an IP-VPN or Internet access service spanning those UNIs.

Specific service attributes and corresponding behavioral requirements are defined for each of these entities. Bandwidth Profiles that can be applied to IP services are also described. Albis-Elcon, Ceragon, Ciena, Coriant, Cox, Ericsson, HFR, RAD, TELUS, TIM, Verizon, Zayo, and ZTE joined Cisco in contributing to MEF 61.

The next phases of MEF 3.0 IP work include two new projects focused on operator IP service attributes and IP service definitions.

Collectively, all these specifications should go a long way towards addressing MANO issue that are conspiring to limit adoption of network virtualization and software-defined networks. Service providers are reluctant to get locked into any one implementation. A well-defined set of MANO interfaces provides the interoperability between network services that allows service providers to switch vendor platforms as necessary. Of course, MEF isn’t the only industry body working on MANO specifications. But at the first least, it is showing the way the networking industry as whole needs to move forward.