The MEF wants to move up the networking stack, and Pascal Menezes is their new man to undertake that.
The industry trade association this week appointed Menezes, former principal at Microsoft Skype for Business, as its first CTO. MEF officials said it’s part of a move to expand the scope of the MEF into Layer 3 IP service definitions and its “Third Network” model of defining virtual services between service providers.
The MEF counts global service providers and suppliers among its members. Its roots are in Layer 2 Ethernet and, specifically, Carrier Ethernet, where it was a pioneer in defining standards such as Ethernet Private Line (EPL), which enabled carriers to create standard services for encrypted Ethernet traffic.
As the MEF looks to grow out of its Ethernet base and into software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), it has focused on its Third Network concept, which aims to deliver service definitions that will make it easier for service providers and cloud providers to provide higher-quality service and interoperability for virtual services. One of the challenges of today’s virtual and cloud services is it’s difficult to guarantee class of service — or consistency — between service providers and cloud providers.
“CE [Carrier Ethernet] 2.0 is still our bread-and-butter,” says Menezes. “But we are looking to take CE 2.0 into a new substrate. The new substrate is SDN and NFV. Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) is very important to that for coordinating the new networks.”
Menezes says he learned a lot from his experience at Skype for Business, where one of the challenges was securing business-class services over the Internet, through a patchwork of service providers and cloud providers. It’s a big challenge to give customers a reliable connection into the cloud.
“I learned a lot at Skype, where [guaranteeing bandwidth] was very difficult. There were many one-offs to the service providers and no SLAs or performance guarantees.”
Menezes says the MEF will be targeting this problem by helping to define the technologies for customer provisioning, enterprise-class services, service level agreements (SLAs), and dynamic resource provisioning — among others — so that bandwidth can scale automatically to handle changes in demand.
One of the first areas of focus of the MEF’s Layer 3 IP project is to create a set of service attributes that can be used to define IP services delivered over a single provider network or over multiple interconnected networks. The MEF says this will enable service providers to tie Layer 3 and Ethernet services into LSO service definitions to create a new crop of dynamic, automated connections that can be sold by service providers.
LSO is an area that SDxCentral detailed in the “Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Market Overview Report.” The report included a joint survey with the MEF, which indicated that service providers want to integrate SDN and NFV with their operations support systems (OSSs) to enable dynamic service provisioning, service assurance, and automation.
The point of all this, says Menezes, is that service providers want to use these new technologies to deliver new services.
“While bandwidth is really good and important, the bottom line is they want new revenue points in addition to bandwidth. They want service velocity.”
One of the markets the MEF will be targeting is virtual private networks (VPNs), which are in the middle of a massive shift as the technology moves from MPLS to software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology. SDxCentral research has estimated this market at $7.5 billion or higher, with emerging technologies such as cloud security, WAN optimization, and virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) at stake.
Our research in the LSO Report found that service providers are frustrated by the antiquated nature of their OSS technologies and the inability to tie operations and provisioning into emerging SDN and NFV technologies.
This syncs with the mission of the MEF, as Menezes describes it: defining a new set of industry standards, service definitions, and interfaces that can deliver dynamic, business-class virtual connections that remain persistent among cloud providers and service providers.
If the MEF can do for LSO and SDN what it did for Carrier Ethernet, it could go a long way to speeding up the markets for virtual services.