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MEF Moves to Set SD-WAN Ground Rules

Carl Weinschenk

One of the most promising and competitive areas of telecom is software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN). The list of startups and product announcements is hard to keep up with.

The idea is simple: Distributed organizations want an efficient, reliable and inexpensive way to traffic voice and data traffic between locations. To date, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and other techniques were used to do this.

SD-WAN could revolutionize this task. SD-WAN is a form of software-defined networking (SDN) that focuses on linking geographically dispersed locations and making them act as if they are one. The SDN and SDN-WAN approach is to largely eschew hardware in favor of software.

SD-WANs use software to create broadband overlays that allow a person at building A to use an extension to call, send data to or otherwise interact with a coworker at building B in another city. Backend processes have this ability as well.


Today, the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) announced that it is moving into the SD-WAN space. More specifically, the organization will “define” SD-WAN using its Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) Reference Architecture and Framework (MEF 55), the press release says.

A comment in the press release attributed to MEF Chief Technology Officer Pascal Menezes suggests that the initiative is aimed at enabling SD-WAN to provide “orchestrated service(s) delivered in a seamless, automated fashion.” In other words, for SD-WAN to fully become a tool in businesses’ tool chest, the elements in the MEF initiative are necessary.

The press release notes three parts to the initiative: Open Connectivity Services (OpenCS), which will develop use cases and business requirements ensuring that application programming interfaces (APIs) supporting SD-WAN LSOs work across providers and vendor lines. The release also mentions a market education project and proof of concept demonstrations that will be held in November in Orlando.

The MEF initiative deals with thorny issues of how a new technology should fit into the network. The questions extend to how it can coexist with existing technologies and what elements of those approaches are ripe for displacement. Another related question is what enterprises should look for in their SD-WAN products.

That question was taken on by Rami Rammaha in a sponsored post at Network World. He suggests that enterprises look deeply into how the SD-WAN will perform over broadband links and get service level agreements; provide the capability to avoid the legacy WAN if possible; have the ability to bring new branches online quickly; be deployed over existing infrastructure and enhance security at the WAN and application layers.

The firm projects that the market will enjoy a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 59.2 percent and will reach almost $9.4 billion worldwide by 2022. The key drivers, according to the firm, are increases in mergers and acquisitions, increasing adoption of cloud and virtualization, and the growth of managed services.

The report suggests very strong growth. During that time, the technical and business issues, as defined by the MEF and Rammaha, will be dealt with. There will also be a tremendous amount of consolidation as startups combine, leave the business, or get acquired by established big vendors trying to buy their way into a promising market.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

 


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