MEF proposes «third network» for virtualization

Metaratings
23 Sep 2014
00:00
Article

ITEM: The Metro Ethernet Forum is getting into the network virtualization game with a new “network as a service (NaaS)” initiative that will complement – or possibly challenge – efforts to develop SDN and NFV by putting a focus on connectivity services.

Billed as “a Third Network vision for Agile, Assured, and Orchestrated Network as a Service worldwide”, the initiative promises to bridge the gap between VPNs based on CE 2.0 (which provide assured performance and security, but take anywhere from days to months to set up across multiple service provider environments) and the public Internet (which is essentially the opposite).

That gap needs bridging partly because demands for service assurance are growing to the point where best effort will no longer cut the mustard, and also because rising demand for cloud services – and soon, the Internet of Things – will put service providers under even greater pressure to deliver on guaranteed connectivity performance.

The MEF wants to take the best of both worlds and enhance them with end-to-end lifecycle service orchestration, said MEF president Nan Chen in a statement released Tuesday:

“Combining the availability and agility of the Internet with the assurance in performance and security of CE 2.0 will allow us to create a network so flexible and robust that the network itself can be delivered as a customized virtual service – opening up unlimited possibilities for new business models and market growth.”NFV allows us to use general purpose VMs instead of vendor specific network elements, for every network function. SDN is moving control functions in network elements into central controllers. Both NFV and SDN, while providing fundamental building blocks for the THIRD Network, are concerned with network element functions and control – but not the connectivity services businesses or individuals actually purchase.”Service Orchestration manages the entire lifecycle of connectivity services: Fulfillment, Control, Performance, Assurance, Usage, and Analytics. It holds detailed service inventory of all services in a layer or domain, providing the necessary APIs for information exchange between service providers and internal systems operating at other layers.

According to Chen, the way to achieve that is via “layered abstraction” that decouples the hardware from operating systems and application. By “using Network as a Services (NaaS) principles, we can develop a layered approach for telecoms operations, to break down complex problems, domain by domain, layer by layer.”

Which, as it happens, is what the IT and telecoms sectors are already trying to achieve with network virtualization technologies like SDN and NFV. But while those technologies are a step in the right direction, they’re not enough in themselves, Chen said in a paper accompanying the announcement:

“Combining the availability and agility of the Internet with the assurance in performance and security of CE 2.0 will allow us to create a network so flexible and robust that the network itself can be delivered as a customized virtual service – opening up unlimited possibilities for new business models and market growth.”NFV allows us to use general purpose VMs instead of vendor specific network elements, for every network function. SDN is moving control functions in network elements into central controllers. Both NFV and SDN, while providing fundamental building blocks for the THIRD Network, are concerned with network element functions and control – but not the connectivity services businesses or individuals actually purchase.”Service Orchestration manages the entire lifecycle of connectivity services: Fulfillment, Control, Performance, Assurance, Usage, and Analytics. It holds detailed service inventory of all services in a layer or domain, providing the necessary APIs for information exchange between service providers and internal systems operating at other layers.

That’s where the MEF’s Standardized Service Orchestration comes in, Chan writes:

“Combining the availability and agility of the Internet with the assurance in performance and security of CE 2.0 will allow us to create a network so flexible and robust that the network itself can be delivered as a customized virtual service – opening up unlimited possibilities for new business models and market growth.”NFV allows us to use general purpose VMs instead of vendor specific network elements, for every network function. SDN is moving control functions in network elements into central controllers. Both NFV and SDN, while providing fundamental building blocks for the THIRD Network, are concerned with network element functions and control – but not the connectivity services businesses or individuals actually purchase.”Service Orchestration manages the entire lifecycle of connectivity services: Fulfillment, Control, Performance, Assurance, Usage, and Analytics. It holds detailed service inventory of all services in a layer or domain, providing the necessary APIs for information exchange between service providers and internal systems operating at other layers.

That service orchestration is where the MEF is focusing its initial efforts. Work to date includes:

  • Defining Service Orchestration lifecycle elements
  • Extending information models to be dynamic and protocol independent
  • Developing open-standards-based APIs where needed.

All of this is building on CE 2.0 as the services platform.

The focus on service orchestration and NaaS has been characterized in some circles as a potential challenge to OpenFlow and groups like OpenDaylight.

However, the MEF is placing an emphasis on collaboration, not competition, to achieve its “Third Network” vision – and to that end has established an “expanded collaboration program” called “Unite”, involving "key industry standards development bodies".

So there you go.

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