The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) is holding its annual conference this week in Los Angeles and the focus is abundantly clear. SD-WAN, the emerging enterprise connectivity application standard, is all the rage here and MEF leadership outlined the organization’s intention to do for SD-WAN what MEF did for carrier ethernet.

That is, contribute to a global SD-WAN standardization process that eventually hopes to enable inter-carrier federation of SD-WAN service. The outcome of that goal would look like an enterprise customer being able to order, manage, and be singularly billed for an SD-WAN service that touches multiple carriers’ networks, using multiple vendors’ equipment, across multiple geographies.

It’s a significant challenge. As MEF 19 keynote speaker Bob Victor, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Comcast Business pointed out, enterprises are faced with a “Baskin-Robbins” marketplace, or well over 31 ‘flavors’ of SD-WAN solutions available to them. MEF led certification can help those enterprise customers choose solutions that have been certified, much the same way they do today with carrier ethernet solutions.

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To that end, MEF announced a few SD-WAN certification programs focused on the technology, equipment, and staff levels. “MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Certification enables service and technology providers to validate that their SD-WAN services and products conform to the recently published SD-WAN Service Attributes and Services (MEF 70) standard,” according to a press release announcing the MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Certification program.

Additionally, MEF will certify SD-WAN professional staff through its SD-WAN Certified Professional (MEF-SDCP) Program.

“Today’s SD-WAN market shares similarities to the early days of the $85+ billion Carrier Ethernet market before standardization and services, technology, and professional certification took hold,” said Kevin Vachon, Chief Operating Officer, MEF in a prepared statement. “Having skilled professionals who are well-versed in the emerging common language for SD-WAN will be key to enabling ecosystem stakeholders to capitalize on market opportunities.”

MEF has about 200 member companies, both service providers and vendors, who contribute to standards that focus on revenue generating services and applications for service providers.

SD-WAN Momentum
SD-WAN has seen tremendous momentum in the telecom marketplace, even moving down the value chain from just enterprise to smaller more medium sized businesses. The service is an alternative to more expensive MPLS type connections, providing better traffic management and prioritization, and potentially better security. Carriers are embracing the trend, although it can be painful for legacy carriers who may lose more lucrative MPLS circuits as a result.

Based on discussions going on at MEF this week, this momentum may accelerate. The next phase is to broaden the ecosystem to include the entire ICT ecosystem, which includes cloud provides like Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure. As more computing and applications move to the edge, SD-WAN is seen as a critical component of this shift.

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