First Carrier Ethernet 2.0, Now NaaS: Is the Third Network Real?

At Metro Ethernet Forum's (MEF) GEN14 event, the forum announced their Third Network vision,  but will the Network-as-a-Service vision work?

Just when the industry was beginning to settle on the debate of what software defined networking (SDN) truly means, or at least starting to coalesce on its meaning, the MEF boldly announced its vision for the future and for its membership under the umbrella term of the Third Network. This is a daring step for the MEF as the vision shifts its core focus of accelerating the adoption of Carrier Ethernet services, to developing the programmatic architecture to support Network-as-a-Service (NaaS), whether that network be Carrier Ethernet based, IP-VPN based or something else.

As I speak with our customers and industry leaders, I hear a lot of different thoughts and opinions regarding SDN, network functions virtualization (NFV) and NaaS. Some say, “forget NFV, we are focusing on SDN.” Others suggest recently launched bandwidth-on-demand features of their network offerings are, in essence, a form of NaaS. Many indicated that NFV is the first priority. Regardless, the shift in the MEF's focus continues to place greater emphasis on software, operations and management of network services beyond straight implementation. The beginnings of this shift can be traced back to the instantiation of the MEF's Service Operations Committee in mid-2013. That summer, I was lucky enough to be part of the inaugural Service Operations Summit, participating on a panel that was hosted by Oracle's Stephan Pelletier, which addressed Ethernet operations from the perspective of the supplier.

Network 2The panel was very well received and since that time the Service Operations Committee has grown significantly in terms of membership and activity at the MEF. It has also proven that once standards are in place and adopted to govern the transit of frames from one location to another, there's still the broader challenge of management. Not only management of the network, but the business processes to order the network service, deliver it, change it and turn it off. The management refers to delivering services to off-net locations and working with one and sometimes two or three intermediary Ethernet operators to deliver a complete end-to-end service.

At the GEN14 proof of concept (POC) showcase, I was excited to continue that momentum in collaboration with Oracle to demonstrate a Carrier Ethernet service using the concepts and constructs of the Third Networks, which enables agile, assured and orchestrated services. We will focus on the assured component, but the purpose of this POC is to articulate with a live demonstration, the pieces that go together to enable service fulfilment using a self-service Web portal. That service is then automatically instantiated, monitored and assured in real time. The service is dynamically orchestrated across multiple operators (a service provider and an access provider), and full performance visibility is provided to internal (communications service providers) and external (customer) stakeholders. Here's a brief summary of what you can expect to see in this POC:

  • Adopting IT-as-a-Service paradigms, using real-life service provider and wholesale partner BSS/OSS environments. The service provider offers agile, near-real-time and commercial-ready Carrier Ethernet NaaS fulfillment capabilities via its customer self-service Web portal, abiding by contemporary business policies and processes.
  • Demonstrating real-time, performance assurance of Carrier Ethernet NaaS, with dynamically synchronized service visualization, including on-demand, service level agreement monitoring and self-service dashboards.
  • Performing dynamic NaaS orchestration, leveraging end-to-end service design and automation across multi-operator and multi-network environments. This is to be implemented with clear abstractions, for agility purposes, between commercial products, technical services and the networks and technologies.

We were very excited to work with Oracle on this POC and to demonstrate the flexibility of the InfoVista solution that exists today. The goal is to support and enable these new concepts and help our customers, when they are ready, to achieve the benefits of the Third Network.

For more details see the white paper co-authored by InfoVista with our MEF member colleagues or  check out my first post in this four-part series, GEN14: Carrier Ethernet Sweeps through Europe & the Fine Art of Service OAM.

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