How can operators automate (and guarantee) services they don’t control end to end? This is a serious question as they move towards fully software-defined networks and look to offer enterprise services. To serve those customers operating in multiple countries, operators likely will need partners to provide at least portions of the services.
As part of a continuing TM Forum Catalyst proof of concept, TM Forum and MEF are working together to automate the lifecycle of services such as carrier Ethernet and software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). They are showing how the services can be ordered through a portal and then automatically activated across hybrid networks made up of virtualized and physical components. The work is key to demonstrating how the Forum’s application program interfaces (Open APIs) can be adapted and used at various layers in a communications service provider’s (CSPs) environment, from customer and service management to resource and technology management.
Ordering is the first step
The first phase of the Partnering platform for MEF services Catalyst, which was demonstrated at TM Forum Live! 2017 in May, extended the Forum’s Open APIs to enable ordering of carrier Ethernet services according to MEF’s definitions. During the demonstration, DGIT’s Telflow system was used to create a self-service ordering portal for customers. Orders were then fulfilled automatically using the MEF Sonata interface (see below). Inomial’s Smile cloud BSS was used to automate billing.
Now the team is adding network activation of carrier Ethernet services across partners’ boundaries using extensions of the Open APIs and the Forum’s Hybrid Infrastructure Platform (HIP). This is being demonstrated here in Dallas this week. For the TM Forum Live! Asia event in Singapore in December, the team plans to add a catalog feature for ordering partners’ services, and they plan to demonstrate network activation of SD-WAN services at TM Forum Live! 2018 in Nice in May. MEF, Orange, Telstra and Vodafone are championing the Catalyst.
Collaboration is required
MEF and TM Forum have been working together extensively on MEF’s LSO (Lifecycle Service Orchestration) Sonata, which defines the reference point supporting management and operational interactions between CSPs and their partners for processes such as ordering, provisioning, service assurance and billing.
“Our members at MEF need to extend their footprint as service providers to cover every point on the globe,” Daniel Bar-Lev, Director, Office of the CTO, MEF, explains in the video below. “LSO is part of their work to enable automation because they need to interconnect with their partners at the physical infrastructure level but also at the operational level.”
To do this, MEF extended TM Forum’s Order API Version 2 to enable ordering of carrier Ethernet services according to MEF definitions. MEF collaborated with TM Forum to provide a set of J-SON schema extensions to make the Sonata interface specific for MEF service ordering. This was demonstrated in Nice and won the award for Outstanding Open Architecture and API Design. Orange has been working with MEF to refine the Sonata API, and the latest version is being implemented in the Catalyst.
Hybrid Infrastructure Platform
To advance the Catalyst, network vendors Ciena and Riverbed Technology have joined as participants. The goal is two-fold:
- showing how to rapidly construct a new product offering based on a new network service and within minutes be able to sell that offering; and
- coordination of fulfillment with partner CSPs to deliver end-to-end services for an enterprise customer.
In addition to extending the Forum’s Order API, MEF is extending others, such as the Resource Function Activation and Configuration API, and the team is using the Forum’s HIP architecture for activation in partners’ networks.
“We’re presenting an abstraction layer, so we don’t integrate directly with Ciena Blue Planet for carrier Ethernet activation,” explains Greg Tilton, Founder, Chairman and CTO, DGIT. “The abstraction layer presents the network services in a technology- and vendor-agnostic way and uses TM Forum APIs to represent the services.”
The graphics below show how the Catalyst works. The first illustrates the steps involved, while the second depicts the component architecture and use of HIP.
“The HIP model aligns with our vision of abstraction of the network into a domain structure, and our vision of a NaaS (networks as a service) layer customized for Telstra’s requirements,” says Simon Delord, Principal Architect, Telstra. “We are experimenting with enhancing the model to address our unique environment and operational automation requirements.”
He adds that the company is working closely with Ciena and other suppliers to establish a domain framework and APIs similar to the Catalyst’s standards-based approach.
During the demonstration here in Dallas, Ciena is participating to show automated Layer 2 provisioning of a carrier Ethernet service. An added feature in Nice and perhaps in Singapore will be that the OSS/BSS layer will be able to consult a catalog of network services and then automatically activate and manage any that are available in the catalog, according to Tilton. The goal for Singapore is to make an Ethernet service available in the catalog, however the team may need more time to finish the work. The plan is to add Ethernet and SD-WAN to the catalog. Riverbed Technology, which is working with MEF to define SD-WAN service specifications, will join the project in Nice to demonstrate automated Layer 3 service activation.
“All the SD-WAN service definitions available today were invented by individual organizations, and that’s not what we’re about here,” Tilton says. “If industry is all going to work together, we need standardization not only of APIs but also of the service specifications. MEF has done well defining standards for carrier Ethernet. Now they’re trying to move up the layers [of the OSI model]and do that for SD-WAN.”