SD-WAN originally emerged to address the complexity of the WAN, but it has evolved into the preferred Wide Area Network (WAN) technology to securely interconnect users and applications. While SD-WAN is generally acknowledged as the on-ramp to the cloud, it has been an on-ramp without traffic signs or ramp metering lights.
In the first wave of SD-WAN adoption, enterprises took responsibility for designing, deploying and operating their SD-WAN networks. Since 2019, SD-WAN managed services have emerged as the predominant deployment model, superseding the Do It Yourself (DIY) approach, while enterprises continue to migrate applications and data from the data center to the cloud.
Widespread concern over a lack of multi-vendor interoperability for the industry has been one of the unintended consequences of SD-WAN’s broad adoption. Many SD-WAN vendors simply re-labelled their products ‘SD-WAN’ (so called ‘SD-WAN Washing’), which meant, in practice, that anything goes. That said, TechTarget sees this moment in time, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a growth opportunity for channel partners with SD-WAN. As dozens of vendors and managed services emerged on the market for SD-WAN, making a host of claims about their products and services, member organizations turned to MEF to instill order.
MEF introduced the SD-WAN standards portfolio that aligns with Carrier Ethernet standards. MEF SD-WAN was developed in accordance with the MEF 3.0 framework based on four pillars of: Services, Lifecycle Service Orchestration APIs, Community, and Certification. The framework encompasses dynamic Carrier Ethernet, Optical Transport, IP, Security-as-a-Service, and other virtualized services including SD-WAN.
One of the industry’s primary challenges was the lack of a common definition for SD-WAN. Drawing from its strong service provider heritage — roughly two-thirds of MEF members are operators — MEF formed the SD-WAN program in 2018. Large operators were looking to satisfy the needs of their enterprise customers in a multi-vendor environment. This was a core requirement, considering the complex technology mix in organizations, typical in large enterprises, where many service provider and vendor relationships are already in place and not likely to be displaced.
In May of 2019, MEF announced that the SD-WAN Service Standard was publicly available (MEF 70). This enabled service providers and technology providers to leverage a common set of core capabilities and focus on adding value through differentiated offerings.
One of the primary challenges MEF sought to resolve with the SD-WAN standard was the lack of a common definition on what SD-WAN represents.
The advent of MEF’s SD-WAN Certification
In November 2019, MEF introduced the SD-WAN Certification Program, which enabled SD-WAN managed service providers (MSPs) along with SD-WAN product vendors to certify conformance with the MEF 70 standard. MEF selected Spirent as their exclusive Authorized Certification and Test Partner (ACTP) to co-develop and perform the certification testing as part of Spirent’s broader Certification as a Service (CaaS) offerings.
The MEF SD-WAN Certification Program addresses the SD-WAN overlay, but not WAN underlay connectivity services. The MEF SD-WAN Certification Test Requirements standard (MEF 90) addresses the following test areas:
IP Routing and addressing: The MEF SD-WAN service is built on a routed (Layer 3) network
Application Flows: High-level connections over the SD-WAN overlay
Policy: Governs how flows are directed based on application characteristics
MEF grants two distinct certifications:
MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Certified Technology Suppliers: MEF’s certified vendors in this category include VMware, Versa Networks, Fortinet and Nuage Networks from Nokia.
MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Certified Service Providers: Representing a worldwide community of well over 750 million subscribers, MEF’s certified MSPs in this category include AT&T, Verizon, Telia, PCCW Global, Comcast Business, Spectrum Enterprise, Windstream and Vodacom.
Over time, standardization and certification have the potential to transform SD-WAN while keeping pace with constant innovation. Standardization instills order, normalizes compatibility across vendors and operators and helps the industry make much-needed strides towards universal multi-vendor interoperability. MEF certification is the industry’s seal of confidence that enterprise customers, and the industry at large, are relying on in growing numbers.
Benefits of MEF’s SD-WAN Service Certification program include:
Ensuring conformant managed services and products that end-users can be confident provide a standard set of SD-WAN core capabilities
Enabling MSPs and vendors to differentiate their offerings in an increasingly competitive landscape
Providing confidence to launch based on a neutral, unbiased test expert, and published testing standards
Reducing market confusion to streamline training and staffing costs; MEF also offers an SD-WAN professional certification program for a more rigorous training
Reducing opportunity costs to instead of re-inventing the wheel, MSPs and vendors can innovate on top of the standardized core capabilities to enhance their value delivery
Spirent’s Exclusive Role in SD-WAN Certifications
Leveraging extensive experience contributing to standards bodies, Spirent collaborates with the MEF Test and Certification Committee to develop the SD-WAN Certification Test Requirements standard as well as standards for emerging projects. Spirent has emerged as a neutral, SD-WAN exclusive authority for testing and certification throughout the MEF community.
Spirent’s Certification as a Service (CaaS) solution provides neutral validation and industry-recognized certification with standards bodies such as MEF, 3GPP and OPNFV. Spirent collaborates with the standards bodies employing our state-of-the-art Lab as a Service (LaaS) and Test as a Service (TaaS) capabilities – from Lab to Live – to deliver trusted and industry-recognized certifications. We leverage our experience working with the most important network vendors, CSPs, and MSPs, delivering broad SD-WAN testing, validation, and assurance capabilities. Our methodology spans the entire lifecycle, while traversing the stack from the Underlay (Infrastructure) through the Virtualization and Service layers, to the Overlay (Application layer).
Beyond SD-WAN validation requirements, when customers don’t have the expertise, time or resources to perform testing and assurance functions internally, Spirent offers a suite of managed solutions to perform testing and assurance functions as a service. The Spirent Test as a Service solution combines test agility and mature DevOps efficiencies. Spirent’s MEF Certification as a Service for SD-WAN is a subset of TaaS solution offerings.