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The Road to MEF17 with PCCW Global

Catching-up on Innovation, Collaboration, and the Road Ahead with PCCW Global’s Shahar Steiff

MEF17 shahar 20171107

1. What are the key service features and capabilities that your customers are asking for, and how are their needs changing (in today’s era of digital transformation)?

Increasingly, our customers are seeking managed solutions that can be delivered quickly. Those solutions should also be able to be modified rapidly to suit their changing business needs, as and when required. In addition, our customers want to make use of a wide selection of cloud-based applications without suffering from performance deterioration related to inadequate computational, connectivity or storage availability and resources.

2. MEF is creating a framework for defining, delivering, and certifying dynamic communications services that are orchestrated across a global ecosystem of automated, virtualized, and interconnected networks. How important is this work for the industry and for your business?

We view this initiative by MEF as forward-looking and filling a crucial void in the orchestration development arena.

While the vast majority of orchestration and automation projects in the industry are focused on a single domain, the services of today, as well as the services of tomorrow, will increasingly be delivered on interconnected networks.

An automated ecosystem that crosses domain boundaries is ground-breaking and addresses a requirement that has only been handled manually to date.

3. What are some examples of innovative services your company has recently introduced or plans to introduce that leverage new NFV, SDN, and/or LSO (Lifecycle Service Orchestration) technologies?

PCCW Global has initiated several projects that enable customers to make use of online portals to order and manage connectivity and cloud services.

SDN and NFV are underlying technologies that enable the automation of services that were previously only delivered manually. LSO represents an orchestration framework that enables multiple partners to collaborate for the delivery of services in the multi-domain environment we all live in.

Examples are:

Restoration on Demand - a platform that allows customers to use a web portal to order connectivity services on-demand. This feature is extremely useful during catastrophic situations, such as major cable cuts, when our service centres may be hard to reach due to high workloads. With Restoration on Demand, our customers are able to restore their own services without having to call an engineer. Furthermore, services can be restored within minutes, which reduces the negative impact of an outage on the customer.

Our Quick-Quote platform - allows customers to obtain quotes for connectivity services quickly through a web portal or an API. This platform has been on-boarded with on-line repositories available in the industry and has resulted in a significant increase in response times.


4. What do you see for the future of SD-WAN?

Contrary to current hype, we view SD-WAN as an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, development.

SD-WAN’s main feature is Application-Awareness. It does not offer true management, so it is not really able to solve performance issues - but rather postpones the need to solve them to a later phase.

5. How important to your company is MEF-led work in standardizing LSO APIs for orchestrating services across multiple providers and multiple technologies?

In our view, the real value of an API is the consistency of the data models and processes on both sides of it.

If the data models are identical and the processes are aligned, then the API just about “writes itself”. Under these assumptions, the list of attributes defining the services is derived from the data model, and thus the API is reduced to the technicality of sending and receiving this information between two systems or entities.

When the data models differ and the processes are not aligned, the adaptation of one system’s API to another system’s API is accompanied by the tedious tasks of tailoring gateways and bridging information gaps which is typically referred to as “on-boarding”.

Standardisation can reduce the hassle of on-boarding to a minimum, as well as significantly reducing maintenance requirements. Having said that, our view is that the MEF should focus on the standardisation of models and processes, rather than producing reference implementations of APIs. Those reference implementations may be good proofs of concepts, but have limited use or benefit to the industry at large.


6. What is the biggest challenge you see for the industry as it moves to a more open, software-defined architecture with programmable networks?

Obtaining acceptance of standards is certainly a challenge. Since the industry is fragmented and has multiple players trying to pull it in different, sometimes opposite directions, it is difficult to develop standards that can realise this goal.

We view the role of SDOs, like the MEF, as leading the way and providing specs that the open-source community and SIs can develop upon. Developing open source without a spec typically yields proprietary solutions that further divide the industry into islands that fail to communicate with each other.

For us “software defined” means “programmable by a computer” - rather than configured manually. That does not mean the architecture is defined by software.

It is realised using computer programs that analyse customer requirements, identify availability of resources, design possible ways to implement the requirements and send configuration commands to white labeled or legacy network gear.


7. How would you say MEF’s work has impacted service providers and the industry as a whole?

MEF is associated with consistent and solid specs, as well as a respected certification program.

When a piece of equipment or a service is MEF-certified, one can be assured it will perform to specs. This guarantee is the key differentiator for the MEF when compared to other standards bodies and software projects. It portrays the MEF as a reliable and trustworthy organisation.

The introduction of the LSO reference architecture is driving the telecoms world towards the realisation of a federated multi-domain orchestration environment and as the industry’s reference to East-West inter-domain operations.


8. In your opinion, what is the key to the continued success of MEF and its work?

Continue doing the right things and produce solid, certifiable, specs - while avoiding distractions of short-lived hypes and buzz-words.

Expand the portfolio from Ethernet to layers 1, 2 and 3. Add support for nodal services such as security, storage and computational processing. Embrace cloud-computing and mobile as complementary, rather than competing technologies.

Become the industry leaders in East-West operations standardisation.

9. What are you most looking forward to in regards to MEF17?

MEF17 represents one of the leading annual industry events. We are looking forward to the PoC demonstrations, hearing from the experts and participating in debates.

PCCW Global is a Platinum Sponsor of MEF17 taking place 13-16 November 2017 in Orlando, Florida, USA. With a Key Note Address by CEO Marc Halbfinger and panel discussions with key team members, don’t miss PCCW Global’s showcase of life On-Demand Orchestration of Multi-Domain Services in the Networking Lounge, Booth 207 during the event.

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