The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) has announced a new THIRD Network vision that is based on Network as a Service (NaaS) principles and builds on the Carrier Ethernet (CE) 2.0.
According to the communications industry alliance that is the defining body for CE, businesses today are served by two types of modern data networks. The first is virtual private networks based on CE 2.0. While such networks deliver services with assured performance and security, it takes a long time to initiate it across multiple provider environments. The second is the Internet, which delivers on-demand, ubiquitous services but leaves security and performance issues in the hands of users.
Since consumers and businesses are increasingly consuming services and content online, there is a need to combine the strengths of both networks. The THIRD Network thus hopes to deliver "the availability and agility of the Internet with the assurance in performance and security of CE 2.0," said Nan Chen, president of the MEF, at a recent briefing in Hong Kong.
He added that given the flexibility and robustness of the network, the THIRD Network could possibly be delivered as a customised virtual service (ie. NaaS). For instance, businesses could use it for video conferences to ensure that the video and audio quality is stable throughout the session. Gamers could leverage to it when playing games that require low latency and high bandwidth too.
Layered abstraction to wide area network (WAN) is key for the enablement of the THIRD Network. "Silos and the lack of layered abstraction will impede the speed [and availability] of the THIRD Network," said Nan Chen.
Although network functions virtualisation (NFV) and software-defined networks (SDN) are now coming together to enable layered abstraction, it is not enough. NFV allows general purpose for virtual machines for every network function while SDN is moving control functions into central controllers. However, neither directly addresses the connectivity services that businesses or individuals actually purchase. This is where MEF can provide a vital part of dynamic delivery and management of the THIRD Network. MEF's current efforts in this aspect include defining lifecycle service orchestration elements, extending information models and service attributes to be dynamic and protocol independent, as well as developing open-standards based APIs.
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