Ethernet inventor looks towards Network as a Service for future data communications

© Flickr/cc-licence/Bob Mical

© Flickr/cc-licence/Bob Mical

The Third Way, so beloved of politicians, is coming to a network near you. Forget your basic internet and carrier Ethernet-based VPNs, what the world really needs is a brand new data network architecture, one that builds on the principles of Network as a Service (NaaS).

And we’re in luck, because the MEF (formerly Metro Ethernet Forum) has just announced its vision of a third network, one that defines lifecycle service orchestration with APIs for existing network, NFV and SDN implementations.

“We are embarking on the next stage of a remarkable journey,” said Bob Metcalfe, Advisory Director of the MEF and inventor of Ethernet networking. “MEF is announcing a new network paradigm, a Third Network vision for agile, assured, and orchestrated Network as a Service that is available worldwide.”

Businesses today are served by two types of data networks: private and virtual private networks (VPNs) based on carrier Ethernet technology, and the basic internet. The former delivers services with assured performance and security, but takes weeks to initiate across network operator domains, whereas the latter delivers on-demand ubiquitous services, but leaves users to deal with security and performance issues.

“Combining the availability and agility of the Internet with the assurance in performance and security of Carrier Ethernet 2.0 will allow us to create a network so flexible and robust that the network itself can be delivered as a customized virtual service,” said Nan Chen, President of the MEF, “opening up unlimited possibilities for new business models and market growth.”

The third network concept aims to deliver dynamic business class network services on demand across multi-carrier networks, initiated by end-users, cloud applications or service providers directly. But it’s not just for enterprises. Individuals who need specific network requirements – such as a gamer who needs high bandwidth and low latency, or a home worker who needs to transfer large files – could sign up for a personalised service. Service providers could also benefit:

“Standardised NaaS APIs will play a critical role in giving network operators the agility needed to deliver dynamic, on-demand services across multi-vendor, multi-technology networks,” said James Feger, VP of Network Strategy and Development at CenturyLink. “We envision these APIs will remove significant operational burdens and enable us to rapidly deliver new and innovative services across multi-operator networks.”

The ‘third network’ vision is based upon NaaS principles and incorporates the MEF’s ongoing technical development work. “In telecom operations, different systems are often in functional silos,” added Metcalfe. “Three major co-operative industry initiatives – NFV, SDN and NaaS with Lifecycle Service Orchestration – are coming together to develop more responsive and adaptable solutions.”

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