Touting Azure for Operators, Microsoft Joins SDN Standards Group

As part of its Azure for Operators program, Microsoft this week joined a nonprofit standards association that focuses on software-defined networking (SDN) technologies used by enterprises and service providers.

MEF, which counts 200 companies as its members, in turn appointed Shawn Hakl, a Microsoft partner executive on 5G strategy, as an MEF advisory director. MEF's board heavily represents telco and Internet service providers, such as AT&T, Comcast, Ericsson, Orange and Verizon.

"Microsoft's decision to join MEF aligns with key goals of our Microsoft Azure for Operators initiative to bring the power of the cloud to the network, unlock the potential of 5G, and drive down costs and create new services and business models," Hakl said in a released statement.

Hakl formerly served as a senior vice president for business products at Verizon with a focus on edge computing and 5G services before joining Microsoft in March.

Microsoft's MEF membership follows its somewhat recent moves into the carrier and service provider markets, offering edge computing and SDN technologies to telcos. For instance, its Azure datacenter compute and storage capabilities were recently touted as a "carrier-grade platform."

To that end, Microsoft this year acquired Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch Networks. Both companies specialized in SDN support for carriers, especially as they upgrade mobile networks and add 5G wireless services.

The MEF is currently focused on nine projects covering software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) and secure access service edge (SASE) efforts. It has efforts on developing specs for SD-WAN service attributes, application security, performance monitoring and testing, as well as "universal" edge networking aspects, for instance.

There's also a project on standardizing SASE services and attributes. MEF's Lifecycle Service Orchestration framework aims to accelerate automation between service provider networks and enterprise networks via standardization.

MEF lays claim to having published "the industry's first global standard defining an SD-WAN service and its service attributes" back in July 2019, according to an "MEF 3.0 SD-WAN Services" FAQ document. The combination of SD-WAN use with standardization will make it easier for " a wide range of ecosystem stakeholders to use the same terminology when buying, selling, assessing, deploying, and delivering SD-WAN services," the FAQ contended.

Microsoft is expected to contribute specifically to the "MEF 3.0 SD-WAN and SASE standards," per MEF's announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.