Are All SD-WANs Created Equal? The Benefits of a MEF-Certified SD-WAN

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Comcast Business just announced that we became one of the first service providers to receive MEF1 3.0 certification for our SD-WAN offering. We’re proud to be one of the first three service providers to earn this credential, and we are committed to SDN technology to help drive next-generation networks for our customers.

The MEF 3.0 SD-WAN certification demonstrates that recognized providers have services and products that conform to the industry-leading SD-WAN Service Attributes and Services (MEF 70) global standard. As many IT decision-makers know, a standard is particularly helpful for buying decisions as they try to sort through the roughly 70 separate SD-WAN options available. Now enterprises have a reference to help and determine if a product or service meets their networking use cases and service resiliency requirements.

The benefits of an SD-WAN certification standard

What does it mean to enterprises currently using and considering adopting SD-WAN that a solution is MEF 3.0 certified? The certification:

  • Provides clarity on the SD-WAN use cases and service customers can expect -- that is, SD-WAN facilitates application-aware, policy-driven, agile networks, that can result in improved application performance

  • Validates the simultaneous use and interoperability of different connectivity options – MPLS, ethernet, broadband internet, cellular, satellite, VPN, etc.

  • Establishes a standard set of core capabilities for SD-WAN to promote a richer marketplace for industry-wide innovation that can help drive differentiated offers, which translates into maximum flexibility for buyers.

What was tested to achieve certification:

This was the first such test in MEF’s certification program, with more testing and certifications in the works. In this round, the emphasis was on testing for features and service assurance:

Application-aware Networking
Certification that SD-WAN can identify traffic based on application and route accordingly.  For example, application-aware routing could enable an enterprise to have video conferencing data packets prioritized, while holding back on (throttling) transmissions of data for streaming video or social media applications. In short, critical apps can get priority over the most optimal path and application performance improves.

Policy-Driven
Network admins can configure in advance, as well as dynamically, more specifically than just on an app basis, what traffic is prioritized and directed, and also dynamically determine more specifically how traffic should be prioritized, directed, etc. Why does it matter: network management is automated and simplified.

Multiple Underlay and Interoperability Options
While the test case was based on Layer 2 (ethernet) transport, a certified SD-WAN allows customers to pick multiple underlays. Comcast Business allows users to select up to four underlays -- ethernet, broadband, MPLS or 4G cellular. And our SD-WAN solution is an over the top solution, meaning connectivity is provider agnostic. You can keep your MPLS from another carrier and add Comcast connectivity if you wish.

Billable vs. Non-billable Traffic
The certification tests an SD-WAN’s ability to separate billable vs. non-billable traffic. While Comcast Business SD-WAN passes this test, our customers don’t have to worry about this distinction because our SD-WAN service is billed as a low, monthly rate, no matter the usage from month to month.

Additional testing and certification performed in this round also covered firewall testing (IP addresses, ports, protocols), VLAN tagging, bandwidth shaping testing, etc. and we will cover those topics in a subsequent blog post.

It's also worth noting the security implications of these features. In aggregate, they allow network admins and IT decision-makers to mitigate potential issues by tailoring the types of traffic shared on public vs private networks, and the route any sensitive information might take.  Policy-driven package routing can help block or drop suspicious packages. With visibility into the network from a single pane of glass, it's far easier to be appraised of unusual traffic and take action, either automatically or in reaction to alerts.

The road ahead for SD-WAN standards - MEF 70.1
We know certification provides current and potential customers with peace of mind and simplifies their buying decisions in a noisy marketplace. We are looking forward to participating in future tests as MEF evolves its standardization testing to cover other SD-WAN parameters, referred to as 70.1. The next level of testing is expected to look at the service attributes for application flow, performance and business-importance standardization, as well as security-specific test cases. We're excited to see how this helps speed our customer's transition from legacy infrastructure to next-generation SD-WAN networks like Comcast Business’s ActiveCore™ platform.

Learn more about what a MEF-certified SD-WAN can do for your business.



[1] MEF (Metro Ethernet Forum) is an international nonprofit association dedicated to establishing standards for the adoption of assured and orchestrated connectivity services and includes more than 200 members, the leading SD-WAN providers among them.

Learn the benefits of an SD-WAN certification standard for enterprises.

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