How MEF is driving global connectivity

This industry consortium — which includes the who’s who of data networking — is the driving force behind a framework for connectivity across carriers and geographies. Here’s why we need MEF, where we’re heading next and how membership gives you a seat at the table.

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The IT industry — and telecom in particular — loves acronyms: SDWAN, LAN, IP,  CLEC, MPLS, VoIP, UCaaS, SIP. The list evolves as fast as the technology.

But MEF isn’t just another acronym. In fact, it’s no longer an acronym at all. It’s an industry consortium dedicated to seamless global networking. It’s the driving force behind a global services framework for communications services, allowing connectivity to work across carriers — and therefore across geographies.

MEF (previously known as the Metro Ethernet Forum) was originally dedicated to the adoption of carrier-class Ethernet, but our work is now much broader in scope. MEF shouldn’t be mistaken for a standards body such as the IEEE, which has a governing body and creates baseline industry standards. MEF is different.

In 2014 I decided to get involved with MEF because I saw an opportunity that was less about technology and all about the business need for seamless global connections. MEF had already standardized the technical aspects of carrier interconnections. Allstream was interconnected through a dozen international carriers, using MEF specifications, but each interconnection had its own commercial and operational uniqueness.

If this was going to scale, our industry needed to get aligned on commercial and operational aspects — not just technical ones. It was clear to me that MEF was the forum to drive this.

Why MEF exists

As the chair of MEF’s board of directors, I’m proud of what our industry and MEF’s members have accomplished in realizing agile, orchestrated and assured global networking.

MEF was created in 2001 by an industry that had a problem to solve — not because it was mandated to exist. Our 200-plus members — which include the who’s who of data networking — through MEF have turned carrier-class Ethernet into an $80 billion global technology solution.

Before MEF, each carrier had to hash out an integration with other carriers to extend connectivity into new markets. MEF provides the standardization, certification, training and commercial framework to make it easier for carriers to deliver connectivity anywhere.

Getting involved was driven by our customers, so we could provide them with solutions that allow them to thrive and grow and simplify their business communications.

MEF is driven by industry and works on member-identified priorities. We are proud to be the first to publish vendor-neutral specifications for intercarrier SD-WAN. If you want to work across multiple carriers, MEF explains how to do that.

How MEF has evolved

MEF first came out with CE (Carrier Ethernet) 1.0 for standardized carrier-class Ethernet services over interconnected provider networks. This was followed by CE 2.0 in 2012, the next-gen evolution of the standard allowing for multiple classes of services (Multi-CoS) and manageability over those networks.

In 2017, MEF announced MEF 3.0, a global services framework for the automated delivery of standardized carrier-class Ethernet, optical transport, IP, SD-WAN, Security-as-a-Service and other Layer 4-7 services across multiple provider networks. MEF 3.0 services will be delivered over automated, virtualized and interconnected networks powered by LSO, SDN and NFV.

The MEF 3.0 framework has four components: technical specifications, certification, software APIs and industry collaboration. We continue to sponsor initiatives that help our member community navigate the adoption of the MEF 3.0 framework. It’s not our goal to reinvent the wheel but to enable our industry to more effectively use the many wheels we have at our disposal.

What’s next

If you’re in the communications industry, whether a carrier, equipment supplier, software vendor or cloud provider, MEF gives you a seat at the table. It’s emerged as a place where ideas can germinate and grow — not because they’re mandated, but because this is where the biggest names in global telecom come together to get things done. Competitors collaborate in what feels like the Switzerland of networking.

Individual leaders have chosen to be a part of this forum to help drive change in an ever-changing environment. It’s easy to say we’ve done all we can do. But there is always another challenge in front of us.

We don’t know where the industry will be in five years, but with MEF we have the brightest minds in the industry to figure that out. I am proud that Allstream is involved, has a voice in our industry and can contribute to its future.

MEF holds an annual event in November, and this year MEF19 will be held in L.A. to guide enterprises and service providers in transforming their businesses, services and networks.

The industry is changing. We can either drive that change or let it happen to us. At Allstream, we aren’t waiting around. We’re just getting started. To find out more about MEF 3.0 or to become a member, please visit

Image: ivanastar/iStock

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