MEF’s Inaugural Global Network-as-a-Service Event: Accelerating NaaS Innovation and Security Certification

Earlier this month, MEF, a global industry association of network, cloud, security and technology providers, hosted its first annual Global Network-as-a-Service Event (GNE). The goal of GNE was to bring together top executives from the emerging NaaS (Network-as-a-Service) ecosystem to discuss the latest trends and technologies to help companies achieve their digital transformation goals.

GNE spanned three days and offered a dynamic agenda of executive keynotes, insightful panels, live demonstrations, and extensive networking opportunities. The speaker lineup included C-level executives and accomplished professionals with deep expertise in secure NaaS. Sessions were full of energy, and attendees expressed excitement about the role NaaS and SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) will play in enhancing the security of corporate networks.

Since its inception in early 2000, MEF has had a central objective to standardize, streamline and expedite the adoption of emerging technologies and innovations beginning with Carrier Ethernet and then expanding across automation, cloud, network, and security domains. In 2022, MEF introduced the industry’s first SASE standard and Zero Trust framework, establishing a universal terminology, fostering industry-wide cohesion and hastening market growth trajectory.

Increasing Market Confidence with SASE Certification
MEF made several significant announcements at GNE. To increase market confidence in cybersecurity solutions, MEF introduced a new SASE certification program in partnership with CyberRatings.

Available to MEF technology and service provider members worldwide, the program includes SD-WAN, secure service edge (SSE threat protection), zero trust network access and SASE ceHirtifications based on CyberRatings’ methodologies and test programs. Certification will also ensure compliance with MEF SD-WAN (MEF 70.1), SASE (MEF 117) and Zero Trust (MEF 118) standards.

SASE services will be a crucial component of NaaS offerings. However, they are complex and include many elements that need to work together to ensure assets are easily accessible yet difficult for unauthorized users to compromise. MEF’s SASE certification program focuses on increasing trust in cybersecurity solutions by providing a report card and rating for vendors and service providers to indicate the effectiveness of their SASE offering. Measuring the security effectiveness of an offering gives users confidence when purchasing SASE cybersecurity products and services.

The beta program for SASE certification, currently underway, includes MEF members Cisco, Fortinet, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks, Versa Networks, and VMware. The SASE certification program is also supported by MEF’s Board of Directors, which includes senior executives from AT&T Business, Colt Technology Services, Comcast Business, Liberty Latin America, Lumen, Microsoft, PCCW Global, Orange, Sparkle, and Verizon Business.

Upon conclusion of the beta program later this year, certification will be available to all MEF members in the first half of 2024. Cybersecurity threats and solutions are constantly evolving so certification is not a one-time event. Participants in the program will be able to continuously certify their products and services to demonstrate their effectiveness.

NaaS Industry BluePrint: A Foundation for the NaaS Ecosystem
NaaS has emerged as a transformative force empowering enterprise IT in new ways and has the potential to revolutionize the way enterprises purchase services and manage their network. MEF defines NaaS as services that combine on-demand connectivity, application assurance, cybersecurity, and multi-cloud-based services.

NaaS enables organizations to achieve business outcomes without having to build and maintain their own infrastructure. Up to now, there has been no industry alignment on defining NaaS or the core components and capabilities of NaaS solutions which is a challenge to both service providers and enterprises. To this end, MEF introduced a NaaS Industry Blueprint at GNE designed to help accelerate a new generation of NaaS solutions and services. The MEF NaaS Industry Blueprint provides a common framework for understanding and defining NaaS and establishes a foundation for the industry to build on as it develops the NaaS ecosystem.

The Enterprise Perspective
And, finally, MEF announced the formation of an Enterprise Leadership Council (ELC) to bring the view of enterprises front and center. Comprised of senior executives from major enterprise vertical markets with mission-critical network infrastructures, the ELC will provide invaluable enterprise expertise to complement MEF’s work.

A more in-depth view of the enterprise perspective will enable MEF to deliver tangible value to enterprises by offering practical insights and knowledge to facilitate the execution of cloud, network infrastructure, and security initiatives.

NaaS has quickly become a meaningful change for enterprise IT, driven by the need for agile, cost-effective, and scalable networking solutions. By bringing together for the first-time top executives from across the global NaaS ecosystem, MEF's inaugural GNE marked a significant step forward for NaaS solutions and services, of which SASE will be a key component.

MEF's key announcements at GNE offer a foundational plan to advance NaaS, a certification program for SASE security validation, and the establishment of an enterprise council to prioritize the enterprise user's perspective in shaping future MEF initiatives. Together, these announcements demonstrate MEF's commitment to driving innovation and accelerating the adoption of NaaS. With MEF's leadership, the NaaS ecosystem is poised to experience rapid growth in the coming years.

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