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Telecom Review Africa had the opportunity to have an exclusive talk with Kevin Vachon, COO, MEF on the sideline of AfricaCom. As MEF COO since 2006, Kevin leads a team that builds, supports and scales the MEF’s ever-increasing mix of global programs activities. He is actively engaged with MEF’s global member and partner community and has a broad perspective on the important role that MEF plays in the industry and how to deliver results. 

MEF is a global industry association of network, cloud, and technology providers working together to accelerate enterprise digital transformation through a better-together ecosystem. MEF delivers service standards, LSO frameworks and APIs, and training and certification programs for services, technologies, APIs, and professionals. The MEF 3.0 Framework enables automated delivery of standardized Carrier Ethernet, IP, Optical Transport, SD-WAN, SASE, and other digital services across multiple provider networks.

The yearly Africacom exhibition is taking place in Cape Town with the participation of numerous leading companies from the sector. How important is this event for you and what are the added values it brings to the company?

AfricaCom is a great Pan-African event and MEF is thrilled to be back again. It’s a very exciting time for IT and telecom in Africa and, as we’re seeing in other emerging markets, there is a sense of urgency to accelerate digitial transformation as we make up ground lost to the pandemic.

MEF has a strong core of member companies in South Africa. We  look forward to productive meetings with them and other operators across the continent as we get up to speed on the state of the industry and discuss how a MEF partnership can support their innovation and digital transformation journey.

MEF is well-known for driving new innovations that are adopted by industry. Can you tell us more about your latest projects?

MEF delivers a comprehensive set of services standards including connectivity such as Carrier Ethernet and SD-WAN, and we’re very excited to share that later this quarter MEF will launch the industry’s first SASE and Zero Trust service definitions and frameworks. SASE – one of the hottest topics in the industry – combines connectivity (e.g., SD-WAN), security functions, and subscriber policies required by the modern enterprise. However the market is complicated by a lack of common terminology for SASE services and technology, and this is a challenge that MEF is addressing with its new SASE standard.

Standards provide a common terminology for buying, selling, and delivering SASE services easing confusion in the market. Standards also make it easier to create certified services giving users confidence that a service meets a fundamental set of requirements. There is much to done in terms of creating market awareness of this work, but we have a strong track record of ensuring that the work we create is adopted broadly by the industry.

In addition to standards, MEF developed an orchestration framework and APIs, called Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO), which enables service providers to automate delivery of key services to businesses delivered across a global ecosystem of suppliers.

Automation in the wholesale, provider-to-provider space is the hottest area of work right now. MEF LSO Sonata APIs allow standardized business automation between the retail service providers and wholesale partners for a large range of services. MEF standardized APIs speed up service delivery and time to revenue. We are seeing acceleratrd adoption of the APIs by service providers of varying sizes and in fact, MEF is tracking over 100 companies that are either in production or in early stages of implementation of these APIs over the next few years.

Service automation is becoming a “must have” in every region across the globe and MEF provides a logical roadmap to achieve that goal.

How long has MEF been contributing to the African continent and how will you continue to contribute to the growing demands of the continent?

MEF standards have been used globally, including many parts of Africa, for nearly two decades. Our goal is to build on our membership base here, and expand our community of African service providers and other stakeholders over the next few years. We want to bring the requirements of the African community to MEF to inform our work and help to meet its needs.

From your experts point of view, where is Africa standing in regards to SD-WAN? And how are you helping accelerating its adoption?

MEF develops standards and certifications to provide clarity and assurance and remove complexity for SD-WAN managed services, all of which helps to accelerate market adoption. We published the industry’s first global SD-WAN service standard in 2019 and we added enhancements to that standard in 2021 to define the service behavior and associated policy language needed to deliver high-performance, secure SD-WAN managed services. Globally, SD-WAN has not achieved its market potential largely due to vendor-specific solutions that pre-dated the availability of standards. I don’t like to generalize as Africa is a huge contintent with many different economies, but overall the SD-WAN market is at early stage and benefits by the availability of standards.

How do African companies that are complying with MEF 3.0 certifications stand out in the market?

MEF 3.0 certification indicates a company’s conformance to delivering best in class services to its customers. They understand the value that certification provides with simplified, pre-validated functionality for buyers and easy implementation and partnering.

Companies who purchase from a certified MEF 3.0 service provider can have confidence they will receive services that conform to MEF’s industry-leading global standards. We’re excited to see a growing number of providers in Africa adopting MEF 3.0 certification.

How do MEF certifications contribute in the digital transformation of Africa?

The African continent is critical to the availability of a global communications fabric enabling a more advanced communications capability in the region. To accelerate digital transformation, we’ll need to see continued modernization of regulations that are less about protecting legacy service revenues. We need to see digital transformation projects encouraged and funded to keep pace with trends in other leading areas of the world.

As an independent global organization, with a rich, proven portfolio of leading network service standards and business automation APIs, MEF is a strategic tool that can be leveraged by operators in the region to enable their network and digital transformation objectives.

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