Knowledge

Network as a Service (NaaS): What should you know?

IT departments are accumulating more responsibilities and constantly trying to do more with less. The “as a service” business model has brought revolutionary organizational changes. In particular, Network as a Service (NaaS) has saved organizations from establishing their own in-house network infrastructures.

NaaS also enabled businesses to rely on third-party vendors to provide efficient network setup, integration, and management services. As organizations deploy more IT solutions, the importance of a well-managed network becomes even more critical for digital transformation. In enterprises today, employees, customers, and business experts rely on seamless access to resilient networks for efficiency.

What is Network as a Service (NaaS)?

Network as a Service (NaaS) is a cloud service model where customers rent networking services from cloud providers. NaaS allows customers to operate their own networks without maintaining their own networking infrastructure. Like other cloud services, NaaS vendors run networking functions using software, essentially allowing companies to set up their own networks entirely without hardware. All they need is Internet connectivity.

NaaS can replace Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) connections, or other legacy network configurations. It can also replace on-premise networking hardware such as firewall appliances and load balancers. A newer model for routing traffic and applying security policies, NaaS has had a major impact on enterprise networking architecture.

network as a service

How does Network as a Service (NaaS) work?

Organizations have traditionally consumed enterprise network infrastructure via a one-time capital expenditure of hardware, software, licenses, and services that may or may not be packaged together. NaaS allows enterprises to consume and optionally outsource the full lifecycle of their enterprise network deployment, with all hardware, software, licenses, and services delivered in a flexible consumption or subscription-based offering, which in many cases can be accounted for as an operational expense.

NaaS also allows organizations to outsource the planning, deployment, and day-to-day operational management of the network, including software upgrades, monitoring, and troubleshooting, as well as decommissioning and end-of-life support. Through this process, organizations get access to the latest and greatest technology while easing the burden on their IT staff.

The need for NaaS

Corporate networks are growing increasingly complex. The adoption of cloud computing means that many corporate applications have moved off of the on-prem network. This includes corporate file sharing, videoconferencing, and other applications. Employees need access to these applications to do their jobs, and many of these applications are latency-sensitive, requiring high-performance and reliable network connectivity.

Deploying, monitoring, and managing the network and security infrastructure needed to support the distributed enterprise is complex and requires specialized knowledge and expertise. A NaaS solution enables an organization to ensure that it has the network infrastructure that it needs and enterprise-grade security to protect it without the need to maintain the necessary personnel and resources in-house.

Key Benefits

Network as a Service companies focus on extending typical SaaS benefits to the network. In particular, the Network as a Service market promises customers the following benefits:

  • Lower cloud network costs for Network as a Service deployments
    NaaS lowers IT costs by disposing of up-front CAPEX expenses such as hardware and other infrastructure. It also provides more predictable budget spend by offering pay-as-you-go and subscription pricing more typical of cloud computing models than that of traditional single or multi-cloud networks.
  • Shorter learning curves for NaaS offerings
    Network as a Service company typically provides significant knowledge and expertise in solving day-to-day cloud networking challenges, making networking changes and data center refreshes faster and less complex. They also focus on blueprinting standard network processes to help improve IT operational scale.
  • NaaS delivers faster time-to-service
    The elimination of hardware and software procurement and deployment cycles, coupled with a more agile development and consumption model, makes (NaaS) architectures appealing to large customers that need tighter network SLAs, as well as to smaller firms who want to outsource all or part of their network to a NaaS provider.

network as a service

Use cases of Network as a Service (NaaS)

There are several ways to use NaaS, and, in reality, the extent to which you leverage it may be limited only by the imagination. Here are some NaaS examples:

  • Incorporate advanced networking infrastructure, such as Wi-Fi 6, throughout your business network by simply asking your NaaS provider to set it up.
  • Cut down on the amount of time it takes to update your system. Instead of manually struggling with a systematic update throughout your ecosystem, you can send a quick email to your NaaS provider, and they can do it for you.
  • Quickly connect with new branch locations. With NaaS, your service provider can handle all the connections you need when setting up a new location. This saves you from having to manually wrestle with many time-consuming configurations and tests.

What are the challenges of NaaS?​

Visibility and control over security and compliance issues are difficult to achieve when deploying a Network as a Service. A certain level of security control must, by necessity, reside with the service provider. This makes comprehensive network monitoring and auditing somewhat difficult. From this vantage point, the challenges of NaaS are outlined below:

  • Compatibility: Current NaaS architectures lack vendor flexibility, portability, and long-term commitments. Legacy systems may have issues, such as software or hardware that is incompatible with the solution. The majority of NaaS compatibility issues are caused by outdated hardware or on-premises applications that are no longer in use. The infrastructure of the NaaS vendor may not be compatible with legacy systems that are still in place, older hardware, on-premises-based applications, and so on.
  • Legacy Data Centers: Because many organizations still use on-premises data centers rather than the cloud for some critical operations or applications, transitioning to the NaaS model takes some time and effort, even though the services can help their customers. Because NaaS connections are typically established using “best effort” public broadband, the service is only available where broadband internet connections are available, limiting its performance and capabilities to the speed of the last-mile connectivity.
  • Vendor lock-in: Using a cloud service always carries the risk of an enterprise becoming overly reliant on that particular service provider. Vendor lock-in has serious consequences if the service provider’s infrastructure fails or their prices rise. From a different angle, some organizations may experience a loss of control. With outsourced network services, adopters may be concerned about service responsiveness and control over their network resources.

network as a service

Conclusion

NaaS allows organizations to outsource the network’s management, deployment, and operational tasks, including software upgrades, monitoring and bug fixing, and end-to-end support. Companies use this approach to access the latest and greatest technology while easing the burden on their IT staff. Among the key benefits of NaaS are IT automation, flexible access, and improved user experience. Thus, the company should evaluate its service needs and financial model to choose a suitable NaaS provider.

Knowledge

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