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What Is Network as a Service (NaaS)?

NaaS is a cloud model that enables users to easily operate the network and achieve the outcomes they expect from it without owning, building, or maintaining their own infrastructure.

NaaS can replace hardware-centric VPNs, load balancers, firewall appliances, and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) connections. Users can scale up and down as demand changes, rapidly deploy services, and eliminate hardware costs.

What's driving the trend toward NaaS?

Network as a service (NaaS) is an emerging model for organizations to consume network infrastructure through flexible operating expense (OpEx) subscriptions, inclusive of hardware, software, management tools, licenses, and lifecycle services.1

The traditional network model requires capital expenses (CapEx) for physical networks with switches, routers, and licensing. The do-it-yourself IT model requires time for planning and deployment as well as expertise to install and configure infrastructure and to ensure security access policies are in place. This model involves the following:

  • Diligent monitoring for updates and security patches is essential due to rapid changes in technology and security threats.
  • Provisioning a new service is a manual process that requires a technician to deploy and configure equipment at various locations.
  • Service provisioning and issue resolution have historically been lengthy processes.

As networks have grown in complexity—with more mobile users connecting from everywhere and with the expansion to cloud—IT teams have been challenged to keep pace.

1 IDC: Enterprise Network as a Service Emerges as a Model for Flexible Consumption of Network Infrastructure, #US47093920

Shifting focus from architectures to outcomes

Communication demands on enterprises are growing and evolving with the shift to multicloud. Some applications can be hosted in one cloud and others in a completely different cloud. This practice vastly increases the complexity of a network's architecture.

NaaS models need to help IT staff track service-level objectives (SLOs) or agreements (SLAs), understand the business impact of changes in service levels, and predict future needs to make consumption choices that can improve performance, reduce costs, and achieve an organization's unique business goals. Through powerful, AI-driven actionable insights, NaaS can provide closed-loop issue resolution and help IT improve utilization of services, optimize workload traffic, and even protect the business.

Network agility with NaaS

NaaS provides the flexibility to pay for services based on usage and to scale as business needs change. It also provides the ability to monitor and manage networking services and track usage and billing. Services can be ordered, deployed, and co-managed on demand.

NaaS services can range from managed software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and network access including wireless to security, unified communications services, and more—either in a public cloud or on virtualized customer premise equipment (vCPE). With the pace of innovation, most enterprises are finding they can no longer afford the time it takes to build and maintain their own network infrastructure.

NaaS offers ROI [return on investment], enabling customers to trade CapEx for OpEx and refocus person hours on other priorities.

John Burke, CIO and Principal Research Analyst, Nemertes Research

What are the benefits of NaaS?

NaaS simplifies how hardware and software technologies are managed and consumed. It enables greater speed, agility, and scale. SD-WAN can be deployed as a value-added service with NaaS to enhance performance, security, redundancy, and application experience.

With the importance of NaaS, there is no doubt that it will continue to evolve to include additional capabilities for scale as well as depth and breadth of services.

IT simplicity and automation

Businesses benefit when they align their costs with actual usage. They don't need to pay for surplus capacity that goes unused, and they can dynamically add capacity as demands increase. Businesses that own their own infrastructure must implement upgrades, bug fixes, and security patches in a timely manner. Often, IT staff may have to travel to various locations to implement changes. NaaS enables the continuous delivery of new fixes, features and capabilities. It automates multiple processes such as onboarding new users and provides orchestration and optimization for maximum performance. This can help to eliminate the time and money spent on these processes. Enterprises rely on vendors to provide full-lifecycle management.


Access from anywhere

Today's workers may require access to the network from anywhere—home or office—on any devices and without relying on VPNs. NaaS can provide enterprises with global coverage, low-latency connectivity enabled by a worldwide POP backbone, and negligible packet loss when connecting to SaaS applications, platform-as-a-service (PaaS)/infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platforms, or branch offices.


Enhanced security

NaaS results in tighter integration between the network and the network security. Some vendors may "piece together" network security. By contrast, NaaS solutions need to provide on-premise and cloud-based security to meet today’s business needs, thereby accelerating transition to a secure access service edge (SASE) architecture where and when it's needed.


Visibility and insights

NaaS provides proactive network monitoring, security policy enforcement, advanced firewall and packet inspection capabilities, and modeling of the performance of applications and the underlying infrastructure over time. Customers may also have an option to co-manage the NaaS.


Improved application experience

In a multicloud world, it's critical to have connectivity that supports the same user experience as if the application was hosted in-house.  NaaS provides AI-driven capabilities to help ensure SLAs and SLOs for capacity are met or exceeded. NaaS provides the ability to route application traffic to help ensure outstanding user experience and to proactively address issues that occur.


Flexibility

NaaS services are delivered through a cloud model to offer greater flexibility and customization than conventional infrastructure. Changes are implemented through software, not hardware. This is typically provided through a self-service model. IT teams can, for example, reconfigure their corporate networks on demand and add new branch locations in a fraction of the time. NaaS often provides term-based subscription with usage billing and multiple payment options to support various consumption requirements.


Scalability

NaaS is inherently more scalable than traditional, hardware-based networks. NaaS customers simply purchase more capacity instead of purchasing, deploying, configuring, and securing additional hardware. This means they can scale up or down quickly as needs change.

NaaS and SASE

Secure access service edge (SASE) defines the architecture requirements for SD-WAN and cloud security to connect users to applications and data from the office and the home and on the go. It's intended to protect users from threats wherever they work and to help ensure the right access level to those applications and data.

SASE is an architecture, while NaaS is a complete service package for operating networking without owning physical infrastructure.

"The network-as-a-service (NaaS) market is expected to grow at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 34.5% over the forecast period (2021-2026)." Mordor Intelligence