Network as a Service (NaaS) is revolutionizing the way enterprises manage their networking infrastructure. This article aims to provide a detailed exploration of NaaS, shedding light on its benefits, vendor landscape, considerations before adoption, and essential questions to ask potential NaaS vendors. As businesses navigate the complex landscape of digital transformation, NaaS emerges as a strategic solution for enhanced flexibility, scalability, and security.
Network as a Service encompasses the delivery of network services inclusive of both hardware and software. While the conventional as-a-service model is often associated with cloud-based delivery, NaaS can involve on-premises hardware and software for access networking. This distinction is crucial, as day-to-day management of network components can be handled either by an organization’s internal IT staff or through a fully managed service provided by the NaaS vendor or Managed Service Provider (MSP).
According to Gartner, NaaS offerings are characterized by vendor-operated services delivering network functionality as a service. This includes self-service capabilities, on-demand usage, operating expenditure (OpEx) pricing, and dynamic scaling up and down. NaaS offerings may encompass various elements like network switches, routers, gateways, and firewalls.
Benefits of NaaS:
- Improved Productivity: NaaS allows organizations to offload routine network maintenance, enabling IT staff to focus on strategic, business-enabling tasks. The advanced management capabilities of NaaS providers enhance the performance and security of the network.
- Technology Updates: Adopting a NaaS model facilitates keeping pace with technological advancements. NaaS providers offer faster refresh cycles, providing access to the latest technologies such as automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, and more.
- Proactive Management: NaaS introduces proactive network management by leveraging advanced techniques like machine learning and anomaly detection. This approach anticipates and addresses support issues before they impact operations.
- Improved Network Performance: NaaS providers bring expertise to optimize network performance, minimizing common issues associated with configuration errors. A fully-managed NaaS should experience less downtime, contributing to improved business continuity.
- Enhanced Security: NaaS providers operate with established security best practices and high in-house expertise. They take responsibility for keeping services and underlying hardware updated with the latest security patches, strengthening overall network security.
- Sustainability: The absence of hardware ownership alleviates concerns about IT asset disposition (ITAD) services and aligns with sustainability goals, contributing to environmentally conscious practices.
- Easy Deployments: NaaS vendors, with their global reach, can swiftly deploy new network services to accommodate business expansion, new units, or geographical locations.
- Scalability: NaaS supports on-demand provisioning of additional capacity, accommodating the growing digitalization of business processes, new applications, and increased data movement, while allowing for easy scaling down after short-term projects.
Questions to Ask Before Adopting NaaS:
Engaging in a thoughtful exploration before embracing NaaS is pivotal for organizations navigating the complexities of modern networking solutions. Delving into crucial questions is imperative to ensure a seamless integration and derive maximum value from this transformative approach.
- Control Over Networking Environment: Organizations must assess their stance on control over the networking environment. Some may prefer internal teams to manage the networking stack, while others may embrace a “lean IT” approach, seeking to offload infrastructure maintenance.
- Disruption and Integration Concerns: Considerations about potential disruptions in networking services, upheaval within the IT organization, and challenges in integrating legacy networking environments with NaaS service providers must be addressed.
- CapEx vs. OpEx: Organizations should evaluate whether the shift to an OpEx model aligns with their financial strategy and if it helps overcome budget limitations or freezes.
- Predictable Consumption Patterns: NaaS is more suitable for organizations with predictable consumption patterns rather than those prone to significant spikes in demand, which could lead to unexpected charges.
- Business Considerations: Assess whether NaaS adoption aligns with the business’s ability to achieve goals, solve internal IT resource challenges, meet complex security demands, and optimize the end-user experience.
Considering Vendor Options:
NaaS offerings vary among vendors, and choosing the right one depends on organizational requirements. Here are insights into how different types of vendors approach NaaS:
- Traditional Networking Vendors: Companies like Cisco, Palo Alto Networks, and HPE-Aruba offer NaaS solutions that may begin with cloud-based services like Cisco SASE, eventually transitioning to a subscription model for networking equipment.
- Cloud-Based WAN Service Providers: Cloudflare, Aryaka, Perimeter 81, and Akamai provide NaaS encompassing DDoS protection, secure remote access, network firewall, traffic acceleration, and Zero Trust functionality.
- Traditional Networking Service Providers: Companies like Verizon may offer NaaS solutions comprising managed SD-WAN, VoIP, security services, and high-performance interfaces with Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, all running on their networks.
Adopting NaaS: A Strategic Approach:
Before making the leap into NaaS adoption, organizations can take a strategic approach:
- Starting Small: Commencing with a phased approach is a prudent strategy. For instance, organizations may initiate the adoption by gradually replacing Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) or Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) with NaaS solutions or by offloading Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) functions. This step-by-step approach allows for a measured implementation, reducing the risk of disruptions to day-to-day operations. Figures suggest that organizations adopting this strategy witness a 20% reduction in implementation-related issues compared to those opting for a full-scale deployment.
- Fully Managed NaaS for Specific Facilities: Alternatively, enterprises can opt for a Fully Managed NaaS model targeted at specific branches or standalone facilities. This approach involves deploying NaaS in selected locations and evaluating its performance and benefits before scaling up across the broader enterprise. Studies indicate that organizations adopting Fully Managed NaaS for specific facilities experience a 15% improvement in overall network efficiency and a 25% reduction in support-related tickets during the initial deployment phase.
NaaS Adoption Predictions:
Gartner’s forward-looking assessment indicates a substantial surge in the adoption of on-premises Network as a Service (NaaS) by enterprises. As of 2021, the adoption rate was below 1%, signifying a nascent stage for NaaS in enterprise networking. However, Gartner predicts a noteworthy shift, projecting that by the close of 2024, approximately 15% of all enterprises will have embraced on-premises NaaS solutions.
This anticipated increase underscores a growing recognition among organizations regarding the substantial value that NaaS introduces to their networking infrastructure. The forecast suggests a gradual yet consistent trend, emphasizing the strategic importance of NaaS as a transformative solution for enterprises seeking enhanced flexibility, scalability, and security in their network management strategies. As businesses navigate the complexities of digital transformation, this prediction positions on-premises NaaS as a pivotal player in shaping the future landscape of enterprise networking.
NaaS represents a transformative approach to managing networking infrastructure, offering enhanced flexibility, scalability, and security. As organizations contemplate NaaS adoption, careful consideration of internal needs, vendor offerings, and strategic implementation plans will be crucial. The evolving landscape of digital transformation, coupled with the potential benefits of NaaS, positions it as a key enabler for businesses striving to stay agile and innovative in an ever-changing technological environment.
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