What Is Network as a Service or NaaS?

As more businesses turn to managed services to increase their access to key networking infrastructure, they gain much-desired flexibility.

Just as software vendors deliver software in the cloud through Software as a Service (SaaS), there are vendors that offer networking equipment such as routers, firewalls, and software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) endpoints through Network as a Service (NaaS).

What Is NaaS?

Businesses and organizations are moving at a more rapid pace than ever before to supply and manage their progressively complex networks. With the rapid growth of cloud services, remote and hybrid workforce connectivity making things ever more diverse, the demand for self-service provisioning and uncomplicated network management is growing.

Enter the latest buzzword associated with network virtualization in the IT industry, Network as a Service (NaaS). NaaS can be defined as a ”fully managed network infrastructure that is provided 100% through the Managed Services Provider. This includes all parts of the Network Infrastructure core from Firewall, Switches, and Wireless Access Points”, said Phil Cardone, Radius Executive IT Solutions.

Like the majority of new technology solutions developing from the primordial soup, the particulars around the attribute sets of solutions are still surfacing. Notwithstanding, it’s important to understand the basics and be aware of what will soon be on the market. While the solutions are still fresh, those who have early conversations about Network as a Service (NaaS) vendors can play a part in shaping the direction of this space.

What Are the Benefits Offered by NaaS?

Many businesses and organizations that are operating from multiple locations often struggle with the costs and complexities of managing wide area networks (WAN). As businesses and organizations add new office spaces and advanced technologies to their IT infrastructure, these demands can extend existing networks outside their limitations. The ensuing downtimes and rising expenses will eventually push more businesses and organizations to consider the benefits of Network as a Service (Naas).

For organizations in any industry, one of the biggest benefits of NaaS is cost savings. NaaS’s virtualized service model eliminates the large capital expenditures typically associated with a major hardware installation. ”Network as a Service allows companies to outsource the WAN and Cloud connectivity without having to invest in costly hardware.  Amongst the primary benefits are rapid implementation and low cost of entry”, said Ilan Sredni, Palindrome Consulting.

A fully managed NaaS solution can modernize and simplify your organization’s network infrastructure by providing a flexible and scalable way to support, secure, control, and stretch your network on the cloud. By unloading complex networking tasks, your organization can leverage the benefits of Network As A Service (NaaS) to reduce costs, improve network performance, and streamline cloud operations.

NaaS allows organizations to transfer networking responsibilities to a Managed Services Provider (MSP). ”Fully managed and fully supported by the Managed Services Provider, and all warranty and support issues are completely covered by the MSP”, said Cardone.  MSPs that provide a centralized dashboard will provide clarity across the entire network, giving in-house IT departments the ability to effectively monitor network usage and adjust network components when necessary.

With the ability to add or remove users when necessary, NaaS gives organizations the flexibility and scalability to improve network performance without significant downtime, added expenses, or other burdens.

What Are the Drawbacks of NaaS?

Usage of a public cloud does come with some inherent risks of vulnerabilities, and it is important to keep this in mind when selecting a provider. Downtime is another potential drawback of managed network solutions. A Network as a Service (NaaS) model does raise concerns about a loss of control although there is a presence of flexibility, which makes it a drawback for some, said Sredni.

Another drawback of NaaS is the ‘large initial investment by the MSP and the requirement to keep extra stock on hand”, said James Forbis, a Cincinnati IT services professional with 4BIS.COM.

Service providers have different specialties and offboarding one aspect of your network infrastructure may prove difficult because other providers may not offer the same services. There will also be a risk that an organization may become too dependent on a particular service provider and become tied with them longer than anticipated.

What’s the Best Way for Service Providers to Get Started with NaaS?

What is the best way for service providers to start their NaaS journey?

Start with smaller clients that you can build your NaaS portfolio out of and standardize on highly supported product lines and vendors you already work well together with. If a firewall manufacturer sells many models of all different sizes, work to narrow the line down to only a few “standardized” models that will be a good fit for the bulk of your clients so overall support and faster replacement turnaround are to be expected. (Phil Cardone)

”Ensure your legal paperwork is up to date, as if you lose a client, you may not be able to cleanly dissect their network and leave them with nothing, and they may not continue to pay you for the equipment you have invested in their facility”, added Cardone.

What’s the Best Way for Organizations to Get Started with NaaS?

A NaaS readiness assessment and a deployment roadmap by an IT partner can be the key to helping organizations facilitate their success with NaaS. There are many criteria to consider for selecting the best vendor and this will depend primarily on your desired outcomes. Some key considerations include:

  • A provider that will be able to serve your organization into the future.
  • A provider that can provide value-added services to enhance solution results.
  • A provider that provides a comprehensive security presence to ensure you meet regulatory and compliance requirements.
  • A provider that offers flexible management options.
  • A provider that offers end-to-end flexibility.

The growth in distributed users, applications, and sites means an organization’s cyber threat attack surface is growing rapidly. With NaaS, organizations have the opportunity to offload software and hardware firmware updates. After offloading firmware updates, organizations can assign more complex functions to their NaaS provider, such as setting security policies and troubleshooting.

As technologies and models like Zero-Trust and 5G grow rapidly, so will Network as a Service.