What is Network as a Service (NaaS)?

Adopting as-a-Service (aaS) models, like software, infrastructure, and cloud has enabled companies to serve customers better and quickly adapt to the ever-evolving business landscape.

Extreme agility, easy scalability, enhanced security, and a streamlined OpEx cost model are some of the transformational benefits aaS models bring to businesses. However, the campus enterprise network has lagged in this evolution – growing network complexities, costs and unsecure infrastructure are holding today’s businesses back from adopting authentic true aaS models.

The last 18 months have seen the rise of network as a service (NaaS) in various forms of which share a common purpose: to leverage the advantages of cloud computing by bringing aaS models into enterprise networks.

Complexities that burden today’s enterprise networks

The complex nature of many current enterprise networks results from decades of technologies layered to meet evolving business trends and needs. This complexity often holds business’ productivity, security, and innovation back. 

Today’s networks are built upon a three-decade-old foundation of wired architectures. The evolution of wireless technologies, IoT devices, security, and segmentation requires IT expertise in threading these disparate technologies together while performing ongoing configuration adjustments to ensure security and optimal performance. 

Network complexities begin with architecture and design while also extending into sifting through lists of SKUs to determine the most accurate yet budget-friendly infrastructure to procure.  Day 0 installation, provisioning, and configuration require extensive certification and certified experts on board until the network runs, which can take up to a few weeks. This complexity extends into the entire network lifecycle with change management of configuration updates, hardware refreshes, software upgrades, and security patches critical to the network’s reliability and uptime.  Today’s IT teams spend most of their time weeding through these network complexities of daily network management.

Why NaaS?

The cloud provides advantages of agility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. NaaS extends these advantages to the campus network. When offered as a complete solution, NaaS can ease the strain of network operations and allow businesses to stay up-to-date with advancing technology. NaaS shifts away from the CapEx burden of hardware as a service and instead focuses on network service and performance delivery – one that is a “flexible, OpEx model of enterprise network infrastructure that includes hardware, software, licenses, and lifecycle services – in a single offering.”4

How does NaaS offload the burden of today's enterprise networks?

A big driver for NaaS is the sheer complexity of today’s enterprise networks, which is driving modern enterprises to seek simple and efficient solutions.4

Network operations (NetOps) is the most time-consuming and expensive part of the network lifecycle. 70% of enterprises lack the plan to mitigate supply chain issues for network hardware. For these firms, network OpEx costs will rise 15% per year over the next five years.3

IT teams are responsible for delivering secure and reliable connectivity to every authenticated network user. This experience must also seamlessly fulfill the demands of an ever-evolving user base and the increase in devices and applications that come onto the network. NaaS is a way of offloading the burden that comes with network management to give back time to IT, enabling them to focus on strategic initiatives to help the business grow.

Today's Enterprise Networks How NaaS Adds Value
Extensive time and money spent to choose and purchase hardware and software. Offloads infrastructure ownership and reduces upfront CapEx costs.
Requires certified technicians & experts for installation, provisioning, and configuration. Owns Day 0 network activities: network installation, planning, and installation.
Time-consuming network monitoring and management that underutilizes IT’s time and skills. Guarantees network performance levels via proactive monitoring and optimization.
Time consuming and risky lifecycle management: software updates, security patches, and technology/refreshes. Takes on the burden of lifecycle management, inclusive of new features delivery.

What do NaaS offerings look like today?

Gartner observed that legacy network equipment vendors struggle to deliver on NaaS expectations due to a focus on per-box consumption instead of as-a-Service consumption. The result is a network architecture dependent on feature adoption and upgrades. The way many network as a service solutions are delivered today embodies a lease around traditional legacy equipment that offers an incomplete bundle of hardware as a service rather than a holistic network as a service.

Network as a Service (not to be confused with hardware as a service) is emerging and shifts the emphasis of network procurement from boxes and widgets to business outcomes.

– Mark Toussaint, Gartner

By 2024, 70% of vendors marketing NaaS will not meet the core definition of NaaS.2 Most of their offerings are a combination of the following:

The challenge is that vendors have a tendency to call everything NaaS, and it really isn’t NaaS half the time.

– Andrew Lerner, Gartner

What are the critical criteria of true NaaS?

Gartner states that “True NaaS” should present a transparent backbone infrastructure model like the cloud that creates network device models, topologies, and protocols behind the scenes, irrelevant if they meet the business outcome and SLA requirements.”3 Modern enterprises need a service that removes complexities, costs, and the burdens of network management and delivers a “standardized and highly automated delivery model for network functionality.”3

Many organizations are ready to shed the last three decades of campus networking and shift to the benefits of NaaS. IDC’s “Key Criteria When Selecting a NaaS Solution” defines what it means to deliver true NaaS.

Key NaaS Components

Flexible consumption

Shift from traditional CapEx models to a flexible and agile consumption model. The dynamic structure of NaaS allows for monthly billing based on actual usage, scaling up or down.

End-to-end operations management

NaaS should provide and deliver all aspects of the network as a complete service, including day zero planning and site surveys to day one installation, and day N ongoing management, troubleshooting, and optimization.4

Service level driven

Network as Service means delivering a holistic, outcome-oriented service. Modern organizations need a change from best-effort “response times” to guaranteed service levels.

Built-in security

Security should be integral to any networking solution versus being a costly add-on to protect against increasingly sophisticated threats.

NaaS by Nile

Availability, capacity, and coverage – backed by service credits.

Engineered to prevent unauthorized network access and abolish malware proliferation.

Holistic consumption model based simply on pay-by-use.

Offload network management from Day 0 – Day N, freeing IT resources to focus on strategic initiatives.

True NaaS by Nile - Network as a service provider


Key Criteria When Selecting a NaaS Solution

Read about the significant changes underway in how organizations across the world are buying and managing enterprise network infrastructure.

1 IDC document # US47128521, “Network as a Service Enables Flexible Consumption of Secure and Agile Enterprise Networks”
2 Hype Cycle for Enterprise Networking 2022. Gartner, June 29, 2022
3 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Wired and Wireless LAN Infrastructure 2022
4 Brandon Butler, IDC, April 2022
5 Gartner Deems NaaS, MCNS Key Network Innovations

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