What Is Network as a Service (NaaS)? How Does It Work?

What Is Network as a Service (NaaS)? How Does It Work?

Network as a Service (NaaS) is a business model that delivers network services remotely over the Internet.  Instead of investing capital expense in their network infrastructure, businesses can purchase these services from a provider on a subscription basis or as and when required.

NaaS is an innovative solution that offers networking services to businesses via shared responsibility of infrastructure design, deployment and management. Instead of investing in and managing a physical network infrastructure, companies can simply subscribe to a NaaS offering. These services are predominantly cloud-powered, ensuring accessibility and alleviating the need for businesses to handle the intricacies of their network infrastructure.

NaaS can include services like Virtual Private Network (VPN), bandwidth on demand, network monitoring, and more. NaaS is a component of the broader as-a-Service paradigm, encompassing Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Hardware as a Service (HaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

How does NaaS work?

The heart of NaaS lies in its cloud infrastructure. Managed and maintained by the technology and/or service provider, this extensive network infrastructure is strategically distributed worldwide to guarantee optimal connectivity.

A prominent feature of NaaS is its adaptability. Businesses can effortlessly scale their network services in response to their needs, unbounded by the typical limitations of physical infrastructures.

Maintenance, updates, and any necessary network adjustments are the responsibility of the NaaS provider, allowing businesses to direct their attention solely to their primary operations.

In terms of billing, NaaS provides a transparent and flexible payment structure. Charges are usually based on usage, with options ranging from fixed subscription rates to flexible usage and user based plans.

NaaS isn't just about connectivity; it also prioritizes security. Providers integrate robust security measures throughout their service architecture, ensuring data protection at every juncture.

NaaS allows businesses to tap into advanced networking capabilities delivered as a service and managed from the cloud. This approach drastically simplifies IT challenges, paving the way for organizations to be more nimble and concentrate on their core objectives.

How did NaaS develop?

Network as a Service was developed to respond to the shift in the IT space towards as-a-Service delivery models, ranging from compute/storage to cybersecurity.

Traditionally, network as a service solutions were hardware-based. Businesses had to invest in expensive professional services contracts with creative financial bundles to be able to consume them. These physical networks took time to scale and adapt as the business environment and need changed. Enterprises did not have the ability to control outcomes and simply rely on the service provider to manage their infrastructure. With purpose built solutions like Nile’s, NaaS solutions become much more friendly to enterprise IT priorities and cost effective. 

As technology progressed, network virtualization and software-defined networking (SDN) emerged. These technologies allowed for the separation of the physical network hardware from the network management and control software. This created a more flexible and scalable networking infrastructure that could be more easily controlled and managed.

Around the same time, the advent of cloud computing led to increasing interest in subscription-based offerings, later termed as "anything as a service" or XaaS. Most businesses found signing up to consume computing resources from a cloud provider more efficient, faster to provision and cost-effective than designing and maintaining infrastructure.

Networking quickly became a part of this trend. The idea of delivering network services over the Internet, without customers having to tackle every bit of design and implementation of the underlying infrastructure led to the development of Network as a Service (NaaS) options.

Initially, NaaS was adopted mainly by small and medium businesses which lacked the resources to manage their network infrastructure. However, as the underlying technology and automation stack has advanced, larger enterprises have also started turning to NaaS for its scalability, flexibility, cost savings, and the ability to focus on core business functions while maintaining simple but effective control over the outcomes for network connectivity.

The development of technologies such as SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network), secure access service edge (SASE), and intent-based networking (IBN), has further accelerated the adoption and development of centralized orchestration techniques that provide help in offering enhanced network performance, security, and control.

Today, NaaS is evolving and growing rapidly, with more innovative technologies being introduced to meet the diverse networking needs of modern businesses.

What's driving the trend toward NaaS?

Several factors are driving the trend toward NaaS.

Shift to the Cloud

As more businesses shift their operations to the cloud, they require a networking solution that is flexible, scalable, and efficient. NaaS meets these needs.

Operational Cost Advantage

NaaS models allow businesses to switch from capital expenditures (CapEx) for hardware and infrastructure to operational expenditures (OpEx), leading to significant initial cost savings.

Scalability

NaaS services can be easily scaled up or down based on business needs. This flexibility is desirable to organizations, especially those experiencing growth or uncertainty.

Focus on Core Business

With NaaS, firms can concentrate on their core business functions, leaving the management and maintenance of the network to NaaS providers.

Rapid Deployment

NaaS enables organizations to quickly deploy new networks, services, and applications, a key demand in today's rapidly changing business environment.

Increased Security

With the rise in cyber threats, businesses increasingly rely on NaaS providers with the expertise and technologies to ensure robust network security based on zero trust principles.

Improved Performance

Since NaaS providers specialize in network services, they can often deliver better performance, reliability, and uptime than in-house managed networks.

Need for Expertise

As network technologies become more complex, and with staffing shortages in some regions and sectors, organizations may need to rely on external expertise. NaaS providers fill this gap.

Digital Transformation

Companies undergoing digital transformation need modern networking solutions that support new business models and technologies, driving the adoption of NaaS.

Overall, the desire for cost efficiency, scalability, easy management, and enhanced network performance are the major factors driving the trend toward NaaS.

What are the components of NaaS?

NaaS comprises several components that enable streamlined, efficient, and secure networking. The critical components include:

1. Connectivity Services

This includes wired access, wireless networking with Wi-Fi, broadband, 4G/5G mobile, fiber, satellite, and other forms of network connectivity. It enables devices to connect and communicate within the enterprise and across the internet.

2. Network Hardware

Depending on the type of NaaS, it might include physical devices such as routers, modems, switches, or firewall appliances. However, more advanced NaaS solutions minimize the need for physical hardware by using virtual networking devices.

3. Virtual Network Functions (VNF)

VNFs are software applications that deliver network functions, such as routing, firewalling, load balancing, etc., virtually, meaning less dependence on physical infrastructure.

4. Software-Defined Networking (SDN)

SDN technology provides centralized, programmable network control that enables dynamic, on-demand network configuration.

5. Security Services

These include VPN and firewall infrastructure and software capabilities, intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and other security services to protect the network from potential threats and/or to reduce the potential attack surface.

6. Cloud Services

As NaaS is usually cloud-powered, cloud computing services form an essential component to automate and orchestrate network consumption across multiple tenants of the service. These services include data storage, backup services, and other cloud-based applications.

7. Self-Service Portal

This is a user interface that allows for on-demand provisioning of network services based on the required outcomes. Users can scale up or down services on-demand with a flexible consumption option, gain rich visibility to guaranteed service levels, manage their usage, control experience for devices and users on the network, among others.

8. Management and Maintenance

This involves the ongoing administration and upkeep of the network infrastructure, including system upgrades, troubleshooting, and resolving connectivity issues. In the NaaS model, these tasks are typically handled by the NaaS provider, and the customers are responsible for provisioning their desired security policies, network segmentation rules, application quality of service (QoS) requirements, among others.

9. Consulting Services

Many NaaS providers also include consulting services to help organizations create a plan to migrate to the next generation of technologies that are part of NaaS offer, align their network strategy with business objectives, and comply with industry regulations.

What’s the difference between NaaS, IaaS, and SaaS?

Network as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, and Software as a Service are distinct cloud computing models, each employed in various contexts:

  • Network as a Service (NaaS): It offers network services to enterprise environments across the local area network (LAN) for secure wired and wireless connectivity to users and devices, and across the wide area network (WAN) for internet connectivity. NaaS eliminates the need for manual maintenance of the network infrastructure and offers day-0/1/N lifecycle management services as part of a technology solution or additional service packages next to a product centric architecture.

Consumers of NaaS do not need to worry about the maintenance of network infrastructure, allowing them to focus more on their core business requirements. It provides scalability and efficiency.

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This service provides the hardware part of the cloud, namely servers, storage, and networking. It offers a full computational infrastructure on rent.
    The user doesn't need to worry about buying and maintaining the physical infrastructure. They can quickly scale up or down based on the requirement. Instances of such services encompass prominent providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): A distribution model wherein software applications are provided over the Internet through a subscription-based approach. The software applications can be accessed using a web browser without worrying about installation or maintenance.

The service provider manages all hardware, software, servers, and data storage. SaaS benefits short-term projects requiring quick, accessible, and inexpensive collaboration. Examples include Gmail, Salesforce, and Google Docs.

In summary, NaaS delivers network services, IaaS provides the infrastructure, and SaaS software applications, all made available to users partly or wholly in the cloud, and they typically operate on a pay-as-you-go or per usage model.

How will NaaS impact SaaS, PaaS, and Cloud Strategy?

SaaS Impact

NaaS directly enhances the delivery and performance of SaaS applications. As businesses increasingly rely on SaaS solutions for a variety of tasks, the underlying network's stability and speed become paramount. With optimized network performance provided by NaaS, SaaS applications can run more smoothly, ensuring consistent user experiences. Furthermore, the scalability of NaaS means that as the demand for a SaaS application grows, the network can adapt without causing disruptions or lags.

PaaS Impact

PaaS platforms, which provide the environment for developers to build, test, and deploy applications, also stand to gain from NaaS advancements. A strong, reliable network is vital for the rapid development cycles associated with PaaS.

With NaaS ensuring efficient and flexible network capabilities, developers can work more collaboratively in real-time, reducing time-to-market for new applications. The inherent security features in many NaaS offerings also provide an added layer of protection for enterprise applications.

Cloud Strategy Impact

NaaS plays a crucial role in enhancing cloud strategies for businesses. By offloading the complexities of network management to its providers, companies can focus on crafting and implementing their cloud strategies without being bogged down by network limitations.

This simplifies the transition to the cloud for many businesses and makes multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies more feasible. The subscription model of NaaS also allows for predictable budgeting, aligning well with the operational expense (OPEX) model preferred by many cloud-first organizations.

In essence, NaaS provides a foundation upon which SaaS and PaaS solutions can thrive, and it streamlines the realization of ambitious cloud strategies by offering an optimized, scalable, and secure network framework.

What are the advantages of NaaS to a business network?

Cost Savings

With NaaS, businesses no longer need to invest heavily in purchasing and maintaining network equipment. The cost of setting up and managing can be substantially reduced, as it is the NaaS provider's responsibility.

Scalability

NaaS offers the flexibility to scale up or down based on business needs quickly. They can easily adjust the extent of their network services as their business grows or during peak times.

Enhanced Security

NaaS providers often have built-in security measures, including firewalls and encryption. They are also responsible for updating these measures as new threats emerge.

Access to the Latest Technology

Organizations using NaaS always have access to the latest network technologies since the provider manages updates. This keeps the network modern and competitive.

Simplicity and Speed

Provisioning new services or making changes to the network can be done much quicker and easier with NaaS. The provider is responsible for most complex tasks, freeing the business's internal IT staff.

Focus on Core Business

With less time spent on network management, businesses can focus more on their core competencies, improving productivity and efficiency.

Improved performance

NaaS providers offer high-performance networks with less downtime, ensuring network speed and reliability for end users.

Predictable Costs

NaaS is typically provided on a subscription basis, which can make budgeting easier because costs are consistent and predictable.

Global Availability

NaaS solutions are often cloud-powered, which means they are able to automate provisioning of multiple layers of underlying infrastructure at scale - perfect for businesses with multiple locations or remote staff.

What are the challenges to consider for NaaS?

While Network as a Service offers many benefits, not every approach would fit the bill.

Product Centric Models

One significant challenge is the product centric design with creative financial bundles placed on top - rather than true automation and orchestration of the service with a performance guarantee. It is “easier” on paper but the underlying technology is still the same.

This traditional approach to NaaS merely shifts the legacy burden around. It calls for legacy products to be bundled up in consulting, professional, and management service contracts. There is no technology innovation but creative financial modeling.

To overcome this, businesses can start by using standardized interfaces and ensuring contracts include terms for performance guarantees across sites and buildings, improved security posture, shared responsibility and visibility into network success / outcomes, among other capabilities that move away from thinking product by product technology of the same old.

Compatibility

With a NaaS offering, the provider has to be in lock-step in tackling any compatibility challenges within the existing infrastructure. It is the provider's responsibility to identify the configuration changes required in the external infrastructure and a shared responsibility with the customer to make the integration successful.

Overcoming compatibility challenges often involves employing middleware or integration platforms that can bridge the gap between old systems and new services. During the vendor selection process, conducting thorough compatibility checks and ensuring the vendor's solutions align with the company's infrastructure is essential.

Security concerns

Although NaaS providers often have robust security measures, there's still a potential risk whenever data is moved off-premises. Companies must ensure their vendors comply with all relevant data protection regulations and industry standards. Regular audits, using encryption, and ensuring vendors have a reliable track record in security can help mitigate these risks.

Service quality

Depending on the NaaS provider, there can be concerns about the network services' quality. Network downtime, low speeds, and poor service can negatively impact business operations.

To address these concerns, businesses should set clear service level agreements (SLAs) with providers, continuously monitor network performance, and maintain open communication channels for quick resolution of any issues.

Difficulty in troubleshooting

In a NaaS model, the provider needs to have proactive capabilities to identify issues before they are realized / noticed by the end customer: they need to start troubleshooting in advance and notify the customer without waiting for a support call from the enterprise IT teams. Otherwise, this could lead to delays in problem resolution and result in unsatisfied SLAs.

Overcoming this challenge involves establishing clear communication protocols with the NaaS provider and having a production engineering team in place that understands the company's overall IT architecture and can act as a customer success representative within the provider.

Lack of control

With NaaS, companies might be asked to have less direct control over their networks, as the service provider manages a high degree of complexity with a product centric deployment and architecture. This may concern companies with particular network requirements or those who prefer to maintain provisioning in-house along with rich visibility. It is imperative that enterprise IT teams do not let go of their control over their own business outcomes for digital initiatives.

To ensure a good level of control without complexity, businesses can ensure contracts specify clear boundaries of control and responsibilities.

Regulatory compliance

Finally, for some industries with specific regulatory compliance requirements, employing an off-premises, cloud-based network solution can be complex from a compliance standpoint.

To navigate this challenge, companies should be well-acquainted with their industry's regulations and work closely with legal teams to ensure that contracts with NaaS providers are compliant. Opting for providers with certifications in regulatory standards would be beneficial.

What is the future of NaaS?

The NaaS market is poised for impressive growth in the coming years. From 2022 to 2030 the NaaS market value is expected to grow to $75.25 billion. This expansion is driven in part by the digital transformation of various organizations. As businesses increasingly turn to the cloud, they are adopting NaaS to not only reduce costs and capital investments but also to amplify operational efficiency and scalability.

A notable shift is the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) by NaaS providers. These technologies pave the way for enhanced offerings, such as predictive analytics, automated setups, self-tuning networks, and bolstered network security.

The technological maturation of NaaS indicates its potential branching into new domains. We can anticipate its foray into areas like Network Function Virtualization (NFV), Software-defined Networking (SDN), and the management of intricate hybrid environments. Providers are gearing up to enhance the customization aspect of NaaS. This means businesses across diverse sectors can expect solutions tailored to their specific needs.

Lastly, the ripple effect of NaaS's rise will be felt in the IT job sector. Traditional on-site IT network maintenance roles may see a decline given the increasing reliance on automation and software orchestrated delivery models, while the demand for professionals who are experts in cloud-based networking is set to soar.

Discover the Power of NaaS with Nile

NaaS by Nile promises zero-trust security, guaranteed network performance, and streamlined IT operations, redefining the very foundation of modern networking. Beyond just any typical NaaS, Nile Access Service delivers an integrated wired and wireless LAN network tailored to today's digital demands.

We ensure consistently high network performance levels by eliminating traditional complexities. Our innovative -as-a-Service delivery model allows you to efficiently manage your expenses without incurring unwanted capital costs.Exceptional network performance is at the heart of our NaaS. With Nile, organizations benefit from AI automation, ensuring consistent connectivity bolstered by a resilient, fully-redundant architecture.

By embracing zero-trust security principles, we ensure the network authenticates every user and device, and that data is encrypted between Nile network elements. With Nile, operational challenges become a thing of the past. During the entire network lifecycle, Nile Access Service delivers IT simplicity.

Discover how Nile can yelp you plan, design, and implement your next-generation enterprise wired and wireless network - and consume it as a service.

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