What Is Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) And Should You Care?

March 9, 2015
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Given the number of software products and solutions being packaged as-a-service today, it is natural to be cynical at the sight of yet another ‘-aaS’ acronym. But with significant developments in the area of network functions virtualization (NFV), software defined networking (SDN) and OpenFlow, it is important to see these various products as part of the greater need to design and deploy network services with agility and scale – something that NaaS offers. 

Given the number of software products and solutions being packaged as-a-service today, it is natural to be cynical at the sight of yet another ‘-aaS’ acronym. But with significant developments in the area of network functions virtualization (NFV), software defined networking (SDN) and OpenFlow, it is important to see these various products as part of the greater need to design and deploy network services with agility and scale – something that NaaS offers. 

Network-as-a-Service, as the term suggests, is designed to provide on-demand network services to businesses. Unlike regular network connectivity services which typically involve high CapEx and fixed bandwidth usage charges, NaaS offers an affordable alternative where subscribers pay monthly charges based on services consumed. In some ways, this is merely a change in business model since the providers still need to own the same level of infrastructure. But from a customer’s perspective, NaaS makes it possible to consume network services without the need to own any of the infrastructure. All that one needs is a computer with internet connection to get going. 

If this sounds familiar, it is because you may already have used similar tools in the past. Virtual Private Networks (VPN), Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) are products and business models themselves that have become mainstream over the past decade or so. These virtual network services too are sometimes considered a part of the NaaS model. 

There are several benefits that NaaS offers that makes it a better bet than regular networking solutions. These are mainly virtues derived due to the service being offered over the internet. For instance, customers gain operational benefits from a policy-based centralized flow control. Customers also get to enjoy greater flexibility, resource optimization, scalability, network efficiency and cost savings. In addition to this, NaaS also provide greater analytics and disaster recovery options that may be difficult to deploy in a standalone setting. 

From the standpoint of business, there has been a lot of activity in recent times in the area of NaaS. Global Capacity, a Chicago based NaaS provider recently acquired the network services unit of MegaPath. The New South Wales government in Australia recently adopted NaaS for their data centers. A number of network businesses including Meraki, Telefonica and Infinera too have been venturing into the NaaS space. 

Some businesses like Anuta Networks have predicted 2015 to be the year of NaaS. Whether or not this will be the case, it is evident that network services are moving to the cloud and it is time to take notice of it. However, like it is with every other cloud based platform, there are always concerns about the security and dependability of functions offered as a service over the internet. NaaS is no different. But if you are concerned about if this is the right option for you, this video from Cisco should assuage a lot of those fears.