Network-as-a-service: All about this new networking paradigm

More than a decade ago, infrastructure-as-a-service (IAAS) revolutionized the IT landscape by providing virtual resources for several organizations struggling to upscale or build their infrastructure. Today, with the growing demand for network and network services, many SMBs and enterprises struggle to meet the growing demand for secure, reliable, and efficient networks. With the IT industry seeing a massive increase in cloud service adoption along with a staggering rise in remote workers across the globe due to the ongoing pandemic, we are witnessing a staggering need for network virtualization. This virtualization technology is the base for the network-as-a-service (NaaS) paradigm, which is currently a buzzword associated with network virtualization in the IT industry. NaaS provides scalable network services from third-party service providers to various companies of all shapes and sizes that do not want to build their network and handle the associated overhead.

What is network-as-a-service?

As the name suggests, network-as-a-service is a cloud model capable of delivering enterprise-level network services virtually on a subscription basis. It enables individuals or companies to own, operate, and manage a network and its associated services without actually owning the infrastructure. For companies struggling to keep up with the ever-changing technologies and increasing cyber threats, choosing NaaS could be an effective and viable solution. Several industry experts believe that the value proposition associated with the growing network needs its fueling NaaS growth.

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Why NaaS?

While large organizations possess the resources for owning and maintaining large-scale infrastructures, small or midsized businesses often struggle to own or manage network infrastructure. Several factors such as lack of staffing, resources, capital, or expertise are typical reasons SMBs face problems owning and maintaining cutting-edge infrastructure. Moreover, configuring and operating large-scale business networks, protocols, and services can be complicated and time-consuming. With NaaS, a team of experts can easily handle all this through a third-party service provider. NaaS is tailor-made for individuals or companies facing these hurdles. A single NaaS provision can include access to a wide area network (WAN), load balancers, firewalls, and Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS), among others. It can be paid on a pay-per-use subscription basis like a traditional cloud.

Several factors such as rapid growth in need of network services, ongoing pandemic, advancements in technology, and cybersecurity are the major factors driving the increase in demand for NaaS.

Benefits of NaaS

Here are some of the major benefits offered by network-as-a-service. These are also the driving factors for the companies to deploy NaaS services.

Reduced costs

Since companies do not have to invest huge amounts of capital setting up the network infrastructure and other equipment needed. NaaS can help SMBs offset a major portion of operational and maintenance costs.

Automation

NaaS allows IT simplification and ease of scaling apart from cost benefits. Businesses can scale their services as needed and can also integrate their existing tools and services with NaaS for automation. SMBs can also rely on NaaS providers for full lifecycle management of network services and automation.

network as a service
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Better security

Cyberthreats are ever-evolving, and cybercriminals are constantly improving their arsenal of malware. It is often the SMBs who fall victim to cyberattacks through shortcomings in application, data, or network security. NaaS is capable of providing tight integrations between networking resources and network security. Since the NaaS providers can handle the infrastructure and the services they offer, companies can offload a major part of their security responsibilities for better, more secure, and expert-backed NaaS services. Finally, the NaaS internal systems are more likely to be regularly updated to the latest and most secure versions, minimizing the risk factors.

Improved overall experience

With a plethora of cloud services and varied user experiences, it is a challenge for organizations, especially SMBs, to satisfy their diversified user base. NaaS provides a plethora of customizable services to choose from and can include smart, efficient, and intelligent AI-driven services to ensure companies reach their SLAs and deliver efficient services to users.

Flexibility and scalability

Since the NaaS paradigm is adopted from that of the cloud, it inherits the core benefits of the cloud, including flexibility and scalability. NaaS is delivered through a cloud model to offer a high level of flexibility in terms of the services offered, pricing, availability, features, and more. NaaS service providers will be able to cater to a wide range of companies to provide them with tailor-made services through a subscription model allowing network agility. When companies experience a surge in user-base or services, they can easily scale up their network resources to meet the growing demands.

Challenges facing network-as-a-service

Because, NaaS is relatively a very new service still in its infancy, pricing is still uncertain. Because NaaS is driven by low-latency internet services, any interruption in the WAN connectivity of the service provider can cause serious problems in the functioning and operations of the underlying business. Finally, because it is such a new service, there is no standard feature list that can be adapted to a wide portion of SMBs. Business leaders need to list their essential requirements from NaaS and compare the operational costs of NaaS with their existing costs before making a move.

A new network virtualization model

Every company needs to perform a preliminary internal evaluation to assess and list their needs and requirements from NaaS. They need to have predefined SLAs, feature requirements, and estimated network resources requirements, among others, before setting up NaaS with any service provider. Other essential aspects such as handling and maintaining data integrity and compliance issues such as data sovereignty need to be streamlined. Once all these initial requirements are streamlined and put forth, companies can leverage this new network virtualization paradigm and get all the associated benefits.

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