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What is Network as a Service (NaaS)?

Network World: NaaS typically includes integrated hardware, software and licenses delivered in a subscription-based offering.

July 16, 2021 3 minute read

The definition of NaaS is somewhat of a moving target and prone to hype at this point. But there are some solid NaaS characterizations. Neil Anderson is amongst the experts interviewed for this article from Network World.

by Michael Cooney

The day is coming when enterprise IT professionals will be able to order network infrastructure components from a menu of options, have them designed to fit their business needs, and have the whole thing delivered and running in perhaps hours.

The concept is called Network as a Service (NaaS), and it has been around in a number of different forms for a few years, mostly in the service provider arena.

For enterprises, the as-a-service concept took hold as companies started to embrace cloud computing and its model of consumption-based capacity. In the infrastructure space, for example, more than 75% of infrastructure in edge locations and up to 50% of data-center infrastructure will be consumed in the as-a-service model by 2024, according to research firm IDC.

According to Forrester, the evolving technology landscape is driving the need for more flexible consumption models. The pandemic, too, has accelerated adoption of as-a-service offerings, the research firm reports: "The events of 2020 meant IT plans and priorities had to change. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of IT leaders began accelerating the shift of IT spend from capex to opex and to consider flexible consumption models like as-a-Service for the future."

Another trend driving the move toward NaaS is that licensing and software-management components of enterprise networking infrastructure are increasingly offered via a subscription, IDC reports.

What is NaaS?

The definition of NaaS is somewhat of a moving target and prone to hype at this point. But there are some solid NaaS characterizations.

"NaaS models are inclusive of integrated hardware, software, licenses and support services delivered in a flexible consumption or subscription-based offering," wrote IDC senior research analyst Brandon Butler in a white paper.

There are different degrees of NaaS, according to Anderson, including:

  • Subscription hardware: Instead of outright purchase (Capex), you pay a monthly subscription (OpenX) for the hardware, but you still install/operate it.
  • Managed service: Subscription-based hardware plus a managed service to operate it.
  • True NaaS: The provider owns, installs, and operates all equipment, and you simply pay a monthly fee for the turnkey service.
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