August 16, 2023

Navigating Network-as-a-Service

Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) is a delivery model for network services based on consumption-based pricing, with end-to-end managed SLAs and the ability to flex up or down on demand. It abstracts the services from the networking hardware, software, licenses and support, enabling a shift from CAPEX to OPEX.

What makes it NaaS?

  • An elastic consumption model, that can flex up or down based on usage ($ / x / month)
  • On-demand provisioning of network services via an easy-to-use portal or via API
  • Flexible and scalable connectivity options across the network
  • Committed end-to-end SLAs, backed by a service management capability
  • Service visibility and insights via monitoring & analytics

Flavours of NaaS

There are different flavours of NaaS present in the market with some offering complete flexibility based on a shared infrastructure and others which are really bundling of hardware and software in a leasing model with managed services.

Hardware / software subscription models typically offered by enterprise network equipment providers. These are promoted as NaaS but are more of financial engineering to achieve a leasing model.

Managed network services typically offered by network integrators, IT Services firms and Telcos, where a bespoke NaaS solution is put together on demand that can deliver usage-based consumption, end-to-end SLAs and service visibility. Achieving on-demand provisioning and flexible connectivity options can be more challenging in this scenario, and there may be less flexibility to changes in consumption as many of the network components are dedicated to a single customer.

Full NaaS which meets all the characteristics described above can be delivered by some Telcos and pure-play NaaS providers.

It's also possible to put together a hybrid NaaS solution which may combine traditional on-premise networks with cloud connectivity and WAN delivered as a service.

Benefits of NaaS

A well-designed and delivered NaaS solution can enhance operating performance in the following ways:

IT simplicity and automation

Achieve IT simplicity and automation through dynamically adding capacity on-demand, continuous delivery of hot-fixes and patches, and automating multiple tasks.

Access from anywhere

Access your network services such as SaaS/PaaS/IaaS from anywhere through the internet, enabling easy connectivity and usage.

Enhanced security

Enhance security by transitioning to SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) where and when needed, ensuring both on-premises and cloud security.

Visibility and insights

Gain visibility and insights into your network with underlay and overlay network visibility, as well as advanced firewall and packet inspection capabilities.

Improved application experience

Provide an improved application experience with SLA-based, AI-driven application-aware intelligent path selection, regardless of the user's location.


Experience flexibility in your network infrastructure as changes are software-based rather than hardware-based. Easily add new sites, branches, and connections in a short amount of time.


Achieve scalability through a simple purchase for additional capacity and the ability to scale up and down quickly as needed.

Which parts of the Network?

NaaS can potentially cover the following areas, although some are a better fit for this model than others.

NaaS is most mature where the infrastructure is shared across many customers. Where infrastructure is dedicated to a single customer it doesn’t add as much value to abstract the network services.

An SD-WAN NaaS relies on dedicated customer premise equipment although this can be offered as a consumption model. SD-WAN is increasingly merging with SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) including zero trust network access, secure web gateway, next-gen firewall, DNS-layer security, intrusion prevention system, data loss prevention and cloud access security broker. Future delivery models are likely to evolve towards SASE-as-a-Service.

When is NaaS a good thing?

NaaS is effectively a wrapper, but that wrapper can be value-adding for both service delivery, service quality and cost management. The following criteria can help to evaluate if the NaaS solution proposed is value-adding.

  • It simplifies managing the network
  • It leads to improved service availability
  • It brings flexibility to scale up and down on demand
  • It provides ongoing access to new network features or technologies
  • It supports a shift from CAPEX to OPEX
  • It provides the coverage of locations needed
  • It improves sustainability by reducing e-waste via asset lifecycle management
  • It helps to optimise network resources and enhance performance

When is NaaS not a good thing?

There are scenarios where either NaaS is not the best approach or the solution offered by the vendor doesn’t meet the NaaS criteria as outlined below.

  • It increases the total cost of ownership
  • It doesn’t provide cost transparency for the services used
  • It results in vendor lock-in via contractual limitations, incompatibility with other vendor services or high switching costs
  • It increases cyber security risks via lack of visibility and control
  • It doesn’t provide coverage for locations needed (regional, national, global)
  • It limits the flexibility to implement new technologies provided by other vendors
  • The provider doesn’t have a solid track record of delivering similar services

What’s the X?

An elastic consumption model means that pricing is some form of $ / x / month which goes both up and down. For some network services, it can be straightforward like bandwidth (Mbps / Gbps), sites with access (which might apply for SD-WAN NaaS) or possibly users connected to a service (which might apply for SASE-as-a-Service).

However, for other services such as LAN, the costs are closely tied to the allocation of dedicated on-premise network equipment (e.g. switches & APs) resulting in pricing which is less flexible. In these cases, the most common NaaS pricing models being offered are per user or per square meter/square foot.

When evaluating NaaS offerings, keep an eye out for non-recurring charges (such as setup fees), minimum terms and early cancellation costs. SLAs are also important as the pricing should be dependent on service availability and support response & resolution time.

NaaS vs roll-your-own

The key benefit of NaaS is the ability to remove the complexity of designing, implementing and managing a secure, high-availability network. Additionally, it ties network operating costs directly to usage by quickly scaling up or down network services based on demand.

The implementation approach depends on the size and global footprint of the organisation. For smaller or regional organisations, NaaS is likely to be a good fit and provide the level of simplicity, flexibility and local support needed. For organisations with a global footprint and strong in-house network expertise, it will be much more difficult to find providers who can deliver all services with committed SLAs.

Thinking ahead

Significant innovation is taking place in the areas of Cloud NaaS (e.g. Packetfabric, Megaport and Enterprise NaaS e.g.  Aryaka , Cato Networks , Meter, Nile ) where the services have been designed to be as-a-service from the ground up. Large global Telco providers are well-positioned to offer the complete suite of NaaS services, however it's not clear that they will be able to deliver the level of flexibility, transparency and innovation that customers expect from cloud computing.

Similar to cloud computing, it is likely that organisations will in future utilise more than one NaaS provider and so the capability to manage a multi-NaaS environment that delivers seamless network services to end users will be needed.

If you would like to know more about network strategy & operation, contact us.