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NaaS (Networking as a Service)

NaaS (Networking as a Service)

Networking can prove challenging, especially when your business and networking needs grow. It takes a lot of expertise, not to mention time, money, and energy to design, build, and maintain a professional network.

If you’re looking for an easier option, it does exist, and it goes by the name, “NaaS”

What Is NaaS?

Networking as a service (NaaS) is what the name implies. It’s a service that handles networking for a business. Through NaaS, you can gain access to professional networking infrastructure and management, and you don't have to pay for any of the hardware, software, licenses, design, or maintenance outright.

Instead, you pay a subscription price with a third-party NaaS provider. They provide the expertise and handle all aspects of creating and maintaining your network.

That’s really all it is. You’re outsourcing networking investments to a third-party provider. Used well, that can save you money, and it can definitely save you a lot of time and effort.

To better understand NaaS, we’ll look into different applications, models, and comparisons, but you’ll find that everything comes back to the idea of third-party outsourcing.

The Service Cloud Model

The most common NaaS service you can get follows the cloud model. If you have ever paid for cloud access, then you’re familiar with the model. In case you aren’t familiar, here’s how it works.

You contact a cloud provider and browse their service options. You find the option with the storage and features that you want. You sign up for the service and pay a monthly fee. As long as you pay the fee, you have cloud access. If you stop paying the fee (or cancel the service), you can no longer access the cloud. Meanwhile, if you want to change your service tier because you need more or less storage, you can do that too.

This model applies to NaaS as well. You find a provider and pick your tier of service. From there, you pay monthly fees, and they professionally maintain your network. The model really is that simple.

Software-Defined Networking

Of course, the idea of NaaS really starts to take shape when you consider software-defined networking.

When you build a network, there are different design options you can choose. One of the simpler ways to build a network is with hardware-defined topology. Basically, you plug in the different devices in the arrangement of your choice, and that mostly dictates how the network can function.

Software-defined networking changes that and gives you more freedom. With this model, you use software tools to manage all of your networking hardware. This allows you to do things like creating VLANs, adjusting security terms, optimizing performance, and a whole lot more.

Bringing this back to NaaS, software-defined networking is what allows a NaaS provider to partner with you. Even though the NaaS provider handles network maintenance, you (the customer) still get some level of control over networking functions. In order to exercise that control, you will typically use a cloud-based controller, and this only works because the NaaS network is software-defined.

How NaaS Works

Now that we’re peeling back some layers, we can look more carefully at how NaaS actually works.

From the customer perspective, things are pretty easy. You contact a provider, come to terms, and they handle the rest.

Now, it’s normal for the NaaS provider to partner with you in order to understand your networking needs. They’ll use that information to make recommendations, and in the end, you’ll pick the networking tier that suits you. At the same time, they know more about your business and can adjust the network accordingly.

That’s really the gist of it.

From the provider’s point of view, they get to know a client. From there, they select hardware, physically build the network, test everything, and take it online. After that, they maintain the network to keep it in top shape and make changes to the network as the need arises.

Benefits of NaaS

Using NaaS is really easy, but is it worth it?

The answer to that question depends on the specifics of your organization, but generally, NaaS does come with benefits.

First, it’s often good for your finances. NaaS, even in the long term, can be cheaper than building and running your own network. Even if that isn’t the case, NaaS helps you avoid steep up-front equipment costs.

NaaS is definitely more flexible as you can adjust your service tier without having to pay for major networking infrastructure changes.

NaaS provides professional networking security, which is a major benefit for many organizations.

Networking as a service also presents superior scalability. If you need more networking capacity, you simply upgrade your service tier.

NaaS vs SaaS vs IasS

Clearly, NaaS has a lot to offer. The last piece of the puzzle falls into place when we compare NaaS to a few other common “as a service” options: SaaS and IaaS.

Let’s start with software as a service (SaaS). This is extremely common, and the model is simple. A company makes software, and you pay a monthly subscription for access to the software. Often, this access is cloud-based, but regardless of that, it’s using the exact same payment structure as NaaS. The only difference here is that you’re getting specific software instead of networking support.

IaaS has more in common with NaaS. Infrastructure as a service is what the name implies. Any aspect of IT infrastructure can be obtained and managed through this service. IaaS might include some components of networking, but it often includes server hardware and other computers and components.

The major differences between NaaS and IasS boil down to specificity. IaaS is generalized while NaaS specifically caters to networking needs.

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