NaaS Adoption Will Thrive Despite Vendor Hype and Migration Challenges

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Network as a Service (NaaS) is gaining momentum, providing a subscription-based model that eliminates the need for businesses to own, build, and maintain their own network infrastructure.

By replacing conventional hardware-centric VPNs, firewalls, load balancers, and MPLS connections, NaaS technology promises users the ability to quickly scale with demand while eliminating hardware and by strengthening network security and service levels.

Why companies are adopting NaaS

Businesses are typically drawn to the NaaS model by the ability to consume scalable network services at a predictable cost while shifting spending from capital expenditures to operational expenditures, said Robert Smallwood, vice president of technology at the general dynamics information technology (gdit) IT service management company.

Key benefits of NaaS include rapid deployment, on-demand scaling, zero-touch modernization refreshes, and access to the expertise needed to design and maintain the increasingly complex mesh of interconnected networks in the world. ‘today.

NaaS adoption can also help IT managers align limited resources with strategic business goals. “There is tremendous power in freeing up an organization’s internal IT resources to refocus and prioritize measuring and achieving business goals,” added John Chambers, director of the network solutions team. and unified communications from business consulting firm RSM US.

The five-year outlook for NaaS looks promising, Smallwood said. Gartner predicts NaaS will be adopted by 15% of all enterprises by the end of 2024, up from less than 1% in 2021, he said. Mordor Intelligence, meanwhile, predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for NaaS of 33% between 2021 and 2026.

SD-WAN, SASE, managed Wi-Fi and more

The NaaS umbrella covers a wide range of network services, including remote access, on-demand private L2 or L3 connectivity (including VPN), secure SD-WAN, SASE, security tools, Wi- Cloud-based managed Fi, private LTE services, enterprise 5G services, and metro Ethernet services.

Smallwood sees many companies taking a methodical approach to NaaS adoption, starting with simpler, more mature use cases, such as remote access and SD-WAN, and then moving to more holistic.

Major NaaS vendors include cloud service providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Rackspace, as well as traditional communications service providers. Other players include Alkiri, Akamai, Amdoc, Aryaka, Cisco, Megaport, PacketFabric, PaloAlto Networks, and Perimeter 81.

“We see niche providers continuing to emerge as service gaps are identified,” Smallwood noted.

NaaS will continue to grow and mature wherever required network functions can be virtualized and deployed in the cloud, said Mark Allen, director of network consulting services at technology research and consulting firm ISG.

“The greatest opportunities for growth will be driven by the abstraction of network functions from costly on-premises equipment requirements to easily consumable services with commercial builds that scale to the demand of a given business,” he said. he declares.

While many vendors claim to provide a NaaS service, some offerings are really little more than an underlying funding construct as opposed to an actual service, Allen said.

“Today, there are many pure ‘XaaS’ solutions for various functions that previously depended on physical hardware at the customer’s premises,” he noted. Security, remote access and VPN are increasingly presented as NaaS services.

Pandemic Drives NaaS Adoption

Early adopters of NaaS tend to be small and medium-sized businesses with relatively low levels of technical debt, as well as nimble organizations that are willing to take on some degree of risk, Allen said.

NaaS also appeals to businesses struggling with large-scale data flows, such as advertising and e-commerce organizations, as well as customers with intense security requirements, including healthcare and service companies. investors, said Alexander Wurm, an analyst at technology research and advisory firm Nucleus Research. .

Other early adopters include mature businesses that fully understand the services they will need to be successful over the long term.

“These organizations have already adopted other services in an as-a-service model and understand what is needed to successfully transition to these delivery models,” Smallwood said. Other early adopters are companies juggling limited budgets that see NaaS as a way to reduce some of their capital expenditures.

The pandemic has also played a significant role in driving NaaS adoption, Chambers said.

“During the early days of COVID-19, there was a rapid push for users to be able to connect quickly, reliably, and securely from anywhere, anytime,” he added. “This has forced many companies to make hardware/software purchases and rapid implementations that have accelerated an already noticeable increase in overall network complexity over the past few years.”

Unfortunately, many organizations have faced serious challenges while trying to keep pace with suddenly essential changes. “Enterprises that need to rapidly scale up or down the capabilities of their network infrastructure, or those that are on the cusp of a major IT infrastructure lifecycle activity, have become prime candidates for the adoption of NaaS,” Chambers said.

It is easier for organizations to adopt small-scale NaaS offerings to understand how to assess potential risks and benefits and determine overall alignment with their business requirements.

“NaaS vendors should offer different service levels that allow the business/organization to choose the degree of NaaS,” Smallwood said. “This could include a hardware-only subscription, a managed service, or a full-featured true NaaS where the vendor owns, installs, and operates all the equipment.”

Businesses, meanwhile, will need to look beyond their initial fear of change and perceived loss of control to “recognize the real benefits that NaaS could bring to them, especially in this world of remote work, focused on security and more dependent on the cloud,” Chambers detailed.

As more services are virtualized and packaged for ease of use, the NaaS market will continue to grow rapidly, Allen said. “NaaS will benefit as enterprises continue to adopt hybrid workforce models, especially in the post-pandemic era,” he added.

NaaS migration issues

If approached intelligently, a NaaS migration shouldn’t be particularly difficult or time-consuming, according to Allen.

“The tricky part is the preparation – getting the house in order before a major technological change can succeed,” he said. “This involves auditing the network and adequately segmenting functions for transformation to NaaS while determining what to do with those that are not.”

Brownfield deployments tend to be more difficult than cleansite installations, Smallwood observed.

“For example, in brownfield deployments, there can be compatibility issues where the NaaS vendor infrastructure is not compatible with legacy systems,” he said. “Migrating applications and processes can be difficult if those applications and processes are running in on-premises data centers and not in the cloud.”

Another potential stumbling block is that the NaaS vendor may only have a limited number of APIs needed to successfully move legacy network services to the NaaS model. “Having multiple vendors providing different parts of network services can also make it difficult to move to NaaS,” Smallwood said.

Additionally, NaaS customers and vendors often have differing viewpoints.

“We often see a chasm between the supplier’s understanding and the customer’s understanding of what is possible and applicable,” Allen said. In a complex and evolving marketplace, vendors are stacked at different levels of maturity, which colors their definitions and service offerings. He suggested running a Request for Solution (RFS) process to determine an appropriate set of vendors.

“During RFS, areas of particular concern should include term commitments, cost, billing structure and technology used,” Allen said.

Smallwood recommended testing the waters of NaaS with small, clearly identified projects and scaling up to more complex ventures as experience is gained over time. “We’re seeing increased interest in as-a-service models such as NaaS, but also a bit of confusion about how to move organizations from legacy IT models to as-a-service models,” he said. note.

Perhaps the toughest NaaS candidates are companies that run critical applications and systems in their on-premises data centers, not in a public or private cloud. These organizations may find it harder to move to NaaS than those that are already fully embedded in the cloud.

For organizations tied to physical data centers, Chambers advised taking a “crawl, walk, run” approach. “For example, a company considering an SD-WAN implementation might choose a NaaS approach for budgeting, implementing, and ongoing management of the SD-WAN platform, as opposed to a legacy CapEx adoption model and its inherent limitations and risks – namely less scalability and flexibility.”

Smallwood believes there will be no turning back from NaaS as adoption continues to grow rapidly over the next few years, but that may require a change in attitude.

“The successful adoption of as-a-service models, such as NaaS, is challenged by people with legacy mindsets who fear a lack of control and cannot definitively identify the measurable results they need from the services” , did he declare.

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