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Can Network as a Service (NaaS) Have Multiple Definitions?

Feb 06, 20235 mins

Exploring the Different Types of NaaS Deployments

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By: Cathy Won, Consultant with eTeam, HPE Aruba Contributor.

NaaS is the acronym for Network as a Service. NaaS can have different definitions, depending on whom you ask. At the highest level, NaaS is defined as network infrastructure hardware, software, services, management, and licensing components consumed in a subscription-based or flexible consumption model. NaaS is different from other traditional as a service models that take advantage of cloud and virtualization capabilities because a significant amount of on-premises cabling and distributed networking equipment are required for network connectivity operations. Additionally, organizations may still require WAN interconnections to the cloud which may or may not be included in a NaaS offering. So, is NaaS different than other cloud as a service offerings, like compute and storage?  Are there different NaaS solutions and does the definition vary by implementation? Does NaaS mean completely outsourcing your network infrastructure to a managed service partner?

Let’s explore the different types of NaaS deployments offered today, to understand the world of NaaS in 2023 and the varying definitions that can be applied to NaaS deployments. The variations in definitions can often be attributed to differences in the capabilities and expertise of the assorted providers outlined below.

Public and hybrid cloud service providers, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, HPE GreenLake, et al, usually include the packaging of compute, storage, and networking components as part of their configuration and implementation to provide a comprehensive solution. The objective for these cloud providers is to ensure they can interconnect workloads which can potentially be anywhere. This enables simplicity and location abstraction, providing them with the ability to support and address multiple clients worldwide. The overall management of the network and communication with the servers and storage are often bundled, so the compute, storage, and networking infrastructure are completely managed off-site by the provider. In this use case, the NaaS deployment can be seen as a completely managed service with varying levels of service provided by the cloud computing service vendor. Organizations typically don’t have control over the network topology, nor do they have to manage any of the network infrastructure. However, they are given options for service levels of network connectivity and security.

Telecom providers, like AT&T, NTT, Verizon, and Telefonica, offer NaaS connectivity to enterprises, much in the same way they offer cellular services to individual consumers for wireless connectivity. The objective of telecom providers is to bundle WAN interconnect services with Network Operations Center (NOC) investments to provide a turnkey network solution and to strengthen their ability to deliver on SLAs. As the quintessential providers of wireless connectivity, telecom carriers would like organizations to leverage their bundled WAN interconnection capabilities exclusively. The NaaS offerings can be inclusive of a full-service offering with the managed services component or be extended simply to private VPN services or SD-WAN options so that organizations can continue to manage their local network infrastructure internally. Telecom providers offer a variety of deployment options to organizations, enabling the flexibility for organizations to still control and manage their network infrastructure or providing the flexibility of full-service solutions so organizations don’t need to manage their network infrastructure.

OEM enterprise network equipment vendors, like HPE Aruba along with their partners, provide NaaS solutions leveraging their R&D and deployment expertise in enterprise LAN, remote branch, and SD-WAN connectivity use cases as a foundation for their NaaS offering. The categorization falls primarily on providing the equipment through subscription-based or consumption-based acquisition, eliminating the upfront capital spending tied to purchasing the equipment. In these cases, the implementation of internet connectivity and cellular services are still required from a telecommunications carrier and internet provider. Network vendors would manage the hardware and software in conjunction with the internet provider and telecommunications carrier, leaving the overall management of the network infrastructure to the network vendor, partner, or internal staff. Like telecom providers, organizations are given a choice of deployment options that best fit their business needs. Organizations have the flexibility to control and manage parts or all of their network infrastructure. They have the choice to pass the baton of control completely to the OEM network equipment vendor or vendor partner.

Does NaaS always mean organizations give up control of their network infrastructure?

The scenarios outlined above reveal that the NaaS market is still emerging and there are multiple deployment options that can create confusion on the definition. The definition of NaaS is still being formulated by various vendor solutions, the analyst community, and organizations themselves. The implementation and deployment of the NaaS solutions available today aren’t necessarily inclusive of comprehensive management of the network to an outside vendor or partner. Not all NaaS deployments are the same, and not all implementations of NaaS require relinquishing control of the network infrastructure.

So yes, it’s true… NaaS can have slight dialect differences.

The NaaS market is still nascent. The variety of NaaS deployment options demonstrates that consensus on the market definition closely emulates dialect differences, where the use of the term doesn’t exactly mean the same thing to everyone. Similarly, with NaaS, there are a variety of dialects interpreting its meaning. In the case of NaaS, the variety of definitions and implementations means there are solutions to fit almost any use case dependent upon the need, resources, internal expertise, and budget. The wide set of options enables organizations to truly utilize a solution that best addresses their organization’s specific business needs.

Want to learn more about NaaS and how HPE Aruba can help you get started on your NaaS journey? Visit