The rapid pace of technological change in today's digital economy is driving businesses to automate as much as possible to boost productivity, compete more effectively, and deliver value in an increasingly on-demand world. Organizations that are building out the automated ecosystem are focused on creating a frictionless environment that will generate new business opportunities and increase agility.
Partners want to provide a cloud-like experience for enterprises, which means seamlessly delivering dynamic services when and where enterprises need them, providing visibility into performance end-to-end, and enabling enterprise software developers, applications, and systems to interact directly with service provider networks via standardized APIs. This is a major step forward for innovation compared to the proprietary portals that are common today.
API-Driven NaaS Solutions
Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) is one of the hottest areas of innovation and is particularly reflective of the vision of a global ecosystem of interconnected, automated networks. NaaS platforms combine on-demand connectivity, application assurance, cybersecurity, and multi-cloud-based services across automated networks to help enterprises achieve business outcomes without having to build and maintain their own infrastructure.
APIs are a key enabler of NaaS solutions because they allow enterprises to easily integrate network resources into their existing IT infrastructure. However, NaaS represents a new way to deliver network services and advanced capabilities that will likely be made up of piece parts from many partners. This could include retail service providers, wholesale service providers, hyperscalers, technology solution providers, data center providers, and others. The supply chain would be hidden from subscribers and appear as part of the retail service provider’s offering on a global basis.
For example, a NaaS solution provider could use a multi-cloud core rather than their own network plus a middle mile provider plus last mile access on their own network as well as partner networks. For enterprise users, this translates into the ability to easily purchase services and network resources from their provider with on-demand elastic agility on a global basis, regardless of where that service originates or where it is delivered.
Importance of Standards-based APIs
Coordination of the numerous ecosystem partners involved in delivering a service clearly becomes a priority. Every part of the transaction at the business process and operational levels will be driven by APIs. Utilizing standards-based APIs enables communications service providers to seamlessly integrate with enterprises and play a crucial role in NaaS solutions. This means that standards-based APIs have to deliver on the following:
Interoperability: Standardized APIs ensure compatibility and interoperability between different components and systems within the service delivery ecosystem. They allow enterprises to integrate NaaS solutions within their existing infrastructure, applications, and services seamlessly. By adhering to industry-standard APIs, service providers enable enterprises to leverage NaaS capabilities without significant disruptions or complex integration efforts.
Automation and Orchestration: APIs enable the automation and orchestration of network services. With standardized APIs, enterprises can programmatically control and manage their network infrastructure, making it easier to deploy, configure, and manage network resources. Automated provisioning, policy enforcement, and scalability can be achieved through API-based interactions, reducing a swivel chair of manually provisioning portals and improving operational efficiency.
Flexibility and Customization: Standardized APIs provide the flexibility for enterprises to customize and tailor NaaS solutions according to their specific requirements. Enterprises can leverage APIs to integrate additional functionalities or build their own applications and services on top of the NaaS platform. This extensibility allows businesses to adapt the network infrastructure to their evolving needs, enabling rapid innovation and differentiation.
Ecosystem Integration: Standardized APIs foster the development of a broader ecosystem around NaaS solutions. This ecosystem enables enterprises to choose from a range of complementary tools and services that can enhance their NaaS experience, such as analytics, security solutions, or specialized applications.
API Economy is Surging
In January 2023, API hub provider Rapid released its annual State of APIs Report, which highlights global trends in software development and API usage, finding that the API economy is growing rapidly, particularly among the telecommunications, technology, and financial services markets. In a survey of 850 professional developers and others from around the globe, Rapid found that “the market has shifted to where businesses focused on digital transformation now need to be an API business in order to thrive.”
The rise of the API economy is revolutionizing the communications industry and driving digital transformation. Moving forward, businesses of all sizes and in all industries will use APIs to connect their systems and applications. NaaS solutions are just one example of how standardized APIs are being used to deliver new and innovative services, and businesses not using APIs will soon be at a competitive disadvantage.
To learn more about the strategic implications and benefits of standardized APIs, check out MEF's new State of the Industry Report – Paradigm Shift: Automating Business Functions Between Service Providers.
(Editor’s note: This article is part of our regular series of articles from the industry experts at MEF.)
Pascal Menezes is Chief Technology Officer at MEF. He is focused on SD-WAN, SASE, cloud scale architectures, real-time media networks, Software Defined Networks (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), and Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO). He is a former Principal from Microsoft Skype for Business Global Carrier Group, where he spent close to 10 years working on many real-time media and network technologies. Pascal has worked on five startups with multiple successes, has received numerous industry global thought leadership awards, presented extensively in numerous events worldwide, and currently serves on the Capacity Media Editorial Board. Pascal holds 30+ patents and patents pending and has co-authored many standards in the IETF, MEF, and Broadband Forum (MPLS). See his collection of Network Computing articles here.