What is Network-as-a-Service (NaaS)? A Complete Guide

Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) offers a flexible, cost-effective, and efficient way for businesses to manage their networking needs. Here is an overview to guide your selection and use of NaaS.

8 Min Read
What is Network-as-a-Service (NaaS)? A Complete Guide
(Credit: JL / Alamy Stock Photo)

Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) is much more than an emerging subscription model for corporate networks.

With NaaS, the provider is responsible for buying and managing the routers, switches, load balancers, firewalls, and other security devices that once made up the infrastructure of costly, resource-draining, and limited-flexibility private networks.

What Preceded NaaS?

For decades, the traditional solution for wide-area networks has been private networks whereby enterprises bought, managed, and maintained networking equipment and secured connections serving onsite data centers. That practice was eclipsed by the more flexible and cost-efficient cloud architecture.

Then came Network-as-a-Service (NaaS), an emerging option intended to be provided across a standards-based automated ecosystem to help organizations meet fluctuating data needs and achieve business goals.

Soaring data traffic, driven by the broadening use of 5G, IoT, and video streaming (and the rapid emergence of AI), has given rise to the newer and more flexible WAN approach. Beyond not buying, managing, or maintaining network equipment, bandwidth, and specialized talent, NaaS offers many capabilities and functionality.

How Network as a Service Works

The MEF, an industry association and advocate for NaaS and friends, describes a full-bodied offering as "a new-paradigm solution by combining on-demand connectivity, application assurance, cybersecurity, and multi-cloud-based services delivered across a standards-based automated ecosystem of partners."

Of great importance is the MEF’s development of a much-needed NaaS Industry Blueprint and its work on open APIs. Network-as-a-Service providers need these APIs to automate common functions like order processing, service provisioning, and security. They can make it easier for an enterprise to order and use NaaS services.



Advantages of Network as a Service

NaaS offers a flexible, cost-effective, and efficient way for businesses to manage their networking needs, allowing them to focus more on their core operations and less on the complexities of network management.

NaaS benefits include:

Cost Efficiency

NaaS is designed to eliminate the need for upfront purchases of one networking equipment. The service model moves this spending to the service provider, which charges customers a monthly fee for the service. This makes budgeting more predictable, with the promise of reduced costs in the long run. Another NaaS model charges customers by the amount of data used per month. This provides the agility and efficiency modern enterprises need today.


With NaaS, businesses can easily scale their network services up or down as needed. This ability does not require spending on new hardware or infrastructure. Fluctuating requirements based on predictable and unforeseen changes in business demand. Businesses can focus on growing their business instead of adjusting their services up or down accordingly.

Simplified Management

With NaaS, IT teams should benefit from reduced complexity and workload since providers often offer centralized, cloud-based platforms for managing network services. Time saved on network maintenance can be spent on enabling business-focused undertakings.

Access to Advanced Technologies

NaaS providers typically have access to the latest networking technologies and can offer advanced features, such as software-defined networking (SDN), as part of their service. Businesses benefit from advancing tech without having to pay for or manage it.

Improved Reliability and Uptime

NaaS providers generally offer service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee set levels of performance, reliability, and availability. Having these aspects of network services delineated in contracts puts customers at ease.

Enhanced Security

Knowing that security is a critical concern for any network, NaaS providers typically invest heavily in security measures to protect their infrastructure. This also covers their customers' data. The measures can include advanced encryption, firewalls, routine security audits, and more.


To address a wide array of potential network problems, NaaS providers are typically replete with groups of experts to provide support and rapid problem resolution. Businesses without their own extensive tech support talent should find this asset attractive.

Geographic Flexibility

Since NaaS is delivered over the Internet, businesses can access their network services from virtually anywhere. This enables them to support remote work, open new offices, or enter new markets. Internet access is currently available to over half of the inhabitants of the world, with much more to come.

Faster Deployment

Implementing or expanding network services faster with NaaS can mean faster time to market. That is because there is no need for equipment to be set up onsite.



Disadvantages of Network as a Service or Points to Consider about NaaS

With each potentially game-changing business model, architecture, or technology breakthrough comes potential issues that must be addressed on the road to emergence, wide use, and success. This applies to NaaS.

How well does it meet my business requirements?

Potential customers will need to get comfortable with what is essentially an outsourcing of their networks and the resulting loss of most control, which is handed off to the NaaS provider. Does the sizable boost in flexibility, gain in agility, and reduction in costs give you a big edge with agility to address your business goals? If your network needs are predictable and rarely fluctuate, NaaS might not be a good fit.

What are the long-term cost implications?

Costs extend far beyond the monthly subscription charge for monthly use of a NaaS provider’s service. They can also include the cost of moving away from legacy hardware and software systems and porting what businesses use for networking connectivity to the newer NaaS offerings.

How well does it meet my security and compliance requirements?

NaaS services employ many of the same security infrastructure used in enterprise networks and offer businesses access to more advanced functionality. Co-managed NaaS services are available for businesses to ensure they have a hand in handling critical capabilities such as security and performance.

What types of SLAs are available?

While most NaaS providers offer several SLAs, learning what levels they cover is crucial. Do they include service availability/uptime, performance, mean time to response/repair, and other core issues?

How does NaaS integrate with my existing infrastructure?

Integrating NaaS with legacy infrastructure and software still in use can be difficult. NaaS compatibility issues are related to infrastructure, such as old hardware or on-premises applications still in use that may not be compatible with the NaaS solution.

What are the provider’s disaster recovery and redundancy measures?

As a type of service provider, an operator that offers NaaS should have a disaster recovery plan that backs up customer data and applications as well as physically and geographically diverse network routes to use as secondaries.

Technical support and service

“If a NaaS offer comes with an enforceable SLA, then an enterprise can be less concerned with understanding the provider's redundancy measures and more focused on the service's outcomes in terms of availability and performance," explained Siân Morgan, Research Director at Dell’Oro Group. In the subset of Campus Naas, some vendors do offer SLAs with penalties and will pay in the form of service credits in future periods if the performance does not meet or exceed the agreed-upon levels, she added.

Does NaaS lock me into one provider?

Going with a single provider often introduces fears of vendor lock-in. Reliance on one provider can potentially have repercussions if the service provider’s infrastructure fails or if they increase their prices.

In many enterprises, important applications and processes run in on-legacy onsite data centers, not the cloud. This can make migration to a NaaS model slightly more challenging.

What is my exit strategy if I want to stop using NaaS from a particular provider?

NaaS offers should have a defined contract length and may contain penalty clauses for exiting early, advises Morgan. Consider who owns any onsite equipment, including end-user devices. If the enterprises do not have these items, then terminating the contract could be disruptive to daily operations.



Next Steps for Those Considering NaaS

Before businesses decide on a NaaS solution, they should consider this from the MEF:

“The NaaS market cannot reach its full potential without better alignment of the broader community of stakeholders and elimination of confusion regarding the definition of NaaS, its principal features, and terminology.”

Get Smart: Read the NaaS Blueprint

Got questions? Check out the NaaS Industry Blueprint. The intent of the blueprint is to help accelerate a new generation of NaaS. The blueprint defines NaaS and proposes primary building blocks of NaaS solutions, including services, automation platforms, ecosystems, and certifications.

The blueprint also incorporates existing MEF service and Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) automation API standards and industry tools for building and delivering NaaS services. Finally, the blueprint presents initial NaaS use cases in the areas of on-demand transport, SD-WAN, SASE, and multi-cloud.

A Final Word About NaaS

NaaS services are starting to emerge and will play a dominant role in enterprises for years to come. In the near future, many multi-cloud-based services like SASE, security, and connectivity services will be delivered using the technology.

To keep pace with developments, stay connected! Join or stay abreast of MEF undertakings, resources, and opportunities. The MEF and friends have launched global initiatives aimed at defining SASE and NaaS through industry collaboration. A planned SASE certification program should lighten the lifting for businesses. And, naturally, follow Network Computing’s NaaS coverage throughout the year.

About the Author(s)

Bob Wallace, Featured Writer

A veteran business and technology journalist, Bob Wallace has covered networking, telecom, and video strategies for global media outlets such as International Data Group and United Business Media. He has specialized in identifying and analyzing trends in enterprise and service provider use of enabling technologies. Most recently, Bob has focused on developments at the intersection of technology and sports. A native of Massachusetts, he lives in Ashland and can be reached at[email protected]or @fastforwardbob

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