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Network-as-a-Service offers a global network infrastructure solution on a subscription basis. Companies no longer have to invest in or maintain equipment that rapidly becomes obsolescent. And they can always be sure that their network is state of the art.

After SaaS, IaaS and PaaS, along comes NaaS, a new term in response to the trend toward services on demand (read our full report “As a Service”). Network-as-a-Service offers a global network infrastructure solution and associated services on a subscription basis.

“NaaS addresses the desire from companies for a network infrastructure that is rapidly deployable and scalable depending on their activity.”

It means that a company no longer has to invest in rapidly depreciating network equipment or manage the maintenance and upgrades. This facet is outsourced to a managed service provider, which designs and installs the network architecture, and provides round-the-clock support.

From a financial point of view, this solution offers predictable costs, transforming investment costs (CapEx) into operating costs (OpEx): with Network-as-a-Service, a company pays only for what it uses, and has the ability to increase or reduce its network capacity at any time. Customisable and flexible, this solution adapts to the company’s activity and supports its growth. 

The CIO can always be sure that the network is state of the art, meets market standards and incorporates the latest innovations. Their teams are freed from monitoring tasks with no real added value, while a quality user experience is maintained with service level agreements (SLAs) such as availability. The CIO no longer has to handle training or keep dedicated personnel’s skills updated.

The integrator: a key role

For Daniel Thomas, Head of Solution Development at Axians, the VINCI Energies brand specialised in ICT, Network-as-a-Service is ideal for companies employing more than 500 people across multiple sites. “Although this affects all business sectors, the legal, public and healthcare sectors lend themselves ideally to the concept.” He says, “Network-as-a-Service is not a technology, but a framework; it’s a solution rather than a product.”

Within this approach, the role of an integrator like Axians is especially important. In a “best-of-breed” approach, the integrator will select the best providers and the best technologies, brick by brick. He adds, “The integrator must always remain vigilant to respond to rapid and permanent changes in the market.”

Network-as-a-Service goes hand in hand with network virtualisation technologies such as SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network functions virtualisation). It also incorporates machine learning technologies for real-time monitoring, and automated alert management and threat detection.

For Daniel Thomas, artificial intelligence not only reinforces cybersecurity policy, but by enabling the ideal configuration of network parameters, also helps to reduce a company’s carbon footprint by optimising its energy consumption. 

Cloud and network virtualisation

With these advantages, Network-as-a-Service is set for strong growth in the next few years. The market research firm Global Market Insights is forecasting an annual increase of 35% in the world market for the period 2019 to 2025. During this period, it is expected to grow from USD 5 billion to 50 billion.

“Although the market is still in the incubation phase, more and more companies are aware of the concept and are demanding information,” says Daniel Thomas. “The United States is further advanced in this area. In Europe, the Netherlands, Germany, France and the United Kingdom are showing strong growth.”

According to the Axians expert, the Covid-19 crisis, and more generally, the groundswell of the digital transformation should speed up the adoption of ‘as-a-service’ offerings, the network is a natural evolution of that. “It addresses the desire from companies for a network infrastructure that is rapidly deployable and scalable depending on their activity,” he concludes.

The growth in the Network-as-a-Service market can be attributed to the rapid take-up of cloud technology as companies increasingly migrate their workloads to it. The increase in data generated by various digital platforms and the growing trend toward workforce mobility have placed enormous pressure on company networks. As a result, they are migrating to the Cloud, which will enable them to host a wide range of business applications.

Cloud-compatible Network-as-a-Service platforms help them to deploy applications enhanced with various network functions, including virtual routers, differentiated service and virtual firewalls. Unlike other solutions based on third-party virtual add-on solutions, these platforms are implemented in the Cloud, which reduces network complexity and management costs.

Another factor contributing to market growth is the massive adoption of network virtualisation technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV). These technologies provide a platform for Network-as-a-Service, and enable companies to sell network services to customers virtually, on a subscription basis.