Redefining NaaS: It’s the Internet

Your network provider has probably already told you this network as a service, or NaaS, it would improve your network and profits. You’ve probably been told that they offer a NaaS strategy. The first statement is true, and the second is fast becoming irrelevant, because the fact is, you already have a better, vendor-agnostic NaaS option. It’s called the internet.

The recently adopted definition of NaaS is financial rather than technical: NaaS is a strategy for spending network technology rather than building networks from capital purchases. Some NaaS providers are little more than the equivalent of an automobile lease, which allows businesses to spend on cars rather than making capital purchases. Others might add management services or usage pricing. Is this really NaaS? Uber is driving as a service, not car leasing. If we want the network as a service, we have to look at something that is truly a service.

Companies have evolved their applications to use the cloud as a front-end tool to create user interfaces for customer, partner and employee access. In more and more cases, application users access the cloud via the Internet, either directly or via a SD-WAN overlay to add security. Just as the cloud turns the equipment used to host applications into invisible abstractions, the Internet also makes network services abstract. The internet is the Uber of networking, the very NaaS, and assuming the internet creates the PALE part of corporate networks could have a profound impact on costs, both operational and for network equipment and services.

You don’t have to build the Internet or use your own equipment, rented or purchased, to create your connectivity. Users request an application through a URL and the magic of the Internet creates the connection. You pay for the internet service and not for the internet devices. Spend the Internet, do not capitalize on it. So, the internet doesn’t provide IP connectivity as a service? Isn’t that a better definition, a technical definition, of what NaaS should be? Not only that, the Internet as a NaaS offers things that infrastructure hardware alone cannot.

Most of the cost covered by the vendor-NaaS approach is the equipment used to connect branch offices to VPNs. MPL extension VPNs require a VPNs it’s a BGP extension routers in each location. An Internet NaaS only needs a simple hub or at most one SD-WAN edge device, which could be an appliance or just a piece of software running on a server or a white box. Let’s compare these two approaches to understand why Internet NaaS makes sense.

The cost of NaaS

Start with the price. The Internet relies on a shared infrastructure, justified in large part by the enormous consumer demand for Internet content. The global internet service is there for you to exploit, justified by the collective demand for experiences provided. The expensive hardware from vendors who call this NaaS is still dedicated to you and you will pay for everything, one way or another.

Then there’s the network service. Even IP VPNs, which use a shared infrastructure, cannot compete with internet prices, especially for branch offices and even regional sites. Recent broadband reports claim that 2Gb internet service is actually growing faster than 1Gb service. Price a 2Gb VPN and you’ll understand what I mean by comparative cost. And remember, an SD-WAN edge is likely much less expensive than a BGP edge router.

Skills

Then there are the operations. Some vendors will offer managed hardware services, but this will add to the cost. If you don’t opt ​​for the managed service option, however, you’ll need a network support team that has BGP/MPLS intelligence. This is the skill set that network operators and equipment vendors value the most, so you can expect to pay to acquire that team and then, to retain them, you have to fight recruiters for every operator, vendor and enterprise. Even if you’re successful and get good people, BGP/MPLS errors tend to pop up regularly, impacting network and application availability.

An Internet NaaS will require an SD-WAN, which needs to be managed, or an additional layer of security (perhaps SASE or a combination of encryption tools and firewall) to protect the applications themselves. Companies that use the Internet to connect with customers and partners may find it relatively easy to add employee access over the Internet, using only encryption and access security tools. This approach should be explored, but SD-WAN is closest to traditional VPN technology, making it possible to transition smoothly from a traditional VPN to an Internet NaaS using SD-WAN.

You can get SD-WAN technology as a set of products or as a managed service. If you really want to avoid capital purchases, the latter option is the way to go. The price of an SD-WAN Internet Managed Service will depend on the usual factors like the number of sites and how much management you can expect, and also where the sites are located. There are many variations, but companies that have transitioned to an Internet NaaS tell me that the total cost of ownership is far lower than with a managed IP VPN.

There are other benefits to an Internet NaaS approach. One is the ease of moving, adding and editing sites. You can get Internet service almost anywhere a business is likely to have an office, and pretty quickly. It often takes much longer to get an MPLS VPN connection, and in some places you may not get one at all. You can also quickly increase or decrease capacity. If you move an office, you can usually just send the equipment to the new location and it will work.

One final benefit that could be critical to some businesses today, and even more so in the future, is that the Internet NaaS approach connects networking more directly to applications. The Internet is really about connecting users to resources, where traditional corporate networks connect sites. The Internet is NaaS, personalized. Offers your experiences and does so within a geographic scope and user population that is not approached by any other networking technology.

The internet isn’t perfect. Everyone has experienced its failures and performance limitations, but no networking technology is perfect. Three companies I spoke to that have replaced multiple branch office VPN connections with NaaS Internet say their reliability/availability experiences are a little worse, but not bad enough to consider going back. Nobody said otherwise. In any case, it seems very likely that the Internet will improve over time, as it is. Accepting Internet NaaS could make it even better and make NaaS faster. In effect, it would mean that we’ve already built NaaS and it’s time to leverage what we have.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.