What Is Network as a Service or NaaS?

The term “Network as a Service” (NaaS) has been gaining traction in the IT services industry as a way to deliver enterprise WAN services virtually on a subscription basis. However, it’s important to understand its specific context to fully grasp its functionality. One prevalent interpretation sees NaaS in the context of the “network cloud,” where communication service providers deliver connectivity services and additional value-added services using an API-based, flexible, elastic, and on-demand paradigm.

The Concept of “Network Cloud”

Under the network cloud paradigm, NaaS is about providing scalable, adaptable network services that can cater to fluctuating business needs. This interpretation is especially relevant in today’s digital era, where the demand for robust and flexible connectivity at low latency is at an all-time high.

This version of NaaS is the manifestation of networking’s evolution from hard-wired communication lines connecting routers to software-defined networking to now a programmable network that exposes services via APIs, is cloud delivered and elastic. In short, this is the networking industry’s version of cloud computing, but it’s called network cloud, and the service providers that are delivering it are called hyperscale service providers. The programmability attribute is where the greatest value resides in the new NaaS services. NaaS doesn’t just provide connectivity but the power of NaaS is to deliver value-added, application-aware networking and security services on-demand.  Capabilities such as SASE, next-gen firewall, VPNs, cloud edge, multi-cloud connections, etc., is the domain that enterprises wrestle with beyond basic connectivity.

All service providers are moving to hyperscale service provider status including AT&T, Verizon, BT, Orange, China Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica SA, Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile, China Telecom, NTT Docomo, BT, Softbank, Comcast and many others. All of these service providers and others are about to become hyperscale service providers and offer competing NaaS services.   

But NaaS is bigger than the communication service providers; all the major cloud service providers are also offering NaaS services, including AWS, GCP, Microsoft Azure, Oracle, IBM Cloud, etc.  

Now NaaS is projected to be a $25B plus market, based upon 5% of overall cloud computing spend. For perspective, SD-WAN is a $5B market. The telecom and cloud service providers are big, and it takes them some time to get behind an emerging market. This time lag opens up a window for start-ups and established players to enter the market and either sell directly to consumers or supply the service providers upon which to build their NaaS services. This is where all the action is right now.

Companies such as Nile, Graphiant, Aviatrix, Alkira, Cisco, Prosimo, Packet Fabric, HPE, CloudFlare, Meter, VMware and many others are offering a NaaS service by riding the backbones of cloud providers, building their own network to deliver NaaS and/or offering equipment to service providers from which to build their NaaS offerings. Many of these companies are offering multiple NaaS options.  

NaaS: Managed Service

There are other companies offering NaaS as a managed service provider model that constructs an on-premise enterprise network, providing all the necessary equipment plus services, and then charging for it all using an operational expense (OPEX) model. This approach eliminates the need for the enterprise to make a substantial capital investment or shoulder the technical debt and vendor/technology risk. Some of the larger companies mentioned above deliver both definitions of NaaS: Network Cloud and Managed Service.  


Understanding the context of Network as a Service, particularly in the light of the “network cloud,” can help businesses navigate the array of solutions available in the market. With the right NaaS solution, businesses can enjoy enhanced flexibility, streamlined network management, and the ability to scale with ease, thereby creating a more connected and efficient future.

At ONUG Fall 2023 at Chelsea Industrial in Hudson Yards on October 24-25, you will get an opportunity to explore a wide range of NaaS options as well as a chance to meet the key companies driving these options. You can register here.

Author's Bio

Nick Lippis

Co-Founder, Co-Chair, ONUG