ONUG Collaborative NaaS Project Overview

The ONUG Collaborative NaaS Project is exploring the business requirements, leading use cases and underlying technologies critical for the adoption of Network-as-a-Service by large enterprises. This is the first in a series of blog posts on this topic that the project team is publishing. 

Where NaaS differs from previous network and cloud-centric architectures and offerings such as SASE and SSE is that the focus is switched to the business, performance and application dynamics of today’s organizations. This is, after all, what technology must serve. It begins and ends with the business priorities supported by the network suppliers, cloud providers and integrators – rather than business requirements that can be accommodated (or not) by the network and cloud service providers.


This blog covers the business issues and network use. It continues with implementation choices reflecting the amount of delegation to providers that work for the enterprise IT departments. Security is not forgotten, with verification rather than trust being the watchword.

This overview was developed by the NaaS Project team within the ONUG Collaborative and first presented at the ONUG Fall 2023 conference. It continues to evolve as a living document, providing the context for NaaS use cases under consideration.

Follow-on blogs are an exploration of implementation guidance and use cases covering a variety of deployment scenarios to which NaaS can be applied.

Executive Business Dynamics 2024 

NaaS is enterprise-centric rather than network or cloud-centric. It’s time for the dog to wag the tail – not the other way round.

The executive priorities of agility and responsiveness to business change are not served by current network and cloud paradigms. What is missing for today’s services is virtualization and on-demand service creation. The result has been long, complex and inflexible network implementation cycles.

Lack of support for low cost, simplified, connectivity has prevented, delayed or been unresponsive to rapidly changing business conditions such as frequent reorganization, new locations or M&A situations. Further, the complexity of network solutions of applications that span multiple cloud providers and multiple locations in multiple geographies make matters worse. 

In fact, being drawn into onerous support of complex architectures does not serve organizations. Added to this, what amounts to a cyber war creates added business risk, impeding running a successful, profitable operation. 

Collectively, these amount to a counter-productive constraint on business rather than an enabler. It goes against CIOs and IT managers goals of minimizing network complexity, costs, risk and simplifying management, provisioning, procuring and maintenance.

At a time of simple on-demand consumption, such a fixed approach to networking is an anachronism.

Defining Network-as-a-Service

NaaS provides a cloud-enabled, usage-based consumption model that allows users to acquire and orchestrate a network without owning, building, or maintaining their own infrastructure. The business requirements outlined above are driving the need for agile digital platforms for delivering the wide range of cloud, networking and security services utilized by large organizations. NaaS features a number of attributes that are aligned with critical business objectives.

NaaS Offers Choices to Match Enterprise Requirements

These choices vary driven by resources, expertise, geography and preferred supplier relationships. It seems highly likely that NaaS solutions will require several business collaborations. The following are three examples of choices for NaaS:

Managed Services

A turnkey managed network to plug in client devices. Encompasses connectivity and security services as a package. Includes: customer premises equipment, third-party delivered and operated, provider delivered and operated, co-managed by customer and MSP and is dashboard/portal driven.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

A cloud-enabled platform that allows creation of custom transport service via virtualized service objects without owning, building, or maintaining their own infrastructure.

PaaS features: On-demand service enablement via Portal or APIs, outcome-based consumption, connectivity + network services, consumption-based billing and service agility.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

An automated platform that allows creation of customer defined “bare-metal” services on another provider’s premises and/or equipment.  Provisioning may be traditional or API/portal orchestrated.

IaaS features: Racks, power, servers and network devices managed by the provider, configured by customer/clients. Lifecycle management by provider and customer managed/owned devices.

The NaaS Ecosystem

To Be Continued

This first blog articulates key motivations, differences and the core distinctions of NaaS offerings. The next post will explore:

  • The NaaS IT Ecosystem
  • The Business and Technical Benefits of Secure NaaS
  • The First Use Case: NaaS Migration and Implementation
  • Committed Business Outcomes
  • Challenges to NaaS Adoption

For more information on the NaaS Project Team Visit Here 

Author's Bio

Mark Fishburn


Including contributions from Steve Wood, Cisco, Ken Patel, Verizon and members of the ONUG Collaborative NaaS Project Team, led by Zaheer Aziz, Cisco and Bob Wysocki, Microland.