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As the foundation of any organization’s edge-to-cloud digital strategy, the network is a critical enabler of business transformation.

And, amid the rise of hybrid working, the accelerating migration of applications to the cloud, the constantly evolving security landscape and the integration of connected devices and IoT into business processes, it has never been more important to manage your network as efficiently as possible.

"Shifting to a modern, cloud-based, software-defined and data-driven network infrastructure has never been more important. Networks form the backbone of our digital world,” says Amit Dhingra, Executive Vice-President: Enterprise Network Services at NTT.

“The explosion in demand for connectivity that arose during the pandemic gave organizations a greater appreciation of this unsung superhero of modern business – and cemented the network's role as a vital contributor to enabling computing applications and achieving business goals."

Defining network as a service

Network as a service (NaaS) is a way for organizations to outsource their network's planning, upkeep, lifecycle management and evolution to an experienced managed service partner (MSP). That partner will manage and optimize their network infrastructure, services, security, licensing and much more in terms of both their current and future needs.

The NaaS model allows flexible consumption, leading to cost savings, and it’s an efficient way to access the latest innovations in networking. It also keeps your network strategy aligned with your business needs without your having to invest in additional in-house IT skills.

The subscription- and usage-based nature of NaaS is also conducive to shifting network-related IT budgets to operational expenditure.

Intelligently and securely configured NaaS therefore gives you greater flexibility, scalability, automation, predictability and control to support a high-performance hybrid work environment.

According to NTT’s 2022–23 Global Network Report, 98% of organizations are open to the NaaS concept to drive security, gain access to skills and accelerate innovation.

When do you need network as a service?

Technology drivers

  • Your network hardware is due for a refresh, and you’re lacking the performance you need.
  • You’d like to improve your security posture as more people, endpoints and devices connect to your network, locally and remotely.
  • You are struggling to manage a mixed-technology network environment that includes legacy components, interoperability issues between sites and regions, multiple service providers and inconsistent licensing SLAs.
  • You have adopted more IoT devices and sensors – for example, as part of network-integrated building management systems – which need a network infrastructure that supports the low-latency, time-sensitive nature of these communications, and this creates an additional network management burden.

Business drivers

  • The shift to hybrid working demands a dynamic, scalable and secure network infrastructure for your organization. Your organization's branches and campuses are no longer clustered in controlled office spaces. Along with a far more distributed workforce, this is challenging the traditional view of architecting local and wide area networks.
  • Your adoption of cloud services has increased your bandwidth needs. This includes the use of video-based collaboration tools, particularly those using cloud hyperscale networks, which has increased dramatically in recent years.

IT management drivers

  • You’re struggling to find and retain the skills you need to service your technology needs.
  • You need to make your network operations more efficient (a standardized, platform-delivered service will help).
  • Your IT team needs operational support, as they have a new focus on driving innovation and business outcomes.
  • The potential cost savings of a managed service compared with in-house network management are appealing.

Top-performing organizations prefer the NaaS model: they’re almost twice as likely as underperformers to strongly prefer NaaS, according to the Global Network Report. Also, 4 in 5 CIOs and CTOs say they are less concerned with the underlying technology of NaaS and more focused on an outcome-based (SLA-driven) commitment. The flexibility to scale up and down is a key consideration.

What are the benefits of network as a service?

Support and availability: Buying NaaS from a specialist managed service provider means you get full-time expert support and higher levels of network availability, so you can focus on your core business while the NaaS team takes care of your network operations. You can also scale your network capacity up and down as needed.

  • Security: Your security posture is improved through an internationally certified, secure-by-design approach with managed layers of control and governance. An MSP can optimize your network continually – to adjust to hybrid work conditions that present new security risks, for example, or to reserve enough bandwidth for mission-critical applications.
  • Visibility and analytics: You gain deep visibility of your network health and operations, with access to modern management tools and platforms that use automation, AIOps and predictive analytics.
  • Innovation: It’s faster and easier than before to refresh your network hardware or software and deploy new network technology.
  • Cost savings and ease of consumption: There are cost efficiencies because of the consumption-based model – budgeting for network services becomes more efficient and predictable, while capital outlay shifts to operational expenditure. Also important to note is that NaaS removes the need to invest in your own IT team to keep up with new skills and the need to innovate. Nor will you need to invest in, maintain and upgrade expensive network equipment, or deal with multiple vendors and their different licensing needs.
  • Employee experience: Your staff enjoy quality access to applications and business services from anywhere, which improves the employee experience

Working with a managed service provider

According to the Global Network Report, 93% of CIOs and CTOs agree (51% strongly) that they would like to partner with a specialist MSP such as NTT for NaaS solutions. This allows them to bridge their in-house skill gaps and keep innovating.

If you want to succeed as an organization, your business outcomes have to be aligned with your network strategy. And, to manage the ever more complex requirements of your network, you need someone to advise you on how it is evolving, how to invest in it, and how best to architect it.

An MSP can guide you from network planning and design to full operation, maintenance and optimization – even if you rely on multiple vendors, a mix of new and legacy network components, and an IT team with varying levels of skill and experience.

The MSP will invest in, implement and manage the technologies – including analytics, automation and AIOps – that will help you make your network future-proof.

Also, the use of application programming interfaces to integrate various software packages and solutions makes it easier to implement a single view of your network for management and monitoring.

Choosing a network-as-a-service partner

Senior executives quoted in the Global Network Report say real-time analytics is their most critical network need. This is followed by the ability of network managers to drill down fast and efficiently to deal with problems while reducing downtime – which points to a need for AIOps and automation.

When they evaluate network vendors, these executives see an MSP’s range of skills, track record, operational support, flexibility and scalability, and coverage as their main considerations beyond price.

To make the outsourcing of your network a success, you should therefore think carefully when selecting the right partner to address your business needs:

  1. A service provider should manage both the current state of your network and its evolution. They should also be able to incorporate the latest network technology, including improved security, analytics and AIOps.
  2. Work with one vendor. This can minimize contract complexities and eliminate a lack of interoperability between vendors and the need to maintain multiple software versions, among other challenges.
  3. Adopt the network-as-a-service model to save time and money. More than 90% of senior executives prefer this model, citing the flexibility to scale up and down as a major benefit, followed by supply chain certainty, accessing a catalogue of services from a single source, and a balance between operational and capital expenditure.

Why you should choose NaaS from NTT

Our managed network services enable a secure, high-performance edge-to-cloud ecosystem that allows you to improve customer and employee experience, gain operational efficiencies through AIOps and advanced analytics, and keep up with the latest network technology.

With a global network of highly skilled and certified people, we can take care of all your support needs, 24x7, and our processes and governance – based on five decades of experience – are certified by industry bodies. Our strategic partnerships with leading network equipment manufacturers also speed up our incident-resolution times.

Book a network assessment with NTT now to embark on your transformation journey.

Matthew Allen is Vice-President of Service Offer Management: Networking at NTT