Appetite rising for network as a service

Study from edge-to-cloud networking provider reveals digital transformation in the post-pandemic era is drawing IT leaders towards network models that are more agile and adaptable

Sustained digital transformation needed in light of the Covid pandemic has pushed organisations across the EMEA region to re-evaluate their current network setups, with nearly nine in 10 companies currently discussing network as a service (NaaS) in some capacity, according to research from Aruba.

The study from the networking services provider, undertaken by Coleman Parkes, surveyed 5,400 senior EMEA decision-makers responsible for IT and cloud strategy. The research was conducted via an online methodology and fieldwork was conducted between May and August 2021. The sample comprised organisations with more than 500 employees, ranging up to 5,000.

Network as a service was defined in the survey as when a company has over 50% of its network roll-out, operations and life cycle management delivered by a third party on a subscription basis. As well as showing 86% of EMEA companies were currently discussing NaaS in some capacity, the study also showed that it was a topic of frequent discussion in almost a third of firms.

When asked about the reasons behind this interest, financial efficiency emerged as one of the main anticipated benefits, with over three-quarters (76%) of respondents expecting NaaS to help reduce operational costs, and 60% thinking it could enable a shift from CapEx to OpEx. But flexibility – both in terms of the network and team time – was another primary driver revealed by the study.

Three-quarters (75%) of companies indicated that having the flexibility to scale their network based on business needs was key to their interest, and almost two-thirds (64%) see it as a potential game changer in how they are able to manage activities. Meanwhile, less than half (48%) are looking at NaaS to help them reduce IT staff levels – instead believing it will free up team time for innovation and strategic initiatives (57%).

Yet even though it said the the appetite for NaaS was evident, Aruba warned that the road towards NaaS implementation looked less clear, with the survey identifying a number of key barriers. High among these were issues with internal processes.

The study showed that among the top concerns identified by technology leaders were budget rules and investment cycles (59%), finding the budget (55%), and compliance with internal procurement (51%). However, the data revealed a much more fundamental barrier: a lack of overall understanding of NaaS. While all technology leaders said they were familiar with NaaS as a term, only two-fifths claimed to fully understand what it meant. Even among the companies discussing NaaS on a frequent basis, the study found that only 46% of technology leaders claimed full understanding.

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Aruba noted that this education gap was also evident in the perception of NaaS’s viability. Only 11% of technology leaders currently saw NaaS as an established and viable solution. The remainder either considered it to be a concept looking for a market (45%) or in its early beginnings (44%).

“As we emerge from the pandemic, the need for agility and flexibility in network management is greater than ever,” said Aruba EMEA vice-president Morten Illum.

“We know that NaaS can ensure the critical flexibility needed by businesses as they look to recovery and beyond, as well as solve a range of issues from security and scalability to budget and team constraints. However, in order for businesses to unlock the potential of NaaS, we must focus on bridging the gap between awareness and knowledge.”

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