CIOs have a choice of software-as-a-service, infrastructure as a service and platform as a service. Why not network-as-a-service?

Actually, it is a slowly emerging technology.  On Monday NEC Corp. and wholly-owned subsidiary Netcracker Technology unveiled their NaaS solution for service providers, one of the first on the market, aimed at helping service providers generate new revenue in both B2B and residential sectors.

The companies said their solution provides an end-to-end environment to rapidly create, deploy and monetize value-added services like security and enterprise applications by bringing together virtualized network infrastructure and services, cloud applications, orchestration and commercialization tools. It will be sold through pre-integrated partners.

“Service providers are increasingly looking beyond their traditional core offerings as they face continued competition and price erosion,” Fran Heeran, Netcracker’s vice-president and general manager of software defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). “The need to rapidly onboard and launch new services, including enhanced network facilities as well as third-party offerings, is critical as they broaden their revenue mix.”

This isn’t the first NaaS product, noted industry analyst Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research said in an interview. Last fall Sonus Networks acquired VellOS,  a virtualized cloud exchange networking platform, which it said could be used for network as a service.

With Saas, PasS and IaaS, “I think there’s a need for it,” Kerravala said. “Lots of customers I talk to today want to move to more of a pay-as-you-go model, but networks we never designed for that.” Nor, he added, has network infrastructure been set up to sell services this way. “Now when you look at what Sonus and Netcracker are doing with the advent of software defined networking and network function virtualization you truly can spin up instances of virtual appliances and pay for what you use. I think this will change the economics of networking quite a bit.”

“Most of the companies I’ve seen do it are smaller resellers, he added, rather than major service providers — in part, he said, because it will disrupt their traditional sales models. However, he said there needs to be competitive pressure before Bell Canada, Telus and other major providers adopt it.

A Sonus white paper says there are two NaaS models: One is a so-called data centre interconnect use case linking data centres to optimize bandwidth utilization and reduce costs. Customers could dynamically customize and configure their network bandwidth needs based on performance and Quality of Service (QoS) requirements under a flexible pricing model. Another is metro Ethernet managed services, where a service provider can manage multiple customers over a common Ethernet WAN.

According to an IDC paper done earlier this year for Rogers Communications — which offers a managed Wi-Fi service —  NaaS can be complementary to infrastructure as a service, with organizations outsourcing not only datacentre storage and compute, but their security, management, and even entire campus networks as well.

NaaS could allow IT departments to reduce the time spent on network and datacentre management, the report says, allowing more time to be devoted to increasing business productivity and customer experience.

The NEC NaaS runs on Netcracker’s Aglile Virtualization Platform (AVP), which it says allows service providers to migrate smoothly from traditional physical to hybrid or fully virtualized environments.

Pricing wasn’t announced.

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