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Charting the NaaS Business Potential

“The networks are changing and that’s where this conversation starts”. These technology leaders discussed the NaaS business potential within their organisations.

Network as a service (NaaS) has been described as an emerging model that brings software-defined networking and many other services on a subscription basis. In this roundtable debate, the speakers discuss the CapEx and OpEx network models and their different perspectives on NaaS today. 

Should technology leaders consider NaaS as part of their business transformation, modernisation and foundations? 

With Mark Chilingworth moderating this roundtable debate, the speakers include:

NaaS and business transformation

Moderator Mark Chillingworth kicked off the debate. He asked the speakers whether they thought NaaS should be part of the transformation and modernisation of their businesses. 

“Network as a service is a very strategic component now”, said Dax Grant, CEO of Global Transform. She believes how this sits with the company’s enterprise strategy is key as well as understanding the core components of an organisation’s purpose. Her reasoning is that this would open up the flexibility of different parts and approaches of operational models.

NaaS has become more advanced and “a little bit bleeding edge” according to Alliant Energy’s CIO, Tom Tang. In agreement with Dax, he believes that NaaS is a strategic opportunity for technology leaders. “When you think about network as a service there’s a widely recognised question of CapEx versus OpEx”, he said. Following this, Tom asked whether organisations are willing to invest more in OpEx or CapEx. This comes as a challenge for most companies as CapEx is “something more favoured” in his view. 

Mark asked the CIO of Persimmon Homes, Paul Coby, where NaaS sits with him. He believes companies are going to think seriously about this market. He added that companies will be offered a five-year deal with a big network provider. “You’re going to be offered some very interesting deals to migrate there”, he explained. Another point Paul made is that technology leaders should have a “fairly mature set of cloud investments” alongside this. 

Different perspectives on NaaS

The Director of IT at Tata Steel UK, Nick Reeks, stated he conducted a deal with a major telecom provider. The aim of this deal was to replace the switches throughout their network, run their NaaS and modernise it overall. In addition to this, they also provided the organisation “with a more coherent network strategic capability”. Despite this, Nick was sceptical about its capabilities. He doesn’t believe that it delivers deep analytics, usage capability or security overlay. Nick added that it also depends on what is included in the service bundle.

The Vice President of EMEA Solutions & Enablement at Aruba, Lars Koldendorf, has different views compared to the other speakers. “We are actually delivering the hardware and software cloud management and security solutions for networking as an enterprise”, he said. This meant that Lars would draw his answers from a consumer perspective rather than a buyer. He asked the speakers to look at NaaS differently: “The networks are changing and that’s where this conversation starts”. 

“In the past networks were plumbing”, Lars continued. That network has now changed from plumbing to leasing. In order for his CIO organisation to deliver that new technology, they need to use NaaS to “create a solution that gives more functionality”. Lars later added that he wants to focus on creating a better user experience. 

The former Digital Transformation Lead at HSBC, Russ Lewis, suggested looking at this through a different lens. Focusing on the ‘as a service’ aspect, Russ stated that you need a variety of services to help you offer a capability. “In the leadership, we have to strategically decide ‘where do we want to put our efforts?’”, he explained. He suggested looking at commoditization and taking strategic advantage of treating the market as a commodity.

Technology and skills

One of the first reasons why technology leaders look at NaaS is because of skills according to Tom. He pointed out that there is a challenge with the current operational load of the team, in addition to where networking is headed in the future. In agreement with Lars’ earlier point, Tom said that networks in the past were pipes and plumbing. Networks in the future, on the other hand, are categorised as an “integrated fabric where you talk about infrastructure as code”. To summarise, Tom states that this world is getting more complex. “I think we are looking at network as a service primarily because of skills and because of operations”.

This roundtable was recorded at The Studio and made in partnership with Aruba.