With COVID-19 forcing the majority of staff in many companies to work remotely for months on end, there is huge pressure on IT and network professionals to assure all corporate business and collaboration applications run as they should to meet employee and customer needs and expectations. Embracing digital innovation and leveraging cloud capabilities has become even more critical to address today’s new business demands.
Enterprises are looking to shore up the game by equipping themselves with intelligent, secure and more reliable network connections that meets their requirements. SD-WAN (“software-defined wide area network”) is the leading solution nowadays for this. While enterprises could choose to build their own SD-WAN by combining equipment, software and access technology by themselves, a growing number of organizations are turning to a more flexible and efficient solution: to buy the service from communications service providers (CSPs) as a “network as a service” (NaaS) solution.
NaaS by definition, as other “aaS”, is a “managed service” offered by CSPs to their enterprise customers, providing tailorable network and application capabilities to support the enterprise’s communications and collaboration needs. While SD-WAN may be one of the first and most visible use case that underpins the attraction of NaaS, there are a broad array of services that CSPs can offer in a NaaS model. Managed security for example is another service that CSPs have been actively marketing to enterprises.
Enterprises can benefit from NaaS in multiple ways. The leading benefits identified by enterprises IT decision makers recently surveyed by Omdia, a research house, include the freedom from the need to design and build out the network, superior security performance, and optimised CAPEX. But there are also other factors that make NaaS appealing. According to Camille Mendler, chief analyst for enterprise services at Omdia, “enterprises want ‘snackability’: no fuss, transparent and immediate access to what they crave. That could be a private 5G slice, cloud communications, security, take your pick.”
The benefits of the NaaS approach for CSPs are significant as well. CSPs have been working to accelerate the growth of their enterprise market businesses with offerings that go beyond mere connectivity. The success so far has been varied. NaaS gives CSPs an attractive tool to deliver new services with unprecedented scale, including a new opportunity to monetise their cloud and edge assets. And these are not only appealing to large enterprises. As a matter of fact, managed services are equally, if not more relevant to small and medium enterprises. These companies often only have limited IT resources, and they are even less likely to build and operate their own private networks.
Last but not least, NaaS also provides a new business opportunity for network technology and application vendors. Although the technology suppliers are already selling directly to enterprises, the integration and orchestration of large-scale complex networks remains a challenge for enterprises. This makes the CSPs an attractive ‘lower friction’ channel through which technology companies can bring their products and solutions to enterprise customers.
However, before these benefits can become reality, important changes need to take place in managing the lifecycle of NaaS offerings. Omdia’s Mendler pointed out, “the key point about NaaS is that it’s a platform for a range of services. Telcos are natural providers of NaaS to enterprises, but in a post-COVID world enterprises expect a platinum-class digital experience – and many telcos are falling short.”
The first improvement many CSPs need to make is to digitalise the sales process. It is almost ironical that the network services that have been used by enterprises for automation, virtualisation, and cloud-based applications, are themselves sold, contracted and ordered in many cases in a high-touch, mostly manual, manner.
The most urgently needed change many CSPs need to undertake is to set up a full featured, intuitive, user friendly self-service portal together with a virtual network function (VNF) and value-added services (VAS) marketplace. The portal and marketplace should enable enterprise IT or network operations managers to independently purchase and manage their own network services and applications. They should not only be able to select from the marketplace the kinds of network functions and services they need, but also define the parameters these functions should meet, for example, capacity, availability, geography, and make changes instantly if needed.
As shown in the figure below, the recent Omdia survey findings shows that there is significant room for improvement in getting enterprises to engage digitally with CSPs for a wide range of NaaS capabilities.
Source: Ovum 2020 Enterprise NaaS Survey
Another key improvement area is related to CSPs’ mode of operations in general, both for assisted and digital channels. The current approach for sales and delivery operations for B2B services in many CSPs is highly disjointed, fragmented and manual, and is not tenable in order to compete effectively going forward. Nowadays, business customers expect the service to be delivered in hours and days, not in weeks or months.
CSPs therefore must change their mode of operations to provide ‘consumer like’ on-demand experiences leveraging service-driven operations platforms that will enable them to introduce innovative, on-demand services across a combination and mix of cloud, physical and virtual network functions. Furthermore, to be able to reduce delivery time they will need to automate the end-to-end service lifecycle management process.
Amdocs solutions powering NaaS
As a market leader in enabling CSP journeys towards network virtualisation and cloud networks, Amdocs’ modular and programmable NaaS solution enables service providers to rapidly design, deploy and monetise on-demand NaaS offerings for their enterprise customers.
Among the many success stories, a recent deployment of Amdocs’ solution for a Tier-1 telecom operator in APAC illustrates the benefits a CSP can realize.
This operator faced similar challenges as many other incumbents, including among others, manual sales process and siloed IT systems (BSS/OSS) and communication networks. The customer recently undertook a transformation project to deliver the benefits of automation, digitisation and simplification in the B2B services domain, and ultimately to automate operations and reduce OPEX, increase revenues, and shorten the time of new service introduction.
The key capabilities in the deployed solution by Amdocs have helped the operator successfully attain these business goals. The solution provided by Amdocs covered:
- End-to-end cross domain service automation and orchestration, which was critical for the multi-vendor network the operator has built
- Model-driven service design and creation automation
- Single cross-domain visibility into active and available inventory on both physical and virtual network resources
- NFV orchestration and generic VNF manager
- Integration with existing BSS and OSS
- Self-service portal and marketplace
Amdocs’ NaaS solution for this customer
In general, NaaS can create new value for CSPs, their enterprise customers, as well as the VNF and cloud applications technology suppliers, and is gaining traction in the enterprise market. However, for the potential benefits to come true, significant improvements need to be made by CSPs, from process digitisation to service priority realignment and corporate culture change. Nevertheless, selecting a competent and experienced technology partner that can provide CSPs with a complete NaaS solution will ensure CSPs’ transformation to be successful in a timely and effective manner.
For more information, please read this overview to discover the three main components critical to ensuring a successful NaaS offering.