October 28, 2021

Is NaaS on your radar? Our experts share why it should be

With NaaS adoption gaining ground in the enterprise, we thought it was time to break down this brave new world through the lens of those spearheading the networking paradigm. So, we gathered networking experts from Data#3 and Aruba to share their unique thoughts on this fast-emerging networking model – and give us a vendor vs partner perspective.

Meet our experts:

John Tan
GM of Infrastructure Solutions, Data#3

John is a senior IT professional with more than 22 years in the industry. He leads Australia’s largest server, storage, and networking solutions business with the ethos that the more successful your customers are, the more successful you become. John is also the only Australian Partner representative on the HPE GreenLake Consumption Visionary Council.

Vega Wong
Solutions Architect, Data#3

Vega has been designing, consulting and delivering network infrastructure for more than 15 years. Technically focused and commercially aware, Vega’s focus is to establish the best solution to meet specific business needs of the client’s environment, whether it is applications, hardware, or infrastructure services.

Nick Harders
Director – Strategic Partners & Cloud Transformation, Aruba

Nick is a hands-on networking and cloud specialist who has led large engineering organisations and cross-functional teams. He has extensive experience designing, deploying and architecting infrastructure solutions and cloud transformations. Nick spent 14+ years in New York before returning to Australia in mid-2021. He has been with Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, since 2013.

Familiarising yourself with NaaS

“1. What is your definition of NaaS (Network as a Service)?”

Data#3: NaaS is a new approach to network management that focuses on delivering value throughout the network lifecycle, bringing together all the elements of network management under one unified service. Previously, the vendor would supply the hardware as a capital expense, leaving the business to handle things from there. With NaaS, the vendor provides the hardware and, in collaboration with an integrator, arranges the installation and ongoing network operations and management – this time using a subscription-based, pay-as-you-go pricing strategy. Aruba: Traditionally, consumption of network equipment was based on one-time expenditure of hardware, software, licences and services – often deployed and operated as collections of independently managed infrastructure components. NaaS packages these components together to form network “services” that address larger business requirements and customer-defined SLAs. By integrating hardware, software, licenses, and support services, NaaS delivers a flexible consumption or subscription-based offering that aligns with enterprises embracing the ‘as a Service’ consumption model across other infrastructure assets. HPE GreenLake for Aruba is a comprehensive NaaS offering that leverages Aruba products and essential services to accelerate your network lifecycle and enable enterprises to reach business outcomes with financial flexibility.

“2. What industry trends are driving the uptake of NaaS?”

Data#3: NaaS has evolved as a result of Software as a Service (SaaS) shifting into the infrastructure space. Its uptake is driven by both customers and vendors. Customers more accustomed to SaaS models are wanting to extend the same flexible arrangement to their infrastructure. Meanwhile, vendors have found value in the subscription model and are actively developing and selling NaaS solutions. On the other side of the spectrum, there is significant push back by customers who are wary of introducing NaaS because they are either used to consuming the network in a certain way, or they simply don’t want to change from the traditional network experience. Others have been biding their time, waiting for vendors to mature their offering before reconsidering.

NaaS is really moving consumption economics further into the traditional network space, so these alternating views are unsurprising, and full adoption of NaaS is still in its early days. As NaaS matures and adoption grows, organisations will be better positioned to grasp the technical, economical, and even legal ramifications of the model before deciding to move forward.

John Tan, GM of Infrastructure Solutions, Data#3

Aruba: Hybrid cloud has become mainstream across the enterprise, which has created a degree of comfort to explore more flexible consumption models across the entire infrastructure stack. Enterprise networking may be late to experience this transition, however we are seeing customers motivated to realise the value that an ‘as a Service’ model has delivered across compute and storage, especially when IT departments are continually being asked to deliver “more with less.” Enterprise IT is also under immense pressure to accelerate digital transformation strategies, which can be challenging if equipment takes too long to fully deploy, daily operations overwhelm the network team, and budget challenges delay critical projects. NaaS is starting to gain recognition as an effective way to modernise outdated infrastructure and provide higher-quality network and IT services by constantly monitoring and optimising the network. But perhaps most importantly, NaaS allows IT resources to focus on business-enabling tasks rather than “keeping the lights on”, which satisfies enterprise stakeholders looking for innovation and agility across their network environment to meet ever-changing business requirements.

“3. What are the top two benefits you see when comparing NaaS with traditional networking solutions? ”

Data#3: These are the two that would be most relevant to the customers we’ve been talking to: 1. An always-optimised network – we work with customers in every industry and they’re all struggling with network performance, troubleshooting, and resolving issues. They can rarely get to the point of being proactive. With NaaS, the network performance, and associated SLAs, are the responsibility of the integrator and vendor – and the customer gets the benefit from constant software updates.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of networking projects – and I can count on one hand the number of customers that are constantly optimising their network or keeping their software up to date with the latest patches. In most cases, customers just simply don’t have the time to carry out these types of network management functions.”

– Vega Wong, Network Solutions Architect, Data#3

2. Lack of skilled resources – this actually ties in with the point above. Certified IT resources are in-demand, so training and then retraining them can be a challenge. Add to this the growing complexity of infrastructure, and that’s a lot of resource and skills that you need. With NaaS, you can focus your internal teams on high-value, proactive work that contributes more to business outcomes – and leave the running/optimising/problem solving of your network to the extended team. Aruba: The top two things that we consistently hear customers seeking which NaaS effectively delivers are: 1. Agility and Innovation: NaaS allows access to new technology, accelerated equipment refresh, and upcycle opportunities to ensure that the network is operating at peak performance and meeting business requirements, both today and in the future. NaaS also allows the network environment to scale up or scale down, providing additional flexibility not easily achieved using more traditional network consumption models. 2. Reduced Operational Risk: A data-driven service management approach, including live monitoring, on-demand insights, and 24×7 Intelligent Operations, reduces the load on your IT resources. This empowers the team to focus on what is important to your business. Note that HPE GreenLake for Aruba also provides access to a Customer Experience Management program for expert guidance and the Aruba Service Manager portal for insights and visibility to your network. [/accordion-item]

The process of transitioning to NaaS

“4. When considering a transition to NaaS, what should be your main areas of focus? ”


“Selecting the right partner is paramount. At Data#3, we know that NaaS doesn’t just transform the way our customer’s network is managed, it has required us, as partners, to undergo our own transformation. When transitioning to NaaS, having a partner with the expertise to align NaaS to your business goals – operationally and financially – is so important. That’s why we have stepped up our capabilities in this area, creating and investing in customer success and delivery functions, attracting and retaining the right people, and developing teams with the skills needed to deliver this very different model.”

– John Tan, GM of Infrastructure Solutions, Data#3

Aruba: We recommend considering the longer-term goals of the business to help guide where NaaS may add value in your network environment. NaaS is applicable across a variety of network use cases, however the most common trigger to explore NaaS is a network refresh or expansion, especially when newer technology is important. Dynamic environments where capacity needs are variable, or where the potential for frequent future upgrades is likely, are also ideal candidates for NaaS. Aligning NaaS decisions with the needs of the business will help ensure the network is an important enabler of digital transformation – start by identifying initiatives that are driving new growth opportunities and consider what networking components are needed to support them. Next, determine the best use of your IT and networking staff, and deploy NaaS to allow them to focus on business-enabling tasks. [/accordion-item] [accordion-item title=”5. How does NaaS work alongside existing investments (can I refresh/transition just part of my network to ‘aaS)? “] Data#3:

“We can appreciate that vendors prefer to be the sole provider in networking solutions, but in practice we know that customers have very mixed environments. Having an integrator, like Data#3, act as a single point of contact for the service desk and network operations centre ensures you can deploy multiple vendor solutions within one seamless service. This also ensures we can provide a more holistic service based on understanding business outcomes in addition to the underlying technology.”

– John Tan, GM of Infrastructure Solutions, Data#3

With NaaS, you have options. Organisations can begin with a small portion of their refresh cycle, before slowly rolling NaaS out across the board. However, in the short-term this will create some complexity, so planning is important. For example, you will need to avoid mixing vendors in the same location, but different locations could be transitioned at the beginning.

Aruba: NaaS can be explored for a subset of your network environment, which allows businesses to transition to NaaS if/where it makes sense. A NaaS solution might be the best way to address an upcoming refresh cycle, or perhaps adapt to changing business requirements that the existing environment is unable to meet. This might force a situation where existing assets need to coexist with infrastructure consumed ‘as a Service. Managing SLAs in this specific scenario can be challenging, especially when the service is reliant on interoperability with another system or network component that is not under the direct control of the NaaS provider. Partners like Data#3 really help in this regard, as Aruba specialises in NaaS for Aruba solutions, just as other vendors focus on their own platforms. A Partner with the skillset and capability to triage issues as they come in, and manage an overarching SLA, puts the customer in a better position to consume a NaaS offering that might encapsulate multiple vendors.

“6. How can I best weigh up options for CAPEX vs lease vs ‘aaS to present to management? ”

Data#3: This is an important conversation but it’s not the only one when moving from traditional networking to ‘aaS. Focusing on long term value and the lifecycle is critical, as well as ensuring that finance and legal teams are involved too. In the early consideration stages, we provide our customers with a high-level view of costs that roll up to a total cost over a pre-determined number of years. This can help to see the savings at the 3 or 5-year mark, depending on the service. NaaS is typically competitive over five years. The other consideration is the ownership of hardware and included hardware refreshes, which can all be incorporated according to the customer’s preference. Aruba: There are some high-level similarities and differences between these options:

  • CAPEX – has a higher upfront cost (hardware + licensing) and a smaller OPEX component (maintenance + support), often charged on an annual basis. The assets remain on the customer’s books and are depreciated over time.
  • Lease – rolls the upfront cost (hardware + licensing) into the ongoing OPEX charge (maintenance + support), which is often charged on a monthly basis. The assets remain on the customer’s books as a capital lease, in a form of financing (usually with buy out at the end of the contract term).
  • NaaS – may look similar to a lease in that there is only an OPEX component, but the assets are not on the customer’s books, and the customer is instead paying for a service, often charged on a monthly basis. There is value above and beyond the hardware, licensing, maintenance and support that is embedded in a NaaS offering – including the ability to use a consumption model, having scalability, and enhanced services such as reactive and proactive monitoring and operational activities, for example.

HPE GreenLake for Aruba brings flexibility to negotiate terms of the contract such as overall duration, opportunity for mid-cycle refresh, provision to scale up and scale down, and ownership of the infrastructure at the completion of the contracted term. It’s worth pointing out that NaaS is often contracted over three to five years, yet most large enterprises traditionally have five to seven-year refresh cycles based on hardware depreciation schedules. NaaS allows the network to adapt more quickly as business requirements change during this period.

“7. Can I still run a mixed-vendor environment?”

Data#3: Most definitely! We touched on this in the question above – How NaaS works alongside existing investments – but the additional point is around your short-term vs long-term needs. If you expect to continue to run a mixed-vendor network long-term, then you need a more detailed discussion about how to purchase/manage/interoperate for an optimal outcome. Aruba: If there are solutions in place that are still functional and meeting SLAs, then swapping out hardware may be disruptive. The flexibility of NaaS means you can be smart about changing the environment, and slowly ramp towards NaaS only if, where and when appropriate. If the hardware is not fit for purpose – for example, your requirements have changed, or SLAs are not being met – then a discussion around existing solution components and any capability gaps would best guide you how to transition to NaaS whilst protecting your existing investments. From an Aruba perspective, there are elements of our network that can quite easily operate in a mixed environment, and we support open standards to embrace interoperability. Having said that, there is value in a fully integrated solution that provides complete visibility and control from a centralised management and orchestration platform such as Aruba Central.

The impact of NaaS post-deployment

“8. What are the impacts of a NaaS architecture on the operational team? ”

Data#3: Post-deployment, your partner and vendor are very proactive. For the big picture, together they look at the business outcomes and business value that your technology solution provides. In terms of service delivery, there is continual 24/7 monitoring to ensure high availability, with the network consistently optimised and aligned to the wider business goals. Aruba: The big win for customers stems from their resources being freed up to focus on activities that are more impactful for their business. The most impacted, network engineers, have opportunities to grow their network skillset and evolve their capabilities. NaaS abstracts the day-to-day operations and provides an opportunity to create “next-generation network engineers” who become more fluent in areas such as network programmability, webhooks, APIs, and automation. This skillset fosters innovation across the network and provides a framework for customers to explore tighter integration between the network and applications that enable business outcomes.

“9. How much visibility (dashboards) and control (monitoring features) will clients have? ”

Data#3: Providing insight and visibility is absolutely what NaaS enables. Ultimately it delivers real-time dashboards that give you the control needed to proactively configure and enhance the network – and use that visibility to determine the next course of action. Aruba:  A balance between transparency and network access is important. Access to dashboards is essential as this is how the customer holds the partner accountable to SLAs, however it’s not in the best interest of either side if a customer has an ability to influence delivery against agreed SLAs. Configuration ability is typically negotiated to align with the risk profile of specific changes in the network topology. For example, changing the VLAN on an access switch port is unlikely to impact the overall service, whereas making changes on a core switch could have larger consequences. ‘Freedom within boundaries’ is perhaps a good guiding principle here!

“10. What are the impacts, and is it possible to roll back to traditional consumption (like we are seeing with public cloud and the preference for hybrid environments)?”

Aruba: NaaS gives the customer flexibility to refresh quickly and embrace new capabilities as they become available. Once the contract ends, there is generally the option to upgrade hardware, or consider other possibilities such as renegotiating contract continuation or hardware buy out. If a customer believes they may wish to revert to a more traditional consumption model in the future, HPE GreenLake for Aruba has flexibility for shorter contract terms which can minimise the perceived risk of making such a transition to NaaS.

Why Data#3

“11. Why talk with Data#3 about your Networking options?”

Data#3: As well as being both an Aruba and HPE Partner, we have a long history as a managed services provider with a dedicated team, methodology, and a portfolio of long-term customers. Our dedicated Aruba architects are also able to guide you through any or all parts of Aruba’s Edge Services Platform (ESP) and Artificial Intelligence Operations (AIOps) architecture, as well as the latest access points and switches. NaaS also fits perfectly with our networking and device-based lifecycle offers. Data#3’s NaaS sits within our customer success function, so from presales – to mapping the 3-to-5-year NaaS journey and ongoing engagement – we are with our customers every step of the way. And when you call, you will always speak to a team member on the ground in Australia.

“12. Why has Data#3 earned such a strong reputation in Networking capabilities? ”

Data#3: At Data#3, we understand that for every organisation, delivering the services that customers and employees demand requires a robust and reliable network. For decades, we have been working with organisations to help drive growth by leveraging advanced networking technology, albeit through consulting, procurement, project services and managed services. Through our leadership across three key areas – remarkable people, outstanding solutions, and organisational excellence – combined with our unique Solutions Framework, we are dedicated to the success of our customers.

To learn more about Network as a Service (NaaS), please speak with your Data#3 Account Manager or submit your enquiry online today.