What is a Network as a Service (NaaS)?

Eliminate the burden of tedious network maintenance, access control, and security management with a cloud-native zero trust solution from Twingate.

Network as a Service (NaaS) takes the modern cloud-based subscription business model and applies it to a company’s network infrastructure. The traditional hardware-based, on-premises network architecture is expensive, difficult to maintain, and brittle. Security, in particular, requires constantly-updated hardware and a level of expertise that many organizations cannot afford. Migrating networks to the cloud frees companies to focus on their core business as the NaaS provider handles the maintenance headaches.

Where Did NaaS Come From?

Until recently, network technology was hardware technology. Adding firewalls, VPN gateways, or routers required adding more appliances to a physical private network. As companies grew, their increasingly heterogeneous networks became difficult and expensive to manage. Processing power eventually let vendors create network virtualization appliances that ran on company servers and now in the cloud.

Businesses have also become more comfortable with the cloud service model. Proprietary business apps migrated from on-premises systems to hosted data centers to AWS cloud instances. Now X-as-a-Service providers let companies subscribe to critical business services without owning the underlying hardware and software.

Combining the two trends, network service providers let companies provision network infrastructure on-demand and offer their customers advanced features that may not have been affordable for in-house networks.

Benefits of Network as a Service

Companies become more efficient, flexible, scalable, and secure when they manage their networks through a Network as a Service provider. Some specific benefits include:

Easy deployments

Since the NaaS provider fully manages its hardware infrastructure behind the scenes, many of the challenges associated with building a global network infrastructure don’t exist. Companies will still need to “build” their virtual networking architecture, but they can rely on their NaaS vendor’s expertise and support during the deployment phase.

Scalable

NaaS vendors provision capacity on-demand. Adding new resources, branches, or users no longer requires expensive hardware investments. The on-demand model also lets companies avoid building redundant capacity. Thanks to flexible scalability, NaaS lets companies expand network capacity briefly for short-term projects.

Cost effective

Replacing hardware with NaaS subscriptions changes IT spending from a CapEx model to an OpEx model. Budgeting becomes more predictable - and CFOs become happier - as the peaks and troughs of IT spending even out and the organization’s TCO declines. The overall business benefits as well since a fully-managed NaaS experiences less downtime.

Secure

Companies can improve their security posture by migrating to a NaaS model. Vendors take on the responsibility for keeping their services and underlying hardware updated with the latest security patches. They also include network management and monitoring features with their offerings. And because NaaS vendors operate at scale, they can offer advanced security services and in-house expertise that many companies could never afford.

The NaaS Ecosystem

You will find several concepts swimming alongside NaaS in the technology industry’s ocean of buzzwords. Some of these, such as SD-WAN, are enabling technologies that improve NaaS deployments. Others are similar technologies that evolved differently.

VPN (virtual private network)

The original approach to securing internet-based remote access, VPN has become a significant security risk of its own. VPN’s underlying moat-and-castle design concept creates a secure perimeter around a trusted network. Anyone allowed through the perimeter is trusted with full access to everything on the network. VPN gateways publicly broadcast their presence to the internet and must be meticulously maintained with the latest security patches. These inherent risks are driving companies to adopt more secure VPN alternatives.

ZTNA

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a modern approach to security and access control that replaces VPN’s trust-based design. ZTNA implementations assume that no user or device or network can ever be trusted. An employee using a managed laptop gets treated no differently from a contractor using a tablet. ZTNA systems grant ephemeral access permissions to each resource or application and must be renewed with each session.

SDP

Software-defined Perimeters (SDPs) implement ZTNA to replace VPN’s moat-and-castle architecture by defending each resource rather than protecting a network. The SDP masks each resource, rendering them invisible to anyone whether they connect through an on-premises network or an airport hotspot. Many NaaS offerings let companies apply SDP-based network security.

SD-WAN

The virtualization trend turned hardware-based wide area network (WAN) technologies into software-defined WANs (SD-WAN) that are more resilient, secure, and manageable. Used as part of a NaaS, SD-WAN lets a company better-manage network performance between central and branch locations.

SASE

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) combines SD-WAN and other WAN services with network security services in an XaaS business model. Businesses can control access to resources and apply contextual security policies at the network’s edge rather than backhauling traffic through an enterprise data center. Modern NaaS vendors include the SASE framework in their offerings.

Challenges with NaaS

Although moving to a NaaS offering may have clear benefits, shifting a company’s network infrastructure to the cloud presents challenges that businesses must consider in advance.

Legacy Infrastructure Compatibility

Few companies have the luxury of building their NaaS from scratch. For better or worse, businesses have a legacy network infrastructure that works. Instead, their migration to a NaaS requires a phased approach, closely coordinated with their NaaS vendor, that does not disrupt operations of their legacy infrastructure.

Migration Costs

Most of the efficiencies NaaS promises do not deliver savings until long after the migration is complete. As with many re-architecting projects, successfully migrating to a NaaS infrastructure can be costly and time-consuming.

Lock-in Risks

Migrating network infrastructure to the cloud leaves a company reliant upon a single vendor. The convenience of single-source solutions often means companies do not get best-of-breed services. And lock-in may make leaving that vendor too difficult when it raises prices or experiences excessive downtime.

Multi-vendor Environments

A NaaS solution works best when a company is already committed to cloud-based infrastructure. Integrating a company’s proprietary systems, whether on-premises or in a hybrid cloud environment, is more challenging even with the NaaS vendor’s support.

How Twingate can help

Twingate’s lets companies migrate their traditional networks to the cloud without the challenges and risks of the past. Compatible with legacy systems, Twingate lets companies take a phased approach to Network-as-a-Service without disrupting business operations. Twingate’s approach to NaaS offers benefits across the organization.

Benefits for IT administrators

Twingate lets companies migrate to NaaS infrastructure easily and at their own pace without replacing legacy infrastructure all at once. Other benefits of Twingate include:

Flexibility

  • Compatible with multi- and hybrid-cloud environments
  • Works with existing network infrastructure
  • Co-exists with existing VPN solutions during migration

Security

  • No public endpoints
  • Least privilege model denies access by default
  • Integrates with existing security stack

Scalability

  • No physical hardware to deploy
  • Add resources and users quickly

Manageability

  • Easy phased deployment rather than rearchitecting
  • Software-based administration through consumer-grade interfaces

Usability

  • Lower latency with direct connections between users and resources
  • Faster user connectivity without backhauling

Benefits for Users

As users will not experience disruptions during the network migration. Moreover, they will no longer experience the frustrations of traditional VPN solutions.

  • Client does not require separate profiles for each resource
  • Set-and-forget client runs seamlessly in the background
  • Faster, more reliable connections to resources

Migrating network infrastructure to Twingate delivers significant benefits to the business as a whole. Security postures improve with Zero Trust Network Access and better user compliance. IT budgets become easier to manage as spending shifts from CapEx to OpEx. And Twingate makes the company’s network future proof and responsive to changing demands for capacity.

"We’ve invested heavily in automation at Blend and Twingate is a powerful platform that allows us to programmatically deploy and maintain a zero trust approach to our infrastructure."
Paul Guthrie
Information Security Officer at Blend

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