Breaking Down Networking as a Service (NaaS) with Mobius Partners
To all welcome to our first broadcast of Knowledge as a Service (KaaS) Series, where we provide technical experts to our customers, where we discuss interesting topics, emerging technologies and other things that might be helpful for your organization. Or maybe just something that you were curious about. I'm Shannon Gillenwater, Director of Technology from Mobius Partners, I've been working in technology, providing solutions to our clients for over 20 years with primarily focusing focus in networking and security. And I am joined by my colleague, Kyle, good morning to you, sir.
Good morning, Shannon. Hi, everybody, Kyle Houston with Mobius. Like, Shannon, I've been in the industry for quite a while, a little over 20 years now. mainly focused on on datacenter and software defined data center, and worked with a number of customers and a number of vendors. Right, let's not build the expectations too high. Let's let it grow organically as we move along here. So today, we aren't joining to talk about network gadget services, right. So of course, these days, pretty much everything is available as a service,
right? We have infrastructure as a service, SaaS, platform as a service, right? Storage as a service. And, of course, we've got all the cloud providers out there - like Azure, and AWS, and Google and the rest of the usual suspects. But we really haven't seen networking as a service take off, or really even now be introduced until just very recently. And so when we talk about as a service, one of the two key components of that that really makes it as a service, in our opinion, is that it's elastic, right? So I can scale up. And I can scale down, and I'm only paying for what I'm actually using. So those are the two really
key components for something to be as a service for us. And we're not just talking about a lease. And we're not just talking about managed services, you know, an MSP provider. So you know, we're truly meaning that you're paying for what you're using. And it's not just a financial vehicle.
you still have to have, a physical network at your location. Now, if you go into the cloud, obviously, you could do as a service there, but they own the entire stack. And it's more of a basically everything as a service when you talk about cloud, right. But if you want to get into
some of that same functionality on prem, or even in a colo, or something that you're managing, it's really kind of hard because you do have to have that dedicated hardware and stack. So don't confuse, network as a service with software defined networking - SDN. Software Defined Networking is a way to do that with overlay underlay, but that's more of a complex scenario. And unless you're doing some very complex things with networking,
with self service and automation, etc. Then it may be a little too much. So luckily, we're seen a couple vendors doing some capabilities around NaaS, where you can still manage and everything and I have to put everything in the cloud or go SDN route. Sure, ultimately, I've got put my PC in somewhere, right? I got to have a switch to plug in for my laptop or, if I'm doing Wi Fi right, ultimately, I've got to have some radios in my building to get myself connected. So the networking is a little bit different than those other technology stacks up because I do have that physical requirement. Regardless of how I might want to configure it and use my network.
and certainly we have software defined networking these days, but it has been the last of the technology stacks to undergo massive adoption for software defined. Obviously in the compute right with virtualization, especially as VMware right so, you know, organizations are probably 95% or higher virtualized these days, we see that in the storage. We see that with other areas of technology. But we really haven't seen as much adoption of software defined networking. Certainly several solutions out there from the big players, no doubt with VMware and Cisco and others. But, we haven't seen that true enterprise wide adoption of networking in the service, which I think also explained some of the lack of networking as a service options that we've seen out there.
And what we have seen to those providers come into the marketplace, as Kyle had mentioned. And the two do have slightly different approaches. One of those, it's you're getting the, you're paying for the number of appliances, the number of switches and access points that your organization needs. And you can choose whether to manage those yourself, or let them manage them, but you are not paying for upfront acquisition costs. And you can also own the management,
The other provider, they actually do provide all the equipment, which is their own version of switches and APs which they have developed So for them you would have to get their equipment and they do manage it - that is not an option Thiers is even more interesting because it's truly as a service and you're paying per user So as you hire more employees you pay more per month for that platform. an then as you scale down as we have seen with the pandemic then you're going to be paying less You'll be paying less because you have fewer users so they have a true scale down per user cost. Which is pretty interesting that they brought this to the networking realm. Why would you consider as a business? What would be the benefits of that vs. doing what we've always done? Talk with our partners like Möbius and figure out what the solution will be, buy the gear, get help installing and maybe even help managing and monitoring As a lot of the other as a service things, it does have the benefit of no upfront capital outlay, no upfront acquisition costs. So you're moving everything to an OpEx versus CapEx, which, especially with publicly traded organizations, they certainly liked that financial model versus the CapEx.
And so in that respect, it is a lot like leasing, giving you those benefits, not buying it upfront and paying for it each month, over time. But it also helps our customers get out of the networking business. So if they don't have to buy the gear, and they don't have to install it, and they don't have to manage it right there. They're getting out of the networking business. And obviously, companies don't open up and start offering products and services wanting to be a networking company... The networking is something necessary for the businesses to run But it really shouldn't be the primary focus for them. So with other areas, it allows them to be less involved in the technology business and more focused on whatever it is that they're trying to bring to market for their customers.
I like to liken this as sort of making this very much like utility, right? Where you pay for it, and it's going to work much like electricity, you don't have to go in there and create the generators and turbines and everything to build your own electricity. You just expect it to work. And that's very much what network as a service is like in that you don't like Shannon said you're no longer in the business of doing networking for yourself. You can just pay for networking utility. Absolutely, although myself and probably a lot of others last year, were considering their own turbines to get some electricity during those cold winter months. That week that we endured. So certainly a something that crossed my mind.
But for sure, yeah, we that's really how a lot of technology should be for businesses these days. It's you pay for utility, just like you need for any other things for your business. And you shouldn't have to become steep in that and hire entire groups of people to enable your business to operate. And those things aren't core to your value add as a company, which is where the elasticity part does come in. Right? It helps you match your spend to
your business needs and very directly. So that elasticity is that scale up and scale down. In the past, folks really never thought about network scaling down. It's not something that really happens very often. Sure you could have a business maybe that's struggling or downsizing based on changes in their particular market. Generally speaking, the networks are always being upgraded and need to go faster and provide more features and capabilities, more bandwidth, of course, always. But we did see that change recently with the pandemic. So suddenly, we had everybody not going to the office and you're working from home and I know who our customers were, they actually stayed with that working model and came up with different flex schedules, and actually ended up getting rid of several of their locations or downsizing their footprint introducing location, because of that change and workstyle. And so, there truly was a need for the ability to scale
down networks as a result of that. If you had been someone who was on the leading forefront of networking as a service, you would have had the advantage of being able to reduce your your spend and your networking footprint to reflect that without giving up all the investments that have been made in all of your networking gear. Another interesting benefit you can get from this is evergreen, as we like to call it in technology these days, Evergreen networking, says, we're just talking about right to, you always want to upgrade the network, you always want more bandwidth, not faster, you want more features, you want more security, and certainly those things are always being evolving and changing in the networking stack.
And so if you don't own the equipment, and it's been provided and operated for you, and as those generational changes occur in technologies, and you have the opportunity to have those switched out in and upgraded to the newest access point or switch or whatever the case may be your business so you can take advantage of those things. And so that the ability to have Evergreen technology around networking, certainly becomes a an advantage for an organization. It doesn't mean you have to, you know, upgrade whatever the next thing comes out. But when that does happen in the next generation of Wi Fi seven, for example, when that comes out in a couple of years, and certainly we're on WiFi 6E, as they call it. So new and Wi Fi seven happens,
three years from now, or whenever that rolls out, that would be an option for customers who are networking as a service to get to that new platform. It saves a lot of time, having to research newer technologies and stuff, right? If you just rely on the on the vendor who does networking day in and day out, and that's their specialty, and you just say yes, I want to I want your service, and just keep me up to date. And then you don't have to worry about that, or whatever the newness is, whether it's Wi Fi 6 vs Wi Fi 7.
It also allows you to get more of the cloud like feel in that. Everything is as a service like you would in a public cloud without having to rely on the public cloud, right? There's lots of organizations that have restrictions on where data can reside. And there's a lot of, financial or medical or things like that, where they just don't trust the data being out of the cloud, they need to keep keep a hold of it. And so that's one way to this is one way to further the cloud, like experience, but stay on prem.
Absolutely. Often businesses in organizations want to upgrade their technology, whether that's the network or storage, or compute or any other part of the environment. And usually, you know, cost is one of the inhibiting factors to guide really liked that, that new, great shiny things I know, it's out of my budget this year. If you're subscribing to a service, where the cost of that is already rolled in. And it's up to you when the next version rolls out, right. And that's no longer the cost is no longer the reason you're making the decision to do it,
you're choosing to deal with those interruptions in service when it comes to upgrades. But you get to choose when that happens. And cost is removed from the consideration. If you do it when it's time for your business to benefit from whatever those new features and capabilities are.
But that doesn't mean it's a fit for all businesses and organizations. So there's some of the same challenges for networking as a service as any of the other ones out there. But and even as compared to just say, a managed service provider. And particularly, that's going to be things like
if you have really complex networking needs in your environment, that's probably not going to be a fit for network as a service, just like it probably wouldn't be a fit for managed services. Obviously, there's some amount of standardization and limitations that you're going to be able to get from having a third party, configuring & managing your environment. So if you have really complex networking needs, then that might not be an option for you. But as we mentioned earlier, one of the providers that we we have seen they provide the gear for a monthly cost but you have a choice of them managing or you managing. And so in that instance, you could potentially still do it with those guys should, you would still be managing it yourself. And you're really just getting the equipment as a monthly fee, and necessarily all of the management and monitoring, like the other provider that we've seen out there. Also, just like with cloudy stuff,
if you operate in a high security environment, then NaaS is probably less attractive to you, which doesn't mean it can't be done securely. But just obviously, there's more risks with having third parties operate in an environment. And so you may have security requirements, you may have contractual requirements, we have regulatory requirements that you make that more of a challenge, just like it does with cloud based services, as Kyle was mentioning, so anytime you have other people with their hands in the machinery. Security does become a concern. So maybe a bit more challenging for those businesses, where their security posture is a little more rigid. Also, we have to think about things like rate of change. So if your network is changing a lot, and you're constantly making changes to it and configuring things, then, maybe it's not going be a good fit for you. Because it implies that you're relying upon someone else to implement those changes.
So it may slow down the speed of business that you want to operate at when you're putting in requests to other folks to make changes for you. And that it's the same with other models, like managed service providers, right, where everything's a ticket to them to get things done. versus you having a network engineer on staff who can just log in and make changes on the fly, which happens a lot. But also, I would recommend the rapid changes on the fly. As you' probably have heard 70% of most problems are caused by people, not the technology. So always good keep in mind. That number is pretty low. Yeah, and it's pretty high as it is already. And you're right, it probably could be higher, and it fluctuates over the years. But
that is one of the things that we've seen in technologies that the root cause analysis that people and unauthorized changes are just unknown changes can be very problematic for businesses. Similar to that, also, the time to repair right (TTR) you are having networking issues, and maybe the networking, the network itself isn't even the source of the problem. But you know, if you're having a network issue, or you're needing to use the network to troubleshoot an issue, if you're working through a third party to make that happen through the person or say the organization that's managing your network, right? So it can slow down your troubleshooting efforts in the environment. So that is something to consider as well, just like what changes in your slower than no troubleshooting is gonna be a little bit more difficult and slower to get the information you might need as you're working on problems in the environment. So something to consider as well. But certainly NaaS is real, it is here today with us,
could be a fit for your business. So if you have questions about that, reach out to us, let us help you in making that assessment and figuring out if it's the right fit for you. And if so, who might be the best solution provider for you to accomplish that? Do we have any questions from our folks in the cyberspace that we'd like to bubble up into the session? We do have a couple. Does that mean they're also responsible for the security of my network? So I'll give the half answer of Yes. But so they are definitely going to be instrumental to the security of your network, right? Because they're managing and making the changes for you. But it certainly doesn't alleviate your responsibility for security. But ultimately,
security is still going to be owned by you. And we'll be part of that. But also, a lot of times in their heads folks, combined Networking and Security together, which you're probably in the early days, that was usually the case no, security was always a network based assumption, right? The first security thing being the firewall at the edge and right so a lot of times folks don't want security and network things together. Security is everywhere in every part of the environment, both in the hardware and the software and processes. And so from that perspective, you can't look at managed networking as a service to also be providing you with the security you need, you still need to separately ask yourself what are my security needs and how am I providing those network is certainly a part of that but certainly not all of that.
Any others out there? Or do I miss anything there? No, I think I think you nailed it. It'll offset some of the security stuff. But obviously the bulk is going to rely on you. You are the last line of defense, you're the one that's going to be ultimately responsible at the end. But they can definitely help on the networking side. Any other questions out there? One more question. Does this mean that I need to replace my existing network? Yes, that's maybe not in all cases. But for the most part, the answer to that is yes.
Which maybe does make it seem more daunting. But as I mentioned, like with blue providers, if they provide their own equipment that they have actually designed to manufacture it. So those guys, no doubt, you have to get their gear and have to have the management. The other ones, you know, they're providing things that you choose yourself, but it's still coming from their portfolio of products. So your choices are still limited to what they offer within their
program. But still, ultimately, it really does mean that you will be replacing gear for both of those models. And so you really have to a time it. It's best to time it such that you're ready to do your next generation of upgrade and the network. But that's because it's it's aging out to end of life support or maybe it's because you're moving locations, opening new locations. So the same turning points in your business. The technology lifecycle that you would be upgrading the replacement devices is the perfect time to consider it and approach NaaS. To take advantage of that. But the short answer is yes, you probably have to upgrade and replace the networking components. And something I didn't mention earlier on is that so
far, what we've seen with networking as a service is geared towards the campus LAN. So this switches and access points where the end users connect there. So far, we haven't really seen as much offering in the data center, which doesn't mean it probably won't evolve to include that. But
the first round of offerings that we've seen out there really for the campus LAN, not from the data center itself. Thanks for joining us, everybody. If you have suggestions for future topics, email us at email@example.com. Also, you can follow us on LinkedIn for more information. Thanks a lot for joining and enjoy your day. Thanks for watching everyone.