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The future of business networks won’t be confined only to cloud computing and hybrid setups. If survey results from a new Cisco study are accurate, the business network of the future may be a completely managed service.

Network as a Service (NaaS) could be a solution to “more than 18 months of disruption and adaptation,” the report said. NaaS is far more than just any portion of a network being managed by a third party, as 36% of respondents thought. In actuality, Cisco said, Naas is “a cloud-enabled, usage-based consumption model that allows users to acquire and orchestrate network capabilities without owning, building or maintaining their own infrastructure.”

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Cisco goes on to describe NaaS as an alternative consumption model that can cover network elements like wired and wireless LANs, WANs, VPNs, branch networks, data center networking, edge computing, multi cloud and hybrid cloud environments. It can also “deliver new network models such as SASE; it can enable shifts in organizational models, such as the move to hybrid work. And as an on-demand service, NaaS can allow IT teams to more easily scale up or down, rapidly deploy new services, and optimize the balance between CapEx and OpEx,” Cisco said.

NaaS providers, Cisco said, take over total responsibility for all aspects of network life cycle management, which is actually a surprisingly long list of things. It includes any and all “deploying, integrating, controlling, updating, monitoring and repairing elements of network infrastructure — including any of their customer’s on-premises equipment — required to deliver contractual outcomes.”

Don’t assume, as many respondents to the survey did, that NaaS eliminates the need for network operations teams: Cisco says that’s anything but true. With life cycle management handed off to a provider, customer IT teams have more time to “focus on operational activities that contribute business value,” Cisco said.

It seems apparent, at least based on the data presented in Cisco’s report, that NaaS is going to be a key part of the next several years of enterprise computing: Cisco predicts NaaS adoption will grow at a rate of 40.7% between 2021 and 2027.

That figure may prove to be less of a sudden jump and more of a gradual uptic, as nearly half (49%) said that they see NaaS as something best deployed during a network infrastructure upgrade/refresh or at a time when the company is seeking to adopt new technologies.

Not everyone is ready to leap into a new networking paradigm without looking first, though. Twenty-eight percent said they were worried that the cost and disruption of transitioning to NaaS would be prohibitive, 30% said they were unsure NaaS could support unexpected demands, and 26% said they were worried over lack of security controls.

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Cisco concludes that NaaS hesitations are understandable, but that its adoption isn’t an all-or-nothing approach. Cisco recommends that organizations interested in NaaS adoption have their IT teams “work with trusted partners to try NaaS on a small scale, evaluate the risks and rewards and see whether it aligns with their overarching business and technology strategies.”