The cloud service model offers robust advantages that help companies maintain a competitive edge. It makes the network technology’s setup and maintenance rapid and convenient.
More importantly, NaaS gives firms the agility and speed to align with the changing networking capabilities. ET Bureau has an insightful interaction with Anna Claiborne, SVP Packet and Product Software Engineering at Zayo Group to understand the future, challenges, pitfalls, and impacts.
ET Bureau: What does the future of Network-as-a-Service look like? What are the trends expected in the industry in the near future?
Anna Claiborne: The future of Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) is driven by customers wanting a more cloud-like experience with their network services. They expect the network to be easy to interact with, scale and manage, just like creating services with their favorite cloud provider. This demand pushes the industry to transform network services to be more accessible and flexible.
Infrastructure as code has been the continual trend since the DevOps mindset moved into IT departments. Cloud providers capitalized and fueled this trend by changing servers from a rack-and-stack operation to an API call. The network has long resisted the “to code” evolution – until recently. Another trend is AIOps and machine learning to aggregate data, find signals in the noise, anticipate customer trends and, in some cases, resolve technical issues autonomously.
It is impossible for the network to meaningfully participate in AIOps without being able to provide feedback programmatically (in the form of metrics, logs and data) from an API, or take input for changes the same way. Without moving to NaaS, the network becomes an impossible, non-interactive black box that blocks AI and machine learning advances.
Looking ahead, we see a future where networks become more flexible and nimble, eliminating the bottlenecks they pose today. Remember how software shifted to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and infrastructure moved to the cloud with Amazon, Google and Microsoft? The network is now on the verge of a similar transformation. At Zayo, we are embracing this evolution by investing in software and automation to meet the changing needs of our customers.
In a nutshell, the future of NaaS is all about making network services as easy to use and manage as cloud services, where customers can turn services up or down, automate through APIs, use their favorite cloud management tools and retrieve meaningful information to incorporate in their AIOps initiatives.
ET Bureau: What strategies would you suggest for network automation that will provide maximum benefit?
Anna Claiborne: Embrace network flexibility with the same enthusiasm we have for the flexibility of compute, allowing for adjustments, reconfigurations and adaptations based on specific business needs. Doing so entails embracing the dynamic movement of data to eliminate data silos and unlock its full potential. Network automation offers an exceptional opportunity to optimize data value by swiftly transferring it to optimal locations for analysis, enabling valuable insights to address business challenges effectively.
Make the network accessible beyond the traditional network operations group and automate its management using existing tools. Network as code empowers cloud toolsets to create, modify and manage network resources, enabling DevOps and cloud teams to handle and automate network and compute resources seamlessly.
Network automation’s effectiveness heavily relies on the quality of the underlying fiber infrastructure, serving as the bedrock for reliable and efficient operations by prioritizing the customer experience and streamlining network processes. The ultimate goal is to establish a strong backbone that facilitates smooth network operations, empowering organizations to fully harness the benefits of automation.
AI and ML algorithms significantly enhance network automation by enabling intelligent monitoring, analysis and optimization of network performance. This proactive approach improves reliability, reduces downtime and maximizes resource utilization. Organizations should leverage tools that collect and analyze real-time network data to track performance, traffic patterns and security threats to empower proactive decision-making, effective capacity planning and efficient troubleshooting.
ET Bureau: What are the challenges in delivering network packets? What strategies would you suggest to avoid packet loss or delay in delivering packets?
Anna Claiborne: This is a highly complex question. However, organizations can address a few low-hanging fruits in any network: choose a high-quality network provider that is not oversubscribed, embrace QoS, and invest in monitoring.
A high-quality network provider runs a strong, flexible network infrastructure — crucial for reliable packet delivery — requiring top-of-the-line equipment and redundant network links while prioritizing Quality of Service (QoS). Techniques like traffic engineering and load balancing optimize routing paths and bandwidth allocation to reduce congestion and packet loss.
You can’t change what you cannot measure. Good monitoring is the foundation of a good network experience. Monitoring network performance metrics helps identify potential issues and bottlenecks, leading to smooth operations and fewer disruptions. Additionally, strong security measures like embracing zero trust methodologies, detection systems and encryption safeguard data flow.
Zayo’s network expansion directly addresses the pain points of high-speed data transfer by providing the necessary bandwidth, lower latency connections and a reliable, secure network to enable faster and more efficient data transfers. The expansion is particularly beneficial for use cases such as sharing large files, conducting data analytics and transferring data between servers and data centers, meeting the increasing demands of our customers in a rapidly evolving digital environment.
ET Bureau: How does network latency impact businesses? How can businesses achieve a low network latency?
Network latency is a silent customer experience killer for businesses. It can cause everything from incomprehensible conferences with partners to customers abandoning purchases.
Just like trying to run through thick mud or having conversations with long pauses, latency makes it difficult — even impossible — to accomplish your goals. Minimizing latency in both internal and customer-facing applications leads to better internal productivity and happy customers.
Businesses can employ the concept of network diversity — using multiple network pathways and technologies to enhance performance and reduce latency — to achieve low network latency and enable seamless communication with the following steps:
- Invest in reliable, high-speed network infrastructure, such as fiber-optic connections, to minimize latency.
- Implement traffic management techniques, like quality of service (QoS) prioritization and traffic shaping, to efficiently allocate network resources and reduce congestion.
- Leverage content delivery networks (CDNs) and edge computing to bring data closer to end-users, reducing the distance data needs to travel and improving response times.
- Optimize network configurations, minimize network hops and use optimized protocols to contribute to lower latency.
Also Read: Pitfalls of Network-as-a-Service (NaaS)
ET Bureau: Are there any potential security pitfalls of network-as-a-service? If yes, what are they? What should be the strategies to minimize the security risks of NaaS?
Anna Claiborne: Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) is not immune to network security concerns like any other “as-a-service” provider. Regardless of the service model, businesses must address fundamental security considerations to safeguard their networks effectively.
Network observability monitoring and analyzing network traffic, performance and security events is paramount to security. Keeping an eye on your network allows you to quickly spot potential threats and take immediate action. One of the foundational tenets of NaaS is providing easily accessible network metrics, enabling customers with superior observability.
DDoS protection is critical to consider when devising a robust security strategy. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have the potential to result in significant financial losses and permanent customer attrition. While this concern is not exclusive to NaaS and can occur across the public Internet, it remains a crucial consideration within the context of NaaS and should not be overlooked.
Regarding NaaS security, technologies like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and zero trust philosophies combine nicely. SASE combines network and security features, allowing secure access to network resources from anywhere. The zero trust philosophy reinforces the need for all users, inside or outside an organization, to be authenticated, authorized and continually validated for resource access, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches.
By prioritizing network observability, implementing DDoS protection, and leveraging technologies like SASE and zero trust, businesses can strengthen their network security and effectively address the risks associated with NaaS or any network infrastructure.
By following these strategies and considering your needs, scalability, security, manageability and expert guidance, you will be on the right path to selecting the networking solution that’s the perfect fit for your business.