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Taking Network as a Service (NaaS) to the next level
Posted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:55:42 AM

According to a recent forecast, the global NaaS (Network as a Service) market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 38.3% from 2018 to 2023. The forecast cites reduced costs, increased security, and enhanced agility as growth drivers for the NaaS market. With such bullish projections and potential for business impact, It’s no wonder that NaaS technologies are garnering so much attention.

However, not all NaaS solutions are created equal. NaaS is simply the delivery of virtualized network infrastructure and services following the standard cloud subscription business model popularized by SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS. That means NaaS solutions come in a variety of shapes and sizes, many like NFV offering more sizzle than substance. Further, coupling services from multiple discrete service providers can lead to silos, scalability issues, and enhanced complexity. Fortunately, cloud-native SD-WAN platforms, like Cato Cloud, enable enterprises to leverage Network as a Service to its full potential.

Here, we’ll explore the basics of NaaS and explain how the Cato Cloud platform provides enterprises with the most effective form of Network as a Service.

Network as a Service: A crash course

With NaaS, many WAN complexities can be abstracted away. Third- party services deliver network functionalities such as VPN, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), and Bandwidth on Demand (BoD). As a result, enterprises benefit from providers’ economies of scale and shift capex to opex. At a high level, everybody wins. This helps explain why the Network as a Service market is projected to grow to over $21 billion by 2023.

Taking WAN functions and moving them to the cloud inherently allows enterprises to do a better job of remaining agile and secure in a world where cloud and mobile computing are the norm. Gone are the days where enterprises had clearly defined network perimeters that served as demarc points for what needed to be secured and what was on the other side of the moat. By shifting network infrastructure to the cloud, security is not only baked-in, but the network also gains significant agility. It is much easier to leverage cloud services to enable for cloud apps and mobile users than it is to route everything through on-prem hardware.

Another benefit of NaaS is the reduction in appliance costs. Not only does eliminating on-premises hardware reduce capex, it reduces network complexity and network management costs. Coupled with an SD-WAN appliance some may argue that NaaS can go a long way in replacing MPLS. The SD-WAN appliance enables dynamic path selection and Policy-based Routing (PbR), and the NaaS solutions abstract away the network infrastructure.

However, it is in this packaging of discrete solutions that some of the difficulties of getting Network as a Service right become clear. The challenge with ensuring a given NaaS solution delivers on this promise is coming up with a bundle of services that provide enterprise functionality, without adding too much complexity.

In many cases, effectively meeting the demands of a modern enterprise WAN can lead to requirements that entail a mixed bag of solutions from different providers. This patchwork of solutions then increases complexity, and often leads to sacrifices in the form of limited functionality, reduced network visibility (which impedes WAN monitoring and management), and decreased performance. This in turn reduces the upside of NaaS.

How cloud-based SD-WAN adds advanced security, simplicity, and scalability to NaaS

So, how can the benefits of NaaS be delivered without overcomplicating the WAN and diminishing the benefits of the as a service model? By taking all the major WAN networking and security functions and aggregating them into the cloud

This is where cloud-based SD-WAN comes in. Cato Socket SD-WAN devices enable enterprises to choose a transport method (e.g. LTE, fiber, cable, etc.) to connect their physical locations to the closest Cato Point of Presence (PoP). As a result, enterprises gain advanced WAN management features and functionality. Sockets are zero-touch and minimize the manpower and risk associated with network changes. Additionally, all Cato Sockets can be configured for active-active failover, helping enhance uptime and simplify network management, and affordable High-Availability (HA) mode. Active-active failover further improves WAN performance by enabling Cato to route traffic around both blackouts (complete network outages) and brownouts (a reduction in network performance) to help improve last-mile performance.

The global backbone that supports the Cato Network is one of the most important aspects of the platform. The backbone includes over 45 PoPs across the globe interconnected via multiple SLA-backed ISPs (Internet Service Providers). Monitoring software at the PoPs help improve WAN routing by checking for latency, jitter, and packet loss in real time, again simplifying management and improving performance.

The cloud-based, multitenant, and global nature of the Cato Network allows enterprises to benefit from advanced WAN security at scale as well. The Cato Cloud has a built-in network security stack that includes:

  • Next-Generation Firewall. Cato delivers advanced NGFW capabilities using FWaaS to enable network-wide visibility, granular policy enforcement, simple scalability, and streamlined life cycle management.
  • Advanced Threat Protection. Cato’s Intrusion Prevention System is contextually aware and able to intelligently respond to threats while limiting false positives.
  • Secure Web Gateway. End users are one of the most common network attack vectors. Cato SWGs inspect inbound and outbound Layer 7 web traffic.
  • Managed Threat Detection and Response. Responding to threats as rapidly as possible is vital to maintaining a sound security posture. Cato’s MDR leverages intelligent algorithms and human verification to help keep networks secure and guide customers through remediation in the event a node is compromised.

These features enhance WAN security while also reducing complexity. With Cato Cloud, the entire solution is converged “under one roof”. The complexities of appliance management, patching, maintenance, and network monitoring are abstracted away.

Just how important is it to take a holistic approach that integrates security into a NaaS? Centrient Pharmaceuticals, a leading antibiotics manufacturer, was able to cut costs roughly in half while quadrupling network capacity and adding security services to the WAN with Cato.

The Cato Cloud: The converged approach to Network as a Service

As we have seen, the Cato approach to Network as a Service fulfills the full potential of the NaaS model. By providing a converged global WAN infrastructure, the Cato Cloud enables enterprises to enjoy the upside of NaaS while eliminating the complexity created by bundling multiple solutions from different vendors.

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