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By: James Robertson, Office of the CTO, at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company
When it comes to the modern business, “Virtualize Everything” and the shift to the cloud has become the default strategy. Ultimately, the journey to cloud has been brought on by the need to control costs, reduce footprints, and simplify technology stacks in order to create the agility and flexibility to move towards consumption-based cost models and away from fixed assets.
The pandemic has only accelerated the effect in the data center realm. Cloud is growing exponentially again, so the technology stack could be maintained and managed for whatever comes next for a business model. It’s clear to see that digital transformation at the infrastructure layer is alive and very well, but it has changed considerably and accelerated drastically.
But now, input a new “pandemic-led” factor to the equation: The significant shift in attitudes by almost all businesses towards virtual working – or working from anywhere. We’ve uncoupled work as being a “place you go” and moved towards “tasks you accomplish,” providing the tools needed virtually to support the work product.
This all leads to technology stack independence via virtualization and workplace independence through virtualizing the work environment, all topped off with productivity tools driven primarily from the cloud to fill in the gaps.
In all this, the LAN has stayed almost steadfastly the same.
You could argue that, just like plumbing, the LAN has to be there regardless. But why can’t it also be part of this agility revolution? Why does it need to sit on the sideline as a fixed asset, as a fixed cost requirement, with its potentially over-provisioned capacity, waiting for something to happen? Why can’t we consume networks like we consume every other part of the technology stack?
Enter Network-as-a-Service (NaaS)
If you think about it, we’ve virtualized the two ends of the equation – the systems/services and the users/locations. What we’ve not yet successfully tackled is the network elements themselves. Some parts have changed – MPLS WANs are being replaced with Internet-based SD-WANs for example – but when you get back into the enterprise buildings, it’s still the same as it always was. Fixed assets in the core, distribution and access layers of the LAN, that are bought once every 5+ years with the hope that growth has been accurately predicted enough to sustain it through the lifecycle.
But the world has changed – organizations are looking at their real-estate footprint differently than before and determining if the virtual working world changes their office space consumption needs. Many have already mothballed buildings, parts of buildings, or entire campus locations as a result of a re-evaluation. Others have created 100% flexible spaces focused on collaboration and removed the one-human-to-one-seat models of before. Virtualized spaces for a virtualized economy.
If real estate leaders are making those big bets, the IT leaders, as one of the biggest costs of making a working environment usable, need to think about it also. How do we create flexibility and agility inside the LAN? How do we move what’s historically been a fixed asset to a virtual model? 
Consumption-based networking is the answer: the ability to turn up (and down) services on the LAN as needed. To spin up new locations at a cost-per-subscriber or device and create cost efficiencies in the last part of the technology infrastructure that has not yet virtualized. 
This is not a managed service. This is not some fancy lease arrangement or financial treatment. This is true consumption-based connectivity with predictable, repeatable costs and performance results – at scale and on demand – both cloud-enabled and AI-driven to keep operations running and costs in check.
NaaS helps drive the business forward
So, how does this work? It starts with an organization thinking differently about their technology needs – thinking less about technology ownership and more about business outcomes. 
Think about it like your mobile phone service. As an individual, you don’t really worry about how the service works, you’re just a consumer. You don’t worry about the configuration of the cell towers or their proximity to your location. You just use the reliable service that the provider has architected to communicate and consume applications that matter for your life and business. 
That same provider is responsible for building the service, making the network perform according to the needs of its users, and maintaining and upgrading the equipment to keep up with performance demands or technology jumps. For that service, you pay a monthly fee.
This same approach applies to NaaS. The topology of the network is defined based on the needs of the users, the coverage needs are established through an on-site assessment and consultation process led by the NaaS vendor, and the turn-key service is built to those specifications and delivered at a per-month and predictable cost based on users and devices. 
To make that happen efficiently and effectively for the business, the NaaS service is run using the latest software capabilities from the cloud. Performance is monitored using AI-based capabilities that are looking for issues at the user and network level (and also predicting optimizations and upgrades), security events are monitored and acted upon by the AI (all driven by policy you define) and the maintenance events and even firmware upgrades are handled for you in a way that is the most unobtrusive to your operations. 
You get to take your existing valuable IT resources and focus them on projects and capabilities that drive your business forward, all with the knowledge that the network will be there to support you with flexibility and agility to answer whatever comes next.
Aruba is leading this connectivity revolution. Connect with us and we’ll show you how. 
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