With the network playing a key role in the success of digital transformation, technology leaders are looking to network as a service (NaaS).

This is the finding from a new study from Aruba, which looks at the interest in NaaS as organisations recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The survey defines NaaS as when a company has over 50% of its network rollout, operations and life cycle management delivered by a third party on a subscription basis.

The concept is discussed in some capacity by a massive 90% of South African companies, with one in three companies making it a topic of frequent discussion

When asked about the reasons behind this interest, financial efficiency emerged as one of the main anticipated benefits, with 70% of respondents expecting NaaS to help reduce operational costs, and 54% thinking it could enable a shift from capex (capital expenditure) to opex (operational expenditure).

Flexibility – both in terms of the network and team time – was another primary driver.

More than three-quarters (78%) of companies agree that having the flexibility to scale their network based on business needs is key to their interest, while 88% of organisations see the NaaS model as highly attractive due to its 24/7 operations centre.

Meanwhile, fewer than half (46%) are looking at NaaS to help them reduce IT staff levels – instead believing it will enable them to redeploy skills and talent to other projects (56%).

The appetite for NaaS is evident, but the road towards implementation looks less clear, with the survey identifying a number of key barriers.

On the surface it appears that internal processes may be the issue. Among the top concerns identified by technology leaders were budget rules and investment cycles (83%), finding the budget (57%) and compliance (51%).

However, a deeper dive into the data reveals a much more fundamental barrier: a lack of overall understanding of NaaS. While 100% of respondents said they have heard about NaaS, only 37% fully understand the benefits of the model.

And this education gap is also evident in the perception of NaaS’s viability: 45% of technology leaders currently see NaaS as an established and viable solution, while the remainder either consider it to be a concept looking for a market (46%) or in its early beginnings (9%).

“Covid-19 served as a catalyst of changing the way today’s corporate IT staff must plan and procure their respective networks,” says Mandy Duncan, country manager for Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “NaaS can ensure the critical flexibility needed by businesses as they look to recovery and is the reason why it has become a formidable topic and the answer for today’s market needs.”