Special Report: NaaS, PaaS and IaaS present challenges, opportunities for telcos

connected world
Experts told Fierce the as-a-service journey is a marathon, not a sprint. (Pixabay)

Operators can remain successful but risk missing out on new revenue streams and being relegated to a less important role in the connectivity ecosystem if they don’t pursue key as-a-service offerings, a ServiceNow executive told Fierce.

On Tuesday, June 8, a panel of experts will delve into the challenges and opportunities around Network-as-a-Service (NaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings during FierceTelecom’s free summer Blitz Week event. Ahead of the session, ServiceNow director of product management Tom Schnarr told Fierce telcos do have the option to pursue a pure connectivity play, but will lose out on an opportunity to own the end customer as the technology landscape shifts.

“There will always be a demand for network and connectivity services, so the telco industry will continue to provide that. But now there’s more and more competition in that telco industry,” he said, adding as-a-service offerings represent “an opportunity to make great new amounts of revenue but it’s also a risk in their footprint and to the current offerings they have.”

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For those not in the know, Google Cloud senior director of outbound product management for telecom and edge Gabriele Di Piazza explained NaaS “is a model in which customers rent networking services from a third-party vendor instead of building their own network infrastructure.” Meanwhile, PaaS and IaaS are both cloud computing models, with the former allowing customers to run and manage cloud applications and the latter providing resources such as capacity on demand, he said.

Di Piazza told Fierce enterprises are adopting these service models “to keep up with changing business requirements, new application needs, security threats [and] increased complexity” and reap the benefits of “greater speed, agility, scale and reduced costs.”

In terms of whether telcos or cloud players should be the one to deliver them, Di Piazza said “there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for providing these services.” He acknowledged there are benefits to telcos and cloud companies working together in some cases, noting a cloud network like Google’s can “pair very nicely” with that of a CSP to provide global reach and scale.

Schnarr had slightly different take, arguing telcos have an leg up in this space – at least for the time being. “The telcos have a critical asset, they own the network and the network is a critical part of this capability,” he said, but warned cloud players “are building their own networks and they can lease the spectrum.”

“That network and the ability to move the workload around is an advantage the telcos have that the cloud providers are going to be gaining as quickly as they can,” he stated.

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In terms of where to start the as-a-service journey, Schnarr said it’s important for telcos to begin developing a service model and catalog. “It really starts with that, how do you describe your capabilities from a technical perspective so now there can be modularity built up into the offer we want to make available...It can then follow a consistent pattern,” he explained.

Schnarr added the process of deploying as-a-service offerings should be thought of as a marathon rather than a sprint. For example, he said, one Tier-1 operator ServiceNow works with started with just one product, which took about six weeks to model. Since then, it’s been able to onboard additional services at a pace of one about every four weeks. “It’s going to take us several years before we get all their services on board, but the snowball is quickly building and we’re able to increase the speed as momentum grows,” he concluded.