Networks as a Service

What is NaaS?

One of the areas of development that HEAnet pursues is Networks as a Service (NaaS.) This is a delivery model for network services. It uses virtualisation technologies to provide services on demand, without requiring specialised physical equipment for each installation. This lets us provide services that we can’t do, or can’t do efficiently, any other way.

Advantages of NaaS

We’re familiar with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and the changes that this has made to how network applications are deployed. Virtualisation of computing and storage has made infrastructure both elastic – a shared infrastructure can react to the changes in demands of many different users – and quick to provision. We believe that these advantages can be brought to the network as well.

In essence, the job of a router is to provide separation – to internetwork two or more existing networks. This means that we deploy routing equipment based not just on the speed of the connectivity that is required, but also on the physical topology of the infrastructure – more networks means more physical interfaces, and more geographical locations means more physical devices. If we virtualise the routing layer, however, we can decouple these two requirements.


HEAnet participates in projects to develop the [OpenNaaS software](, which is maintained by i2CAT and used by the NaaS activity in GÉANT. OpenNaaS works on three layers:

– A virtualised base layer, provided by the network infrastructure itself (e.g. logical systems in JUNOS, VLANs for point-to-point ethernet circuits.)
A hardware abstraction layer, provided by OpeNaaS.
A layer that exposes the abstracted network as resources and orchestrates these resources to provide a service.

The result is that the user has control over a set of resources – routers, links, and so on – which can be manipulated independently of the underlying physical infrastructure, and independently of the other users of that same infrastructure. This is much like the abstraction of IaaS, and brings the same advantages.

What NaaS is used for

HEAnet’s first implementation of OpenNaaS is to provide virtual CPE services to our client institutions. This lets us use a single pair of routers – each located in separate datacentres for resilience – to provide direct connectivity to the devices on the clients’ LAN.

Each client has a different network setup and requires certain facilities available, which would normally conflict with each other if they were implemented on the same device. Virtualisation lets us treat the single router as multiple virtualised routers, each of which can be operated independently.

Further, however, NaaS allows the client institution, not just our own staff, to manipulate their virtual CPE directly, making it fully a part of their own network. They can do this without impacting other clients who use the same infrastructure.

Finally, providing these services in a virtualised way like this allows HEAnet to expand the services that we offer to the client well beyond what we would normally be able to do without deploying new, expensive hardware at the client site.

But this isn’t something we do on our own. HEAnet actively works with other organisations (such as GEANT,) and with suppliers to incorporate NaaS software into their solutions.

If you would like to experiment with OpenNaaS yourself, please feel free to try it at If you are a HEAnet client and would like to know more about Networks as a Service, please contact our Network Development team.