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Windstream Adds Next-Gen Firewall VNF to SD-WAN Solution

Virtual Network

Windstream Enterprise is giving its VMware VeloCloud SD-WAN service a virtual next-generation firewall.

The company on Thursday unveiled the firewall in virtual network function (VNF) form. The virtual version of Fortinet FortiGate provides application control, web filtering and intrusion prevention. Its premium version adds security information and event management (SIEM) capabilities.

Trent Pham, Windstream’s head of security products, said VMware SD-WAN Edge hardware will host the VNF. As a result, customers can avoid a complex network security installation.

Windstream's Trent Pham

Windstream’s Trent Pham

“If the customer already has a system that supports VNF, we can remotely just push this down and dynamically provision this service to customers,” Pham told Channel Partners. “That speed of activation and deployment is definitely a benefit to both us and the customer.”

Solving Business Needs

Pham said the new service targets the mid-enterprise, although SMBs and large enterprises might also find it useful. Pham noted a few key aspects of the mid-enterprise. First, many adhere to regulatory compliance, such as HIPAA or FERPA. Second, the mid-enterprise tends to seek a single IT services provider, rather than relying on various piecemeal vendors. And third, these businesses suffer from a lack of internal IT resources.

“With IT being an area that is constrained, you’re going to see cybersecurity being very challenging as well, because of the lack of internal resources. So the services that we provide to our customers around managed security services address not only the technical capability, but the internal resource element as well,” Pham said.

We recently compiled a list of 20 top SD-WAN providers offering products and services via channel partners.

Thus, the new VNF comes in handy for short-handed IT departments. An integrated virtual firewall minimizes the errors that could occur during configuration, Pham said.

“Any time you have to hook up one physical device with another, there’s always room for error,” Pham said. “I strongly believe that by running as a virtual instance on the SD-WAN system, it eliminates [error from] having to physically connect and define various physical ports that are going to be within the configuration.”

Simplifying the Process

Windstream and its partners won’t need to perform a truck roll to set up a firewall for the SD-WAN solution. Customers can get a co-managed VNF via the WE Connect network management portal.

Pham said the announcement reflects a movement toward service-chaining various functionalities through VNFs.

“This is how services are going to be provided going forward for managed communications service providers, as more of these capabilities are virtualized into VNFs and NFVs,” he said.

Windstream Enterprise president Layne Levine noted how a security breach can severely harm a brand.

Windstream's Layne Levine

Windstream’s Layne Levine

“Even a single incident can inflict long-lasting damage to a company’s reputation,” Levine said. “This new VNF firewall managed service gives CIOs another tool to secure the networks at all locations without having to endure the time-consuming process of installing and maintaining separate security hardware.”

Windstream offers two SD-WAN solutions: one powered by VMware VeloCloud and one powered by Fortinet.

“We have a tremendous number of managed SD-WAN locations deployed, which gives us unique insight into our customers’ network and security needs,” Levine said.

Windstream last month attached its managed network service – normally only associated with its VMware VeloCloud solution – to its Fortinet offering.


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