Windstream Enterprise's SD-WAN service scores PCI DSS compliance

Mike Frane

Windstream Enterprise is laying claim to being among the first service providers in the nation to garner a compliance designation for its SD-WAN service.

Windstream announced on Tuesday that its SD-WAN service has met the standard for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) Version 3.2 Compliance.

The PCI DSS compliance was issued by an independent, third-party Qualified Security Assessor, in the form of Windstream's annual report on compliance.

PCI DSS compliance provides assurance for end customers in the retail space that use Windstream's SD-WAN service to make payments with credit cards.

"It was very important for us to enhance our security and ensure that our solution was PCI compliant," said Windstream's Mike Frane, vice president of product management for Windstream Enterprise, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "So from the beginning, we built this from the ground up to enable our capabilities to achieve PCI compliant status. We're able to provide our customers with an Attestation of Compliance, or an AOC, which has been validated by a third party company."

Validating PCI compliance is an annual requirement for all organizations that process credit card payments.

"We have a lot of customers whose end users pay by credit card," Frane said. "We have a lot of customers in the retail vertical, which is why we developed this. And while this doesn't make all our customers PCI compliant in and of itself, it definitely simplifies their PCI compliance because they can provide our AOC to their auditor.

"Essentially, it makes the scope of their audit slightly smaller, which means their audit takes less time and costs them less money. One of our main vertical focuses is on retail, we wanted to make sure that customers have peace of mind that we've gone through this and we've had this solution certified."

Frane said other industries, such as healthcare, would also benefit from Windstream earning its PCI compliance badge.

"Security is always important in SD-WAN," said Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "For a certain customer PCI compliance is required so this should open up additional opportunities. PCI compliance is huge in retail and retail has a lot of branches."

Windstream boots up SD-WAN report center

Over the past few months, Windstream Enterprise added a report center to its SD-WAN Management Tool. Using its own middleware, Windstream offers its customers multi-factor authentication, the ability to tag and name key pieces of information—such as the location of SD-WAN customer premises equipment or a specific device—and the report center.

"We've recently released report center, which provides a way for customers to aggregate the view of all their sites in one location," Frane said. "Most technology, if not all the technology vendors, require you to go into each individual site to see what my top application was, what my top devices are, how those types are performing. With report center, we now aggregate all that information. You can see in one glance which sites you have that are having trouble, which applications across your entire network are consuming the most bandwidth, which kind of devices are the most talkative, and the destinations of where your end users are going to. So it gives you a macro view, which a lot of our customers have been asking for.

"It's not something that you can do in the native orchestrator. It's something that we were able to do because we have the middleware. It's been very-well received by our customers because it gives them an aggregated or macro view of what's happening in their network."

RELATED: Windstream's Mike Frane: Customers want managed SD-WAN services

Windstream's SD-WAN fortunes were boosted when it purchased EarthLink two years ago. At the time, both companies were working on their respective SD-WAN services by using VeloCloud, which was later purchased by VMware. Windstream also picked up more SD-WAN assets when it purchased CLEC MassComm late last year.

Windstream, which has laid claim to having the most SD-WAN deployments in the U.S. by a service provider, made the decision to integrate SD-WAN with its core network and into its core Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) platform in order to offer SD-WAN and UCaaS together.

VMware/VeloCloud once again stood on top of IHS Markit's Data Center Network Equipment market tracker SD-WAN standings with second-quarter revenue of $40.1 million, which accounted for 18% of the overall SD-WAN revenue in that time frame. 

At last month's VMworld conference, VMware made a point of including its VeloCloud SD-WAN technologies as part of its end-to-end networking offerings. Frane wouldn't say whether Windstream would be diving into deeper waters with VMware, but it appears as though it would be a good fit for Windstream.

"I was actually at VMworld and I thought it was a great conference," he said. "It sounds like there are a lot of aspirational ideas that VMware has, which is great. We'll definitely keep our finger on the pulse of what they're doing. And if it fits our business model and our go-to-market model and our customer needs, we'll definitely evaluate it."