Virtualization Technology News and Information
Network Digital Twins Are Already Providing Value

By Tyson Henrie, Customer Success Architect, Forward Networks

Everywhere you turn, industry influencers are making claims about the tangible benefits of network digital twins, while technology decision makers remain rightfully skeptical of what they view as the latest buzzword. So, what's the real story?

Interest in digital twin technology is on the rise, likely driven by the pressure placed on IT teams to ensure that their networks are predictable, agile, and secure. Network and security operations teams are actively investigating how implementing a digital twin can help their teams become more proactive and provide confidence that the network will behave as expected, even in the face of constant change.

New research suggests that the global digital twin market is expected to grow over 44.2% by the end of 2031. A separate report stated that the digital twin market will reach $61.5 billion by 2027. Analyst firm Gartner predicts that digital twins will fundamentally change the way enterprise networks are managed, and consulting firm McKinsey believes that digital twins will be the foundation of the enterprise metaverse and notes that 70% of C-suite tech executives at large enterprises are exploring and investing in this technology.

While there are justifiable reasons to be wary of another tool, network digital twins are already delivering measurable value and changing the way networks are managed.

Why do companies need a network digital twin?

The networks of large organizations have grown exponentially over the past two decades.  Today's networks include devices from dozens of vendors using multiple operating systems that run on billions of lines of configuration code. Until recently, network and security teams needed a cadre of monitoring tools to manage their multi-vendor, multi-cloud networks. Each of these tools has unique terminologies, features, and learning curves to understand and use. Worse yet, the data is siloed. Security, network, and cloud teams who operate this way do not have a single-source-of-truth for network topology, behavior, configuration and compliance. This makes it extremely difficult to answer seemingly simple questions like: am I at risk? Is the network compliant? Is the network performing like it needs to be?

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin is an exact virtual reproduction of an organization's entire network environment based on the config and state data from all network devices (load balancers, firewalls, switches, and routers). With this data, the digital twin creates a digital copy of network behavior and calculates every possible path a packet can take. This provides a single-source-of-truth for network engineers and allows them to search the network like a database, perform forensic analysis, accelerate troubleshooting, visualize on-prem and cloud topology, and trace all possible traffic flows. Simply collecting data, though, isn't enough and digital twins must present the information in an intuitive, actionable manner.

Why should I consider a digital twin?

Do you have endless resources?  If there's an outage, can you take your time resolving it?  Can you prove your network is in compliance with mathematical certainty? If you answered no to any of these questions, your organization stands to benefit from digital twin technology.

Executives responsible for managing the bottom line appreciate that digital twins save massive amounts of time and money while reducing complexity. Legacy tools  offered by leading hardware vendors and cloud providers ignore the reality of today's multi-vendor, multi-cloud environments while keeping information in silos. A true digital twin supports all major vendors and provides a single source of truth of network data which NetOps teams use to drastically reduce MTTR and prevent outages.

Compliance is an issue for nearly every company, however proving the network is compliant with any degree of certainty is difficult, especially given that it is constantly changing. Trying to prove it was compliant on a specific date in the past is nearly impossible using traditional methods.  A digital twin can continuously prove compliance using verification checks and document compliance over time using snapshots, effectively becoming an always on audit.  

Digital twins are clearly helping companies be more efficient and effective at running networks now, as well as helping enterprises prepare for a future that will most definitely be dependent on  reliable networks.




Tyson Henrie is a Customer Success Architect at Forward Networks where he provides technical expertise to Forward's largest customers.

Published Friday, March 10, 2023 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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