Network engineers can use digital twins for design, testing, security and maintenance. But limitations with vendor specificity and a lack of standards hinder wider adoption for now.


Copyright: – “Use Cases of Digital Twins for Networks”


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard about digital twins, which are virtual representations of physical objects.

They have found applications in multiple industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, automotive and even networking.

The most evolved use case is manufacturing, in which the end goal is to validate the functionality of objects prior to investing the time, effort and expense of physically creating the objects. In this use case, a component manufacturer might create a digital twin of one of its components, like a bolt, and provide it to the system manufacturer, such as an engine maker. The engine maker can add the virtual bolt to a virtual engine and test whether it meets the specs and has optimal performance.

This is great, but what’s the relevance for network engineers and folks involved in network management and automation? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

Creating and monitoring network digital twins can assist at all stages of network support, from design to end of life. Here’s a look at how and where network teams can apply digital twins to the networks they design and manage — and what some of the speed bumps and roadblocks are.

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Twins vs. models

First, it’s important to differentiate between digital twins and simple models or simulations. The main difference is they incorporate some degree of real-time data updates. So, while a model or simulation operates exclusively based on its initial conditions, a digital twin can incorporate real-time data from its real-world counterpart.

Types of digital twins

Digital twins don’t have a standardized set of categories. But many vendors and others active in the industry define four core types of digital twins.

1. Component twins

Component twins are instantiations of individual components, such as the bolt in the example above. These twins include detailed information about the performance and behavior of the components. In a network environment, components might be individual motherboards or power supplies.

2. Asset twins

Asset twins are instantiations of physical assets, such as buildings, trucks or other vehicles or machines. These twins include operational status, performance data and environmental conditions. In a network environment, asset twins might be routers or switches.

3. System twins

System twins comprise groups of asset twins that work together at a system level. As the name implies, they are used to uncover how components and assets work together. In a network environment, system twins include networks such as WANs, LANs or other network segments.

4. Process twins

Process twins bring together system twins into complex processes or workflows. They enable engineers to conduct what-if scenarios by tweaking inputs to see how they affect outputs. In a network environment, process twins cover routing protocols and the overall performance of the network.

Use cases for digital twins in the network

With these types in mind, it’s easy to see how digital twins can work across the lifecycle of a network, from architecture and design through end of life.[…]

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