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Democratizing “Digital Twin” with ExtremeCloud IQ

Jeevan Patil Senior Director, Product Management Published 4 Nov 2020

Digital Twin, it’s all the buzz in the networking industry today, but what does it actually mean, where did it come from and who coined the term?

The original concept was introduced around 1970 during the flight of Apollo 13. When the spacecraft was stuck in space 200,000 miles away from earth, nearly 15 simulators back on earth aimed to replicate the various conditions trying to diagnose the problems. Three decades later John Vickers of NASA and Michael Grieves from the University of Michigan coined the term “Digital Twin” to mean a digital replica in virtual space of a physical entity, where the twin mirrors specific parameters of the physical entity and both of these exchange data. Gartner has been tracking this technology within its hype cycle. In the words of Austin Powers, it is a mini-me!

This concept is broad enough to be applied in areas from healthcare, drug delivery, manufacturing, sensor technologies to security. Mission-critical networks enable customers to stay connected and focus on achieving their business outcomes. However, businesses have constantly changing needs. This implies customers need to regularly roll-out new firmware images on networks, change configuration to accommodate the new needs, and interoperate with new IoT devices. Critical networks cannot become testbeds for new software or services, the risks are just too great. So the traditional route for customers was to procure additional networking devices, the network controllers, the management products, and deploy a duplicate network in the lab. Then manually copy the network configuration, the firmware versions, the clients, and the applications in the lab environment to test the new designs. Just consider the cost in time, resources, and money associated with this approach of having to physically mirror your network to test a new piece of hardware, software, or design. This is where digital twin really shines, and the elasticity and flexibility of cloud is the real enabler

Extreme realized the value of digital twins long before the hype and as a result, we are years ahead of our challengers, enabling customers to perform digital ‘what ifs’ without risking the operation of their current network or the cost of duplicating it.

So, how do I do this with ExtremeCloud IQ (XIQ)? The process is pretty commonly exercised by our engineering and Extreme GTAC customer support teams to replicate customer environments. But we make this process as simple as 1-2-3 so that we can truly democratize the ability to create a digital instance of your own network.

Step 1

You can either have your VIQ cloned or you can export your VIQ. All the data related to your deployment including the inventory, network configuration, radio profiles, topology maps, configured reports, defined custom applications, DHCP fingerprinting, firewall policies, and QOS are simply copied over.  

Step 2

Create a new instance of cloud. With Extreme’s XIQ, your Digital Twin can be public, private, or locally deployed. With Extreme XIQ, your Digital Twin can be multi-cloud (AWS, GCP, Azure, etc.). Now import the VIQ. This will create a copy of your production environment. 

Step 3

Now add the devices and applications to your new instance and run through the tests over a specific period until you are comfortable rolling out the change in the production environment.  

Every time there is a new need, this process repeats. Plus you can copy and paste between your Digital Twins.

 

How do I determine if Digital Twin is for me?

Some popular use cases (but not limited) include:

  1. A retail store planning to roll out new models of point of sale devices. Prior to the complete roll-out, replicate the environment at a small scale to test the POS device.
  2. New sensors or robots in manufacturing preparing to roll out for stocking/picking.
  3. A new software version for the nurse calling system is planned for roll-out in a healthcare environment or a new patient care application is planned.
  4. Customer intends to upgrade new models of networking devices or implement a software patch or configuration updates to the complete production environment.
  5. Customer intends to migrate from public cloud to private cloud or private cloud to local cloud or maybe transition from one cloud provider (GCP) to another (AWS).

Some popular topics of debate

  1. Should we duplicate the run-time data in the digital-replica and keep it synchronized with the original over time? Our machine learning (ML) algorithms are exercised over anonymized data-lakes from production systems. However, if any of our customers or partners are in need of doing the same with their data, Extreme can clone complete RDCs in a matter of minutes. To learn more about our flexible cloud architecture, checkout this white paper.
  2. Another topic of discussion is whether to test in the digital twin environment with the actual devices (APs, switches, routers, and clients) or to utilize software simulations. Our experience is that for replicating production environments, most customers utilize the exact model of devices, clients and applications and a simulator doesn’t seem to satisfy the need.

Do you agree with our thoughts? If you have used digital twins for any innovative ideas feel free to comment and provide suggestions.

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