Network operations startup Forward Networks Inc. today announced that it has raised $50 million in new funding to expand its unique offering that enhances enterprise networks by creating “digital twins” between them.
Digital twins are a type of simulation, typically describing simulated real-world objects in virtual environments so that they can be observed, manipulated, or operated. The goal is to understand what happens to real objects without affecting them directly.
What Forward has done is create mathematically accurate digital twin models for sprawling enterprise networks that can generate actionable insights. The goal is to improve network operations, increase security, allow operations teams to test changes before applying them in the real world, and run event post-mortems without having to cause downtime.
MSD Partners LP led the Series D funding round, which included additional funding from new investors Section 32 and Omega Venture Partners and participation from existing investors Goldman Sachs, Threshold Ventures, A. Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.
The round follows the company’s last fundraising in 2019, in which it raised $35 million, and brings Forward’s total funding to $116 million. Since that cycle, the company has more than quadrupled its customer base and expanded globally by opening a new headquarters in Santa Clara, CA and expanding its development team with an office in Bangalore, India. . The company has also seen very strong loyalty from its current customers, with a retention rate of 96%.
“We’re creating a new technology category with a product that our customers find indispensable right from the start,” said David Erickson, co-founder and CEO of Forward Networks.
Forward’s platform supports all major cloud network providers, hybrid and multicloud cloud environments including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, as well as many on-premises configurations. As a result, customers will be able to accurately mirror and simulate their environment and get a high-fidelity representation of what’s happening on their network to dive deep into their infrastructure.
One of the superpowers of digital twins is that they enable an end-to-end “holistic” picture of what is happening on a network that can provide complete visibility and control of all network paths in a simulation, a explained Erickson during a 2019 interview on theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s live-streaming multimedia studio. Using the digital twin, customers can document, research, verify, and predict network behavior at any level of granularity they need, which is challenging for running systems given their complexity.
“Using an actual mathematical model, we can plot where each packet might go in this whole environment,” Erickson said.
With an extremely accurate digital twin of a corporate network, it is possible to operate it and predict its behavior in the future. For example, it could also be used to understand potential bottlenecks or instabilities that might arise in its current configuration and then test changes to fix them. It would also be possible to discover insulation failures, intrusion points or other security problems more quickly.
“We immediately saw the potential value of the Forward Networks platform,” said Andreas Stavropoulos, partner at Threshold Ventures. “We have been impressed with the company’s growth and the platform’s expanded capabilities that put relevant and actionable network data at the disposal of NetOps, SecOps and CloudOps teams.”