UPDATED 12:00 EDT / JANUARY 24 2023


Forward Networks raises $50M for math-based ‘digital twins’ of enterprise networks

Network operations startup Forward Networks Inc. announced today it has raised $50 million in new funding to grow its unique offering that improves enterprise networks by creating “digital twins” of them.

Digital twins are a type of simulation, usually describing real-world objects simulated in virtual environments so that they can be observed, manipulated or operated on. The aim is to understand what’s happening to the actual objects without affecting them directly.

What Forward has done is make mathematically accurate digital twin models for sprawling enterprise networks that can drive actionable insights. The goal is to improve network operations, increase security, allow operations teams to test changes before they apply them in the real world and execute post-mortems of events without having to cause downtime.

MSD Partners L.P. led the Series D funding round, which included additional funds from new investors Section 32 and Omega Venture Partners and participation from existing investors Goldman Sachs, Threshold Ventures, A. Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.

This round follows the company’s last fundraise in 2019, in which it raised $35 million, and brings Forward’s total funding to $116 million. Since that round, the company has more than quadrupled its customer base and expanded globally by opening new headquarters in Santa Clara, California, and extending its development team with an office in Bangalore, India. The company also saw very high loyalty from its current customers, with a 96% retention rate.

“We’re creating a new technology category with a product that our customers deem indispensable as soon as it’s implemented,” said David Erickson, Forward Networks’ co-founder and chief executive.

Forward’s platform supports all the major cloud networking providers, hybrid cloud and multicloud environments, including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure – as well as many on-premises setups. As a result, customers will be able to mirror and accurately simulate their environment and get a high-fidelity representation of what’s happening on their network so that they dive deep into their infrastructure.

One of the superpowers of digital twins is that it allows for a “holistic” end-to-end picture of what’s happening on a network that can provide full visibility and control of all network paths in a simulation, Erickson explained during a 2019 interview on theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s live streaming media studio. Using the digital twin, customers can document, search, verify and predict network behavior at whatever level of granularity they need – something that is difficult for currently running systems given their complexity.

“Using an actual mathematical model, we can trace where every packet could ever go in that entire environment,” Erickson said.

With a highly mathematically accurate digital twin of an enterprise network, it’s possible to run it forward 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 modifications to fix them. It would also be possible to discover isolation failures, intrusion points or other security issues more quickly.

“We saw the potential value of the Forward Networks platform right away,” said Andreas Stavropoulos, a partner at Threshold Ventures. “We’ve been impressed by the company’s growth and the expanded platform capabilities that make insightful and actionable network data available to NetOps, SecOps, and CloudOps teams.”

Image: geralt/Pixabay

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