Data Center / Cloud

Navigating the Global Supply Chain with Networking Digital Twins

What do Ethernet switches, sports cars, household appliances, and toilet paper have in common?  If you read this blog’s title and have lived through the past year and a half, you probably know the answer. These are all products whose availability has been impacted by the materials shortages due to the global pandemic.

In some instances, the supply issues are more of an inconvenience–waiting a few extra months to get that new Corvette won’t be the end of the world. For other products (think toilet paper or a replacement freezer), the supply crunch was and is a big deal.

It is easy to see the impact on consumers, but enterprises feel the pain of long lead times too. Consider Ethernet switches: Ethernet switches build the networking fabric that ties together the data center. Ethernet switch shortages mean more than “rack A is unable to talk to rack B.” They mean decreased aggregate throughput, and increased load on existing infrastructure, leading to more downtime and unplanned outages; that is, significant adverse impacts to business outcomes.

That all sounds bad, but there is no need to panic. NVIDIA can help you mitigate these challenges and transform your operations with a data center digital twin from NVIDIA Air.

So, what is a digital twin, and how is it related to the data center? A digital twin is a software-simulated replica of a real-world thing, system, or process. It constantly reacts and updates any changes to the status of its physical sibling and is always on. A data center digital twin applies the digital twin concept to data center infrastructure. To model the data center itself as a data center and not just a bunch of disparate pizza boxes, it is imperative that the data center digital twin fully simulates the network.

NVIDIA Air is unmatched in providing that capability. The modeling tool in Air enables you to create logical instances of every switch and cable, connecting to logical server instances. In addition to modeling the hardware, NVIDIA Air spins up fully functional virtual appliances with pre-built and fully functional network and server OS images. This is the key ingredient to the digital twin–with an appliance model, the simulation is application-granular.


NVIDIA Air enables data center digital twins, but how does that solve supply chain issues? Focusing on those benefits tied to hardware, in particular, it enables:

  • Hardware-free POCs: Want exposure to the Cumulus Linux or SONiC NOSes? Ordinarily, you would have to acquire the gear to try out the functionality. With NVIDIA Air, you have access to Cumulus VX and SONiC VX–the virtual appliances mentioned above. Because Cumulus and SONiC are built from the ground up on standards-based technologies, you get the full experience without the hardware.
  • Staging production deployments: Already decided on NVIDIA Ethernet switches? There is no reason to sit on your hands until the pallet of switches arrives. With a digital twin, you can completely map out your data center fabric. You can test your deployment and provisioning scripts and know that they will work seamlessly after the systems have been racked, stacked, and cabled. This can reduce your bring-up time up to 95%.
  • Testing out new network and application tools: Need to roll out a new networking tool on your Spectrum Ethernet switches? Typically, you would need a prototype pre-production environment. With a digital twin, you deploy the application to the digital twin, validate the impact on your network with NetQ, tweak some settings if necessary, and make deployment to production worry-free.
  • Hardware-free training: Your organization has decided to bring on someone new to join your networking infrastructure team. They are eager to learn, but there is no hardware set aside for training purposes. Without a digital twin, you and the trainee would be stuck waiting on a new switch order or reading a long and tedious user manual. With the digital twin, you have an always-on sandbox, perfect for skill-building and exploration.

One caveat: data center digital twins will not expedite the date that the RTX 3090 comes back in stock at your favorite retailer, but they will help with the crunch around your networking procurement.

NVIDIA Air allows you to view a digital twin of your physical network
Digital Twins with NVIDIA Air

The best part – if you are curious to learn more, you can do so right now. NVIDIA Air brings the public cloud experience to on-premises networking, making it simple and quick to jump right in. Navigate to NVIDIA Air in your browser and get started immediately.

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