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There’s no such thing as SDLAN (yet)

by Andrew Lerner  |  February 1, 2019  |  1 Comment

Note:  This blog was inspired by a 1980s commercial for the Washington DC Metro, There’s no such thing of “supercar“.

We are increasingly seeing network vendors market things such as SD-LAN, SD-Access, SD-Campus…etc.  This sounds really great, who doesn’t want software-defined everything.  That said, there is no official/unofficial definition, and it means a wide variety of things ranging from simple software-based images to really good orchestration/automation.  Or in other words, when something isn’t defined, vendors take way too much poetic license. As we recently published:

There is no official, unofficial, or even de facto definition of the terms “SDLAN,” “SD-Access” or “SD-Campus.” Vendors typically use this terminology to describe embedded automation, programmability via APIs and software-centric licensing. However, there is a very broad range of functionality depth and breadth in these offerings.

Maybe there should be a definition, and if so perhaps we/Gartner should help to create it (let us know in a comment). However, at this point I don’t see something fundamentally different from an architectural perspective (a la SDN) or a specific packaging/bundling of capabilities (like SDWAN) that warrants a new term.

Automation, orchestration, and programmability for network devices (or a collection of devices) are all very good things.  The ability to create policy simply and centrally via software and apply it to a number of downstream devices is a good thing.  The ability to manage a bunch of devices as a single construct is a good thing. We should prefer solutions that have those capabilities.  We should prefer solutions that offer flexible pricing options. Along these lines, we should future-proof campus network investments by performing a proof of concept (POC) that verifies unified and fabric management, dynamic device profiling, and automated policy in our environments. However, I think we can do that without another marketing term like SDLAN.  But who knows… Our full research on the topic is here:

Best Practices for Building NextGen Campus Wired/WLAN Networks

https://www.gartner.com/document/3897464

Summary: I&O leaders should look beyond just hardware refresh when building campus networks to account for emerging requirements and the growing impact of IOT devices. This research cuts through marketing hype such as “SD-LAN” with recommendations to future-proof campus network investments.

Regards, Andrew

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Tags: campus  sd-access  sd-campus  sd-lan  sda  sdlan  sdn  sdwan  

Andrew Lerner
Research Vice President
6+ years at Gartner
21 years IT Industry

Andrew Lerner is a Vice President in Gartner Research. He covers enterprise networking, including data center, campus and WAN with a focus on emerging technologies (SDN, SD-WAN, and Intent-based networking). Read Full Bio


Thoughts on There’s no such thing as SDLAN (yet)


  1. Chris Hopper says:

    Hi Andrew, you said in February there is no such thing as SD-LAN (yet), but my company, iQuila – http://www.iquila.com – has developed our own protocol for a software defined network on Layer 2. It’s recently launched after several years of development.

    What are your thoughts? Would you be interested in hearing more about it?



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