Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins: No material impact from Huawei's troubles

SAN DIEGO, California — Cisco Live —In a Q&A with the press Tuesday afternoon, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said his company hasn't seen a material benefit on its own fortunes related to Huawei bans in the U.S. and other countries.

On the other hand, Robbins acknowledged that the Trump administration's tariffs have had a slight impact on Cisco. Last month, the Trump administration increased tariffs to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese products, but during Cisco's third quarter earnings Robbins said the tariffs were having a minimal impact.

While there appears to be an opening for Huawei rivals Cisco, Ericsson and Nokia related to the bans, Robbins said Cisco was staying focused on innovation and keeping the trust of its customers.

"I would say that we haven't seen a material shift," Robbins said in answer to a question about whether Cisco was benefitting from Huawei's problems. "I told our sales teams that this is not a sales strategy for you. I don’t want them leveraging the geopolitical situation to advantage us."

In response to a question about China reportedly targeting U.S. companies along the same lines as the U.S. has done to it, Robbins said he didn't have any additional information to share. Cisco doesn't do a lot of business in China, but it does have still some manufacturing there.

"Obviously, our business in China could be impacted if the Chinese government decide to do things differently relative to U.S. companies," he said. "We just have see how that plays out. Our job is to focus on the things we can control and do the best we can on the other issues."

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Robbins was also emphatic that white boxes didn't have a negative impact on Cisco's service provider business in the recent third quarter results. Cisco's service provider revenue was down 13% in the third quarter. Robbins said the capex spend by some of the larger service providers was down 20% in the third quarter, and most of the negative impact on service provider revenues was in the Americas region.

"I don't think it has anything to do with white boxes," Robbins said. "We've talked about this in the past. These are customers who are evolving their business models. I think that they're all contemplating 5G, and what it means, and what is the business case for their investment.

"We've also talked about the fact that these are very large customers and when you have two or three (capex) pauses in the same quarter, just like some of our competitors have talked about, that's a challenge."

Cisco executives at Cisco Live have been talking up how the vendor has integrated intent-based networking across its entire portfolio, and how it's using a common ASIC and operating system across all of its products.

During his Monday morning keynote address at Cisco Live, Robbins said the intent-based networking refresh was the largest project that Cisco has undertaken in its 35-year history. Cisco has been working on its intent-based networking plan for about two years.

During the Q&A, Robbins was asked if there were any metrics related to the use intent-based networking. Robbins pointed to Cisco's Catalyst 9000 switches, which are the fastest growing product line in Cisco's history.

The second aspect that Cisco looks at is how many customers have purchased its DNA Center, which is Cisco's network automation platform, and how many of them have installed and tethered it to the cloud.  The third metric that Cisco looks at is how many customers are really running robust production use cases.

"We feel good about where we are," Robbins said. "We've never in the history of Cisco had a campus refresh, an enterprise routing refresh and a campus Wi-Fi refresh with a common architecture for automation and a common operating system running on all of those platforms. We feel good about what the team can build."