Cisco chips away at product backlog but challenges remain

Cisco chips away at product backlog but challenges remain

Cisco, Arista and Juniper continue to struggle with product backlogs but are optimistic supply-chain issues may ease up by yearend.

Cisco is getting more products out the door, thanks to significant product redesigns and relentless efforts by its supply-chain team to address component shortages, but the situation is still challenging.

“While components for a few product areas remain highly constrained, we did see an overall improvement in the supply chain,” said Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins during a call with financial analysts to discuss the vendor’s second-quarter results.

Cisco reduced its backlog 6% sequentially in the second quarter, however total backlog grew year over year, Robbins said, though he didn’t cite an exact dollar figure. The company still expects to have a backlog that’s roughly double what it would normally be at the end of the year. (In February of last year, Cisco said its product backlog was valued at nearly $14 billion.)

Cisco’s software backlog remains around $2 billion, which it reported last year.

“Combined with the aggressive actions our supply chain and engineering teams took to redesign hundreds of our products, we increased product deliveries and saw significant reductions in customer lead times,” Robbins said. “Increased channel inventories also declined as our partners were able to complete customer projects.”

“The increase in supply is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people inside the company, and I think it puts us in a better position than many of our peers in the industry right now from a supply chain standpoint,” said Cisco CFO Scott Herren.

Cisco had a solid second quarter, reporting revenue of $13.6 billion, which is up 7% year over year. Its software and software subscription revenues grew 10% and 15% respectively.

Supply chain problems have caused major networking players including Cisco, Juniper, and Arista to redesign or reengineer some products in an attempt to overcome component shortages and deliver products to customers. Experts say a number of smaller, somewhat older components of switches and routers are causing the most problems.

Some of Cisco’s competitors have likewise said they’re still grappling with supply issues and expect that to continue through the first half of the year, at least.

“While we experienced some improvement in overall component supply in the quarter, shipments remained somewhat constrained with lingering shortages on a handful of parts,” said Arista CFO Ita Brennan in the vendor’s recent fourth-quarter 2022 earnings call.

“Look, supply chain hasn’t eased up enough for us. Maybe we have more demand than others, and that’s why we’re feeling it more,” said Arista CEO Jayshree Ullal. “Our Q4 numbers would have been even better if supply chain had eased. Going forward, we expect Q1 to be the absolute worst. The supply chain is going to be easing in the back half of ’23.”

Juniper Networks, too, is optimistic the supply chain might get better by the end of the year.

“We exited 2022 with an exceptional backlog of more than $2 billion, which is up approximately $200 million from where we entered the year and remains well above historical levels,” said Juniper CEO Rami Rahim in the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call in January.

“I absolutely expect backlog to start to normalize, and I expect [backlog] to reduce in 2023,” said Juniper CFO Ken Miller. “It will start to reduce, but remain elevated, would be my expectation. And what the new normal is is hard to say.”