ORLANDO, Florida — During his keynote address at Cisco Live yesterday, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins emphasized the company’s need to form partnerships to help enterprises in the new world of multi-cloud and open source systems. In particular, he touted his firm’s recent partnership with Google to develop a hybrid cloud offering and its work with Kubernetes-based containers.
That much-touted partnership was created in late 2015 and was highly lauded as a way for the two companies to more effectively compete in light of Nokia’s recent acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. It was also considered a sign that both firms were finally moving into cloud-based services and products and away from relying on their traditional infrastructure product lines.
When asked about the status of the Cisco-Ericsson partnership, Ruba Borno, vice president of growth and chief of staff to CEO Robbins, said that one critical aspect of these types of partnerships is executive support, and she emphasized Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene’s participation in yesterday’s keynote address with Robbins.
“Partnerships are not easy. We continue to be open to that partnership,” Borno said. “Their [Ericsson’s] changes are creating a lack of consistency,” Borno added, referring to Ericsson’s shuffling of its top executive team. “It does require sponsorship from the top,” she noted.
When the Cisco-Ericsson partnership was first announced in November 2015, Hans Vestberg was Ericsson’s CEO. Eight months later Vestberg was ousted as Ericsson’s CEO and later replaced by Borje Ekholm. (Vestberg is now at Verizon where he will be elevated to CEO in August).
In addition, Rima Qureshi, who was head of Ericsson North America and a key player in the Cisco-Ericsson partnership, left the company last May. Interestingly, Qureshi is now chief strategy officer at Verizon, where she works alongside Vestberg.
Partnership Failed to Thrive
Initially, the partnership between Cisco and Ericsson appeared to be thriving. Within three months, the two companies said they had already signed a number of joint deals, and at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2016, they said they had closed on two service provider deals and had developed two joint products.
But by November 2017 the partnership was clearly flailing. At that time, Ekholm told investors at Ericsson’s Capital Markets Day that the partnership would not reach its target to generate $1 billion in revenue for each company by 2018. Instead, Ekholm said that Ericsson was much more focused on figuring out its own strategy and not about its partnership with Cisco.
Clarification: After this article published, Cisco said that the company remains committed to the Ericsson partnership.