Networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) - Get Report has laid out some targets in its transition to more of a software company. CFO Kelly Kramer told analysts at a meeting Thursday, June 29, the company wants to boost software from 22% of sales this year to 30% by 2020.
If Cisco's prior playbook is an example, the San Jose, Calif.-based company will use M&A to meet its goals. Analysts suggested that companies such as networking software developer Apstra Inc., IT systems data analysis outfit Splunk Inc. (SPLK) - Get Report or data center infrastructure software company Nutanix Inc. (NTNX) - Get Report could be attractive targets.
"Cisco is known for its steady acquisition pace throughout the years and I don't see this changing any time soon." said Morningstar analyst Ilya Kundozerov in an email to The Deal. "[T]he software-and-services focused acquisitions are a must for the company in order to be able to keep adding more subscription-based software on the top of its hardware.
"I think we are surely to see more smaller, tuck-in acquisitions this year along the automation, AI and IoT subjects," Kundozerov added.
Cisco's purchases this year include the $610 million purchase in early May of Viptela Inc., which develops cloud network management software, and the $3.7 billion purchase of application intelligence software company, AppDynamics Inc.
A Cisco spokesperson would not comment on specific targets, but acknowledged that M&A is an important part of its strategy alongside partnerships, venture capital investments and traditional research and development.
Apstra, which presented at the Cisco Live event in Las Vegas this week, could interest Cisco, Kundozerov said. The company develops intent-based networking software, which helps companies design, implement and operate networks.
Intent-based networking systems can automate network management and configuration tasks. In a web video, Apstra likens the software to the systems that manage navigation, vehicle speed, detection of road hazards and infrastructure, engine performance and other process in a self-driving car.
CEO Mansour Karam, chief technical officer Sasha Ratkovic and chief scientist David Cheriton founded the company in 2014. Cheriton, who was an early investor in Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) - Get Report Google and VMware Inc. (VMW) - Get Report funded the company, which does not have venture capital backing.
Apstra did not comment on potential deals, but a spokesperson said that value is shifting to software as technology disrupts networking. "While hardware is always going to be necessary, operational challenges are solved with software platforms which are becoming increasingly sophisticated and intelligent - the simpler the interface for the user, the smarter the software will need to be," the spokesperson said.
Other intent-based network software companies include Forward Networks, Waltz and Veriflow, Gartner Inc. reports.
Morningstar analyst Rodney Nelson suggested that Splunk could interest Cisco, though it would come at a heftier price tag than Cisco typically pays. The big data analysis company has an $8 billion market cap. A Splunk spokesperson could not immediately be reached.
Another possibility is data center infrastructure software company Nutanix, Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Technology said.
Nutanix develops data center infrastructure software and is worth about $2.4 billion. The company scored a major cloud deal with Google this week. Nutanix declined to comment.
Action Alerts PLUS, which Cramer manages as a charitable trust, is long CSCO and GOOGL.