Editor’s note: Cisco is forecasting a drop in sales revenue for the first time in four years, but Scott Dennehy, a senior analyst at Technology Business Research, says the networking giant will recover.

HAMPTON, N.H. - Cisco’s (Nasdaq: CSCO) revenue growth slowed in 3Q13 due to weak customer spending and major product transitions in key markets, showing that the company is not immune to the impact of conservative customer spending in emerging markets and the U.S. public sector felt by many of its competitors over the last several quarters.

Cisco’s 1.8% year-to-year revenue growth was below the company’s 2Q13 guidance of 3%-5% growth, with the weak demand exacerbated by product transitions in several of its major segments, such as Switching and NGN Routing, where the introduction of new high-end platforms like the CRS-X, NCS, and Nexus 9000 caused customers to delay their purchases of existing Cisco products.

These factors will be even more pronounced in 4Q13 (fiscal 2Q14), as TBR estimates Cisco’s revenue will decline 7% year-to-year, which will be the company’s first year-to-year decline since 3Q09.

However, TBR expects Cisco’s revenue will improve steadily throughout 2014 as the company leverages its dominant market share position, broad solution portfolio and industry-leading channel partner base to successfully capitalize on growth opportunities being driven by cloud, mobility and security.

Cisco also will remain on the offensive in software-defined networking (SDN).

As part of its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) launch in early November, Cisco announced the Nexus 9000 platform, a product developed by the company’s “spin-in” startup Insieme (which Cisco will officially acquire for $863 million) and forms the foundation of the Cisco’s SDN strategy.

Not surprisingly, the Nexus 9000 is a hardware-based platform, but it also provides SDN controller functionality and other network virtualization features like application-based management and service automation.

As SDN gains momentum through the remainder of 2013 and into 2014, there will be opportunities for suppliers like Cisco to sell more hardware; however, most customers will be unwilling to “rip and replace” their infrastructures with new hardware and will instead take a piecemeal approach to deploying SDN.

As a result, TBR does not expect Cisco’s SDN portfolio to generate substantial revenue for the company until 2015 at the earliest.