The project will employ the help of partners from the software, systems, and consulting worlds. The goal is to jump-start a market for network-based delivery of application software, a niche that just happens to play to the strengths of the leading provider of data networking equipment.
Executives from Cisco said they are attempting to create an "ecosystem" to make it easy for small and medium-sized businesses to take advantage of network and Internet connections. This follows the introduction last week of a network-focused marketing program targeted at the same niche.
Hosting software applications from a central server system at a service provider is expected to be a multibillion-dollar opportunity in the coming years as companies choose to outsource more of their information technology (IT) needs, according to industry observers.
Cisco executives hope the end result of the initiative will be a greater reliance on networking equipment.
"As a whole, we hope this will accelerate the industry," said Eugene Lee, vice president of marketing for Cisco's small and medium-sized business department.
Cisco also may reap the benefits of further hooks between network-based applications and its own Internetworking Operating System software--the brains behind its routing and switching technology.
As part of the pact, a joint development lab will be established. The types of software included in the program include messaging, commerce, enterprise resource management, human resources business applications, and back office- and front office-oriented packages.