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Cisco becomes e-commerce consultant

The networking giant works with three e-commerce software firms to help their applications run better with Cisco products.

Cisco Systems is working as a consultant to companies that sell e-commerce software, in an effort to sell more networking equipment.

Cisco is cooperating with BroadVision, InterWorld, and Open Market to tune their applications to run better with Cisco products, in effect giving them a seal of approval.

By helping the trio make their e-commerce applications run faster on a network, Cisco hopes to spur the growth of Internet commerce, which in turn could increase demand for its own products. Much of the Internet infrastructure runs on Cisco routers, and more e-commerce could translate into more sales of those products.

Naming those three preferred companies is the first concrete step since Cisco's December announcement of a new Internet Business Solutions Group, which will be rolling out similar efforts in other Net-based applications.

"We are capturing our own expertise as builders of Web-based Internet applications," said Stephen Cho, product line manager in the new group. "Doing Internet commerce successfully is somewhat about the technology, but the other side is the business processes that support the commerce applications."

Cisco isn't even charging for the advice. Cisco partners such as Cambridge Technology, Ernst & Young, and KPMG will oversee application installation at e-commerce software firms, and Cisco hopes that customers will eventually buy its networking gear.

"We want to be the trusted adviser for our customers," said J.D. Stanley, markets development manager for the Internet unit. Cisco expects to book more than $8 billion in sales this year from its Internet site.

In a month, Cisco's Internet unit will make similar efforts with software firms and systems integrators in employee services. After that, the company's program will begin similar alliances for supply chain management and customer service. Also planned: industry-specific programs for manufacturing, high-tech, and financial services.

"Our mission is not to get into the consulting business. Our objective is to work with partners whose core competency is the consulting business," Cho said.