Cisco Systems

Cisco Systems headquarters

Just as San Francisco, for which Cisco Systems is named, provides a gateway to the Pacific Rim, Cisco provides the networking technology that is the gateway to computer-based communication. This Silicon Valley giant is the worldwide market leader in routing, switching, unified communications, wireless communication, and security.

Cisco was founded in order to enable communication. In 1984, founders Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner were experimenting at Stanford University to connect detached networks in two separate buildings on campus. After running network cables between the two buildings, and connecting them with bridges and then routers, the two realized that to make the disparate networks talk to each other and share information, a technology was needed that could handle the different local area protocols. So Bosack and Lerner invented the multi-protocol router, which they launched in 1986. By 1989, with only three products and 111 employees, Cisco’s revenues were $27 million.

Cisco founders

With the coming of the ‘90s and the start of widespread use of the Internet, Cisco earned its first patent for its method and equipment for routing communication among computer networks. Thirty-three patents and many leading-edge products later, and with offices worldwide, in 1997 the company introduced its first voice-over-IP and fax-over-IP products as well as a line of cable data products. The following year Cisco introduced its first cable modem for the small office, the home, and telecommuting and Gigabit Ethernet and Layer 3 routing in switches.

Today Cisco continues to concentrate on its core areas of routing and switching as well as on advanced technologies including IP communications, wireless LAN, home networks, network security, storage area networking, and video systems. As networking evolves from infrastructure to platform, Cisco again is at the center of a new way of communicating—with more than 14 billion devices expected to be connected to the Internet by 2010, the company is creating a high-performance state-of-the-art communications platform that will enable the secure convergence of data, voice, video, and mobile communication.
For example, Cisco is currently developing IP-based video technologies that will transform the way video content is delivered to the home and within companies, with the promise of IPTV in the future. Th e company is also field-testing technology, called IPICS (IP Interoperability and Collaboration System), that will enable communication among radio systems, cell phones, and land lines, allowing pre-existing communication systems to interoperate.

In addition, Cisco is helping to modernize the health care system by developing technologies that enable the networking of health information and the creation of regional and national health care networks. Through its culture of innovation, Cisco also enables students in more than 160 countries to follow their own educational and professional dreams. The Cisco Networking Academy Program trains students to design, build, and maintain networks, helping them to gain the skills they need for higher education and to land IT-related jobs. The company also participates in the Jordan Education Initiative, an e-learning project in cooperation with the World Economic Forum and the Kingdom of Jordan that promises to be a model to improve education in many countries.

Through these and many other projects, and through extensive R&D, Cisco is continuing to fulfill its promise to transform the way people connect, communicate, collaborate, and grow.

This history was written in 2008 by the Silicon Valley Historical Association.

Cisco Systems website