Cisco is a company that makes expensive but generally reliable networking hardware. Their engineers seem to be under some sort of mind control from the management and/or marketing people, as evidenced by the five-digit (US$) sticker price on their LocalDirector product, which is actually nothing more than a relatively standard Intel motherboard with a Pentium chip and a small proprietary daughterboard.

Unrelated to SYSCO.

Cisco is also the name of a particularly vile high alcohol wino wine. It comes in grape and strawberry. Think Mad Dog 20/20 with twice the booze.

Cisco (the liquor) is commonly referred to as liquid crack. It is particularly harsh, despite only being 40 proof. Cisco provided me with great benefit, though. The last time I drank it, I went way overboard and almost died of alcohol poisoning. This, along with some other issues, led me to become a Muslim and give up alcohol altogether.

Cisco comes in a variety of flavors which all taste exactly the same. We used to just call it by the color. The consensus was that the orange would make you the sickest, unless it was so cold as to be almost frozen. I sucked down a couple of those before I opened for Eric B. and Rakim at our homecoming concert. This is the king of rotgut.

Cisco Systems, Inc.


The origin of Cisco is frequently credited to Stanford University students Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner, but in reality the ball was already rolling by the time they became involved in Stanford's "wide area" networking projects.

Between 1980 and 1982, Bill Yeager worked to develop a dedicated hardware and software solution to connect the disparate Ethernet segments that were quickly blossoming around the Stanford campus. With the help of Andy Bechtolsheim (who later founded SUN Microsystems), he created a stand-alone solution to route traffic between the networks which Xerox's Ethernet technology had made possible.

By 1985, Bosack and Lerner had entered the scene and helped develop the software which allowed the routers to connect networks of different types thanks to ARPANET's new "internet protocols". They recognized the commercial viability of selling multiprotocol routers and started a new company -- Cisco Systems, named after San Francisco and using the Golden Gate bridge as a logo.

The router business exploded quickly and Bosack and Lerner knew they were in over their heads -- operating out of the garage1 was not going to last long and orders were coming in faster than two people could deal with them. To cope with the reality of running a business, venture capitalist Don Valentine from Sequoia Capital stepped in. He set up a management chain and led the fledgling corporation into the world of billion dollar companies.

1990 brought big changes for Cisco. As it began offering shares to the public, co-founder Lerner was asked to leave by a number of executives. Although Bosack soon followed, Cisco was poised to grow radically during the next decade. Together, Bosack and Lerner made $170 million by selling their shares of the company.


Cisco makes over $20 billion a year on sales of networking equipment and software. From their headquarters in San Jose, CA, they coordinate operations at three major sites in the U.S., one in the U.K. and one in Australia. Cisco maintains a network of over 400 sales offices in 60 countries.

President and CEO John Chambers has been with Cisco since 1991 and was promoted to his present position in 1995. Under his influence, Cisco has grown to become the largest company in the world and only recently slipped back because of the tech stock "slump".


The name Cisco is synonymous with routers in many peoples' minds. Almost every Internet peering point is dominated by Cisco equipment, and their routers can be found in wiring closets of enterprise networks, ISPs and even residences around the world.


  • Routers

    These flagship line of products from Cisco are not given catchy names based on birds of prey, carnivorous cats or Roman gods; each is assigned a number. From a router's model number, one can quickly determine how powerful it is and what kind of interfaces it can support. (Which also brings up the situation of Router Envy, but that's a topic for another node.)

    Major router series which are currently shipping:

    Special routers:

    Contrary to many rumors, Cisco routers are not incredibly overpriced. Granted, the list price to end users appears to be higher than most of their competitors' products, but most Cisco routers can be purchased through authorized resellers for deep discounts from list price. Additionally, there is an enormous market for used Cisco equipment. Most ISPs which are not large enough to sign big contracts with Cisco run their networks on second-hand routers.

    Switches and Hubs

    Cisco's Catalyst line of switches, like their routers, are assigned numbers based on their capability. The "low-end" switches are sold in fixed configurations and the larger, modular switches take blades with various interfaces on them. Some of the highest-end Layer 3 Catalyst switches blur the lines between switches and routers by offering IP-level routing and services to an enormous number of ports.

    Selected Catalyst products:


    All of Cisco's routers and most of their switches utilize a software product called IOS, Cisco's Internetwork Operating System. While each implementation of IOS is unique and designed with a particular router in mind, IOS presents a similar interface to most of their product line. When someone is trained to build Cisco networks, most of the hands-on portion of the training involves working with IOS either from its command line interface or from a graphical interface like Cisco's ConfigMaker. Like Cisco's other products, IOS is modular and is available in several versions to suit the needs of the network being built or upgraded. A license for basic IP IOS on a router usually costs around $15 and goes into the thousands to support VoIP, ATM, and dial-up.

    Other Cisco software products include programs for load balancing, LAN/WAN management, and network design.


    Cisco's access servers, AS5300 and AS5800 are quickly joining Lucent (formerly Livingston) as the standard for terminating dial-up calls at ISPs. While some shops continue to use 3Com, Patton, and Ascend, Cisco's servers are providing port densities that were previously unimaginable.

    Through recent acquisition of Aironet, Cisco has begun marketing wireless networking equipment. They also sell a variety of security products like the PIX firewall and CiscoSecure IDS.

    The Cisco Press publishes a variety of books on networking topics and specific Cisco technologies as well as training guides for the Cisco certification tests: CCNA, CCNP, CCDA, CCDP and the mystical CCIE.


Cisco Systems, Inc.
170 West Tasman Drive
San Jose, CA 95134-1619
Phone: (408) 526-4000
Toll Free: (800) 326-1941
Fax: (408) 526-4100

1 Other famous garage companies: Apple Computer, Hayes Microcomputer Products, Microsoft
2 The least-powerful, most cost-effective Cisco router that can terminate a T1/E1 connection
3 The 2500 line will probably be EOLed soon and users will be transitioned to 1600 and 2600 routers as necessary
4 These things LOOK like they cost a ton. And they do. Note: Birthday presents are welcomed.
5 These look like blue refrigerators but they generate significantly more heat.


Cis"co (?), n. Zool.

The Lake herring (Coregonus Artedi), valuable food fish of the Great Lakes of North America. The name is also applied to C. Hoyi, a related species of Lake Michigan.


© Webster 1913.

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