Cisco Systems, Inc., being one of the giants in the networking communication industry, reporting revenue numbers of over US$50 billion dollars in 2019. Being one of the most successful companies in the industry it might interest you to learn more about its history and how did Cisco come about to be such a successful brand in the modern era.

Cisco name is derived from San Francisco, which is the reason behind using lowercase “cisco” in the early years.

Sandy Lerner and Leonard Bosack, founders of Cisco Systems, Inc.

It all began back in 1984, when Sandy Lerner and her husband Leonard Bosack founded the company. They were both technically inclined, with Sandy being a director of computing facilities in Stanford University and Leonard being in charge of computer science department computers. One of the first commercial successes was realized in a product developed on site, a router called the “Blue Box”. This device was ran by software programmed by William Yaeger, a researcher on Stanford who designed it in such a way to be easily scalable. William’s software proved to be key for Cisco’s future exponential rise in revenue.

In 1985 William’s software was used as base software for what would become the so called Cisco IOS. Due to patent infringements, Leonard was forced to resign from Stanford in 1986. One year after, the software and initial hardware designs were handed over to Cisco and the original Cisco team was formed, adding Greg Satz and Richard Troiano, skillful software engineers, to the original trio.

Already in 1990 Cisco Systems, Inc. was public on NASDAQ stock exchange, with market capitalization of nearly US$230 million. That same year, on August 28th, Sandy was fired, with Leonard resigning shortly after.

In the early 1990s Cisco Systems, Inc. was a success mostly due to being able to sell routers to support a variety of network protocols that existed in that time. Due to the expanding market, Cisco went in it fully, purchasing multiple companies that had businesses in ethernet switches – Kalpana, Grand Junction and Crescendo Communications. All these together formed the so called Catalyst unit.

Mid to late 1990s was a period when IP protocol began to overtake the market. Cisco quickly responded with products such as modem access shelves and GSR routers which stapled them as notable vendors in that market.

Advanced Gateway Server – First Cisco Systems, Inc. Router

In 2006 Cisco Systems, Inc. rebranded to just Cisco and also created “The Human Network” campaign. This is basically an effort to rebrand Cisco as a home device brand, going into it with the Linksys branding. During these years, Cisco continued to work strongly on routers, switches and data security in general, which resulted in Cisco becoming more of a premium vendor for these products.

In 2009 Cisco was looking into trying to make and sell cameras as they acquired Pure Digital Technologies. This company was known for making the Flip Video cameras and the original intention was to seamlessly connect these cameras to the Internet which would allow their users to easily share and publicize their photos. However, with smartphones slowly but steadily finding their way to the market, this idea was silently killed off two years later.

In 2011 due to business problems and competitors closing in, Cisco was forced to cut annual expenses by US$1 billion, which lead to about 3000 employees being cut.

In 2012 Cisco acquired NDS, a company developing software for television sets, which was a deal set at US$5 billion. One year after, in 2013, Cisco sold Linksys to Belkin, which meant that they were looking to focus on selling to business rather than regular home users.

In 2013 Cisco acquired Sourcefire, a deal worth US$2.7 billion, while cutting 4000 jobs, a result of the NSA allegedly planting backdoor software in Cisco’s routers and other networking products.

Internet-of-Things concepts were all the rage in 2014 and Cisco publicly stated that they were looking into making the most of it. This meant yet another restructuring which resulted in another 8% of employees being cut off, around 6000 workers.

Today, Cisco is a technology giant that also provides free training through its Cisco Networking Academy program. Its fastest growing business is cyber security, and Cisco has been drastically expanding on that front with large investments. As of 2019, Cisco has a market share of over US$170 billion, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world.


Editor’s note: This is an informative historical article, for any troubleshooting for your Cisco product kindly refer to your model’s Cisco user manual or check out our Cisco modem troubleshooting category.