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Cisco Systems

Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) designs, manufactures, and sells products related to networking, information and video transmission, and network security for corporate and home use. Founded in 1984 by Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner, it is currently run by CEO John T. Chambers.

Company Description

Cisco Systems, named for its founding city of San Francisco, was the brainchild of a bunch of Stanford University computer science geeks (not unlike Sun Microsystems) who devised a series of major and crucial improvements for network routers. The traffic cops of the Internet, routers make sure that information gets where it needs to go. Cisco's team didn't invent the router, but they did make it work better, and support multiple "protocols" for slinging information through local and global networks.

Cisco went public in 1990, shortly before founding geeks Lerner and Bosack were fired and quit, respectively (taking a healthy chunk of change with them). Through the go-go '90s, Cisco grew through a series of mostly smart acquisitions; by 2000, it was the most valuable company on Wall Street, with a market cap topping $500 billion. (Needless to say, that share price didn't last.)

Cisco has continued its acquisition-happy ways in the first decade of the new millennium, and it remains one of the most popular networking-equipment companies in the world, with roughly 67,000 employees toiling on six continents. In addition to routers, it now sells cable set-top boxes, home networking equipment, videoconferencing and remote collaboration services, and network security gear.

Brands and Divisions

Cisco sells products and services through five major brands:

  • Cisco sells -- no surprise here -- routers and other network equipment.
  • Linksys, acquired in 2003, is a popular vendor of personal wireless routers and other home networking gear.
  • Scientific Atlanta, absorbed in 2006, makes the sort of cable set-top boxes for which your cable company probably charges you an astronomical monthly fee.
  • WebEx, no relation to FedEx, is a 2007 purchase that provides online collaboration tools and services.
  • IronPort, another 2007 addition, provides network security software.

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