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Cisco Systems Spotlight

In 1984, Sandy Lerner (Economics MS'81) and Leonard Bosack (CS MS'81) founded Cisco Systems. Bosack was Director of Computer Facilities for Stanford's Department of Computer Science, and Lerner was Director of Computer Facilities for Stanford's Graduate School of Business.

Cisco was formed to commercialize the technology developed at Stanford in the late 1970's to support the campus-wide network called SUNet (Stanford University Network), and to integrate a multiplicity of local networks into a single integrated whole.

Cisco shipped its first products in March 1986. Today, Cisco is the leading supplier of high-performance, multiprotocol internetworking systems that enable its customers to build large-scale integrated networks of computers. Cisco also manufactures local-area network (LAN) interconnect devices, and multi-protocol computer peripheral equipment.

According to Ralph Gorin, who chose Len Bosack to replace him as Director of Computer Facilities,

"My take (emphasis on personal interpretation) on the Cisco vision: it was a very clever way to sell software by the simple expedient of concealing the software inside hardware. They (Bosack and Lerner) were in the right place at the right time. They also are very smart, very hard working, and, incidentally, very lucky. They also had the benefit of being in an environment that was on the cutting edge of applying networking on a large scale."

Lerner confirmed Gorin's view and added the following:

"I would only add that we had a highly unusual, skilled, intelligent, and motivated initial customer base which essentially directed our engineering efforts. It is the customers who are the one, key ingredient in the cisco (lowercase "c," originally) success. It's a shame companies lose sight of who they should try to please. First customers included Chuck Hedrick at Rutgers, Norm Kincl and Robert Michaels at HP Labs, and others."

Cisco is now the world's leading supplier of enterprise intemetworking solutions that link geographically dispersed local-area and wide-area networks (LANs and WANs) to form a single, seamless information infrastructure.

Written by Carolyn Tajnai, From the Valley of Heart's Delight to the Silicon Valley: A Study of Stanford University's Role in the Transformation

Additional links concerning Cisco Systems corporate history:

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