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Twenty years ago Friday, Cisco Systems Inc. was founded by a pair of computer scientists interested in computer networking. Nowadays, the company is the global powerhouse of the IP industry, with some 35,000 employees, working to keep data flowing on local networks and across the Internet.

While not born in a garage—the Silicon Valley equivalent of a log cabin—the startup networking company emerged from the computer science department at Stanford University. Its corporate moniker was derived from San Francisco, even though the company’s first home was in Atherton, an upscale community found some 40 miles from its namesake.

The company tracks its success with the rise of the Internet. Its multiprotocol routers and gateways enabled the quick expansion of the Web. In 1990, the year that Tim Berners-Lee uttered the phrase “World Wide Web of Information,” Cisco went public on the Nasdaq exchange. At the time, the company was worth $224 million.

By its first decade of operation, the company reached $1 billion in revenue. Now, Cisco generates $22 billion in revenue.

To celebrate its anniversary, Cisco employees have donated 175,200 hours—equal to 20 years’ worth of service—to charities around the world, the company said. Cisco began the donation project in May and will continue until May 2005.

In honor of its anniversary, Cisco provided a Corporate Timeline that runs down products, technologies and other happenings.

While maintaining its core technology in the service provider and enterprise markets, the company wants to become the networking leader in the commercial and home markets.

“In simple terms, what we’re attempting to do is lead in all categories,” CEO John Chambers said at the spring rollout of the company’s CSR-1 router and a new, modular version of Cisco’s IOS operating system, dubbed IOS XR.

The message from Cisco execs is that customers can still achieve productivity gains from networking by taking a strategic, architectural approach to new technology investments along with changes to business processes during implementation.

“We’re talking about an industry with productivity implications that work on a macro level all the way down to the individual desktop. Networks enable that, but you have to see what the enabling applications are that allow this direction,” Chambers said in a spring NetWorld+Interop address.

The company’s strategy looks to be working: Its revenue keeps moving up. Cisco recently reported that it had earned $1.4 billion in its latest quarter on $6 billion in revenue. This income was up 28.5 percent over the year-ago period, with revenue climbing 17 percent.

The company Thursday acquired a full stake in routing software startup BCN Systems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif. BCN offers a modular routing architecture that will let Cisco quickly develop products aimed at particular market segments.

Read more about Cisco’s buyout of BCN Systems.

However, the confidence of Internet operators and security experts in the company was shaken this year as hackers released parts of Cisco’s source code on the Net.

For example, the Code Club in November offered for sale the source code for a recent version of Cisco’s PIX firewall. The group said programmers interested in the code would get all of the files necessary to compile their own images of the firmware.

Here’s a selection of this year’s Cisco news, reviews and analysis:

  • Cisco, Juniper Making Noise in High-End Routing Space
  • Microsoft and Cisco, Cooperate?
  • Cisco Aims New Switch at SMBs
  • Cisco Fortifies WLAN Security
  • Analysts: Procket Purchase Won’t Derail Cisco’s High-End Router Plans
  • Internet Operators Dig into Fallout from Cisco Code Theft
  • Cisco’s Chambers: Networking Is Back

    Check out’s for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.