The Future of Networking : Len Bosack Still Innovating
If asked for a list of the key tech entrepreneurs of the 1980s, most people outside of the industry would name figures such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Michael Dell. There is, however, a significantly longer list of key 1980s entrepreneurs responsible for developing and bringing to market the critical components of today’s global technology infrastructure.
One of these entrepreneurs, Leonard “Len” Bosack, pioneered the global commercialization of local area network (LAN) technology through Cisco Systems, the company he founded together with his wife, Sandy Lerner, in 1984. This technology, first developed by Bosack, Lerner and their colleagues at Stanford University, allowed users to network between a diverse array of computing terminals despite differences in hardware and software. Through Cisco, the couple developed and introduced continuously more advanced networking technologies such as the first multiport router-specific line cards and sophisticated routing protocols.
Like other well-known 1980s startups, Cisco first operated out of the garage of the husband and wife team, and was funded through personal credit cards. Cisco’s key product, the “multiprotocol router”, was assembled in the couple’s home and sold globally as a result of word-of-mouth advertising. Much as Bill Gates did not invent operating systems and Michael Dell did not invent PCs, Bosack’s critical innovation was not only to be a part of developing networking technology, but also to have the vision and willingness to take the risk of bringing it to a global market. Following their initial leadership (Bosack and Lerner departed Cisco in 1990), Cisco has today grown to have over $43 billion in annual global sales.
While Microsoft’s operating systems, Apple’s mobile devices and Dell’s PCs elicit infinitely more brand awareness than Cisco’s routers, it is the technology pioneered and brought to market by Bosack that has served as the backbone in developing today’s technology infrastructure. Bosack’s story does not end at Cisco, however, and today he is again leading innovation as CEO of XKL, a leading provider of optical networking equipment. XKL’s advanced solutions for global networking and communications will continue to ensure that the consumer-facing products pioneered by the best-known 1980s entrepreneurs such as Jobs, Gates and Dell continue to seamlessly operate in today’s globally-connected, on-demand network environment.