Introduction to Cisco Routers

Cisco Systems produces a wide range computer network equipment including network routers for homes and businesses. Cisco routers remain popular and have gained a reputation over many years for quality and high performance.

Cisco Routers for Home

From 2003 to 2013, Cisco Systems owned the Linksys business and brand name. Linksys wired and wireless router models became an extremely popular choice for home networking during this period.

In 2010, Cisco also produced its Valet line of home network routers.

Since Cisco Valet was discontinued and Linksys sold to Belkin, Cisco does not directly market any of its newer routers to homeowners. Some of their older products remain available through secondhand auction or resale outlets.

Cisco Routers and the Internet

Service providers predominantly used Cisco's routers to build out the long-distance connections of the early Internet during the 1980s and 1990s. Many corporations have also adopted Cisco routers to support their intranet networks.

Cisco CRS - Carrier Routing System

Core routers like the CRS family function as the heart of a large enterprise network into which other routers and switches can be connected. First introduced in 2004, the CRS-1 offered 40 Gbps connections with aggregate network bandwidth scalable up to 92 terabits per second. The newer CRS-3 supports 140 Gbps connections and 3.5x greater aggregate bandwidth.

Cisco ASR - Aggregation Service Routers

Edge routers like the Cisco ASR series of products directly interface an enterprise network to the Internet or other wide area networks (WANs). ASR 9000 Series routers are designed for use by communication carriers and service providers, while the more affordable ASR 1000 Series routers are also used by businesses.

Cisco ISR - Integrated Services Routers

The 1900, 2900 and 3900 series Cisco ISR routers. These second-generation branch routers replaced their older 1800/2800/3800 series counterparts.

Other Types of Cisco Routers

Cisco has developed and marketed a wide range of other router products over the years including:

  • Cisco 1000 and 2000 Series Connected Grid indoor/outdoor routers, primarily for use with energy substations and power grid utility networks.
  • Cisco 500 and Cisco 900 Series Industrial routers, supporting integration of wireless sensor and Internet of Things (IoT) devices in outdoor and construction environments.
  • Cisco Mobile Wireless Routers, supporting cellular backhaul network environments.

Pricing of Cisco Routers

New high-end Cisco ASR edge routers carry retail prices above $10,000 USD while core routers like the CRS-3 can exceed $100,000. Larger businesses customarily also purchase service and support contracts as part of their hardware buys, further increasing the total price tag. Conversely, low-end Cisco models can be purchased for less than $500 USD in some cases.

About Cisco IOS

IOS (Internetwork Operating System) is the low-level network software that runs on Cisco routers (and some other Cisco devices).

IOS supports a command-line user interface shell and underlying logic for controlling the router's hardware (including memory and power management, plus control over the Ethernet and other physical connection types). It also enables the many standard network routing protocols Cisco routers support like BGP and EIGRP.

Cisco offers two variations called IOS XE and IOS XR that each run on certain classes of Cisco routers and offer additional capabilities beyond the core functions of IOS.

About Cisco Catalyst Devices

Catalyst is Cisco's brand name for their family of network switches. While physically similar in appearance to routers, switches lack the ability to manage packets across network boundaries.

For more, see: What Is the Difference Between Routers and Switches?