CISCO GUARDS THE GATES

DATA WOULD GO NOWHERE ON THE NET WITHOUT THE COMPANY'S ROUTERS. IT AIMS TO KEEP THINGS THAT WAY

There's not much glamour in the Internet router business. The VCR-size boxes that weave computers into networks belong to the realm of techies. Late at night, when corporations sleep, "geek squads"--the human infrastructure of the information age--stuff routers into closets, under desks or anywhere out of sight. It is not a business that produces headlines.

It does, however, produce stock market rockets. Networking stocks have helped push the tech-laden nasdaq exchange to new highs, and Cisco Systems--a networker whose stock has risen more than 12,000% in the past seven years--is the Apollo of the group. Fund managers trip over themselves to...

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