All end devices and network devices connected to the Internet require an operating system (OS) to help them perform their function.

When a computer is powered on, it loads the OS, normally from a disk drive, into RAM. The portion of the OS code that interacts directly with the computer hardware is known as the kernel. The portion that interfaces with the applications and user is known as the shell. The user can interact with the shell using either the command-line interface (CLI) or graphical user interface (GUI).

When using the CLI, the user interacts directly with the system in a text-based environment by entering commands on the keyboard at a command prompt. The system executes the command, often providing textual output. The GUI interface allows the user to interact with the system in an environment that uses graphical images, multimedia, and text. Actions are performed by interacting with the images on screen. GUI is more user friendly and requires less knowledge of the command structure to utilize the system. For this reason, many individuals rely on the GUI environments. Many operating systems offer both GUI and CLI.

Click on the hardware, kernel, and shell portions of the figure for more information.

Most end device operating systems are accessed using a GUI, including MS Windows, MAC OS X, Linux, Apple iOS, Android, and more.

The operating system on home routers is usually called firmware. The most common method for configuring a home router is using a web browser to access an easy to use GUI. Most home routers enable the update of the firmware as new features or security vulnerabilities are discovered.

Infrastructure network devices use a network operating system. The network operating system used on Cisco devices is called the Cisco Internetwork Operating System (IOS). Cisco IOS is a generic term for the collection of network operating systems used on Cisco networking devices. Cisco IOS is used for most Cisco devices regardless of the type or size of the device. The most common method of accessing these devices is using a CLI.

This chapter will focus on a small business network switch topology. The topology consists of two switches and two PCs and will be used to demonstrate the use of Cisco IOS using the CLI.