Random Access Memory (RAM) represents the non-permanent or volatile working area of memory on a Cisco router. When the router is powered down, the contents of RAM are lost.
By default, RAM is broken up into two main areas – Main Processor Memory, and Shared I/O Memory. Main Processor Memory is where the routing table, ARP tables, and running configuration are stored. Shared I/O Memory is used as a buffer location for temporarily storing packets prior to processing. Most Cisco 2500 routers will have 2MB of RAM soldered to the system board (this amount, however, depends on the revision number of the router), along with one SIMM slot to add additional RAM. The maximum amount of RAM that can be added to a Cisco 2500 is 16MB. If 16MB is added, that provides a maximum of 18MB of available RAM. In cases where a RAM SIMM is installed, its capacity will be used as Main Processor Memory, while the onboard RAM (2MB) will be used as Shared I/O memory. If no SIMM chip is present, that 2MB of on-board RAM will be split between both areas, providing each with 1MB of working space. This should be avoided for performance reasons.