Cisco has a new low-end Fibre switch that includes features usually only found in larger, director-level versions, such as support for virtual storage-area networks.

The MDS 9124 Multi-layer Fabric Switch is an expandable 24-port 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel switch that can be configured in eight-port increments. It includes an easy-to-use configuration wizard to simplify installation and SAN setup for businesses with limited IT SAN skills, the company said.

Like Cisco's other MDS 9000 Series Multi-layer Director switches, the 9124 uses Cisco's SAN-OS operating system, which provides for high performance and strong connections between switches. The switch supports PortChannel aggregation software for link redundancy and load balancing, and has support for virtual SANs so customers can partition storage resources more easily.

It is 1U (1.75in) high and can be expanded on-demand by activating port licences. It features redundant and hot-swappable fans and power supplies for resiliency. The switch can be managed over an in-band IP over Fibre Channel connection or out of band using Ethernet. The 9124 fits into the low end of Cisco's MDS 9000 family of Fibre Channel switches and directors, which range from the fixed-port MDS 9020 with 20 ports to the MDS 9513 Multi-layer Director with 528 ports.

The MDS 9124 competes with McData's Sphereon 4400 and 4700 Fabric switches and Brocade's Silkworm 4100 switches, all expandable-port Fibre Channel switches. Unlike these switches, however, the MDS 9124 includes management, performance and other software for tuning the switch.

The switch is expected to be available in December through Dell, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM, Network Appliance, Sun and Xiotech starting at about $5,000 for an eight-port model.