Cisco will announce a third-party-built 20-port storage area network switch tomorrow. The MDS9020 has 20, 4Gbit/s ports. Details of it have already appeared on the company's website.

The product is a 1U-high rack shelf unit. It auto-senses 1, 2 and 4Gbit/s ports and is fully compatible with the rest of the MDS9000 family, using the MDS600 FabricWare software. This enables non-disruptive software upgrades according to documentation.

The OEM source is likely to be QLogic. It already supplies a 4Gbit/s 20-port, 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel switch module for IBM's eServer BladeCenter. QLogic also lists Cisco as an OEM on its website. Neither Brocade nor McDATA, the other fabric switch vendors, have a 20-port, 4GBit/s switch in their product ranges. Both are also strongly competing with Cisco and unlikely to enter into an OEM deal with the networking giant which has successfully invaded their storage area networking turf.

A complete description of the MDS9020 can be downloaded as a PDF file here.

There is no pricing or availability information yet.