Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is stepping up its data-storage management services strategy with the launch this week of an initiative that offers instant storage on demand. A subsidiary of Japanese electronics giant Hitachi, HDS expects its Just in Time Storage suite of services to help simplify the storage-management tasks faced by large enterprises and storage service providers (SSPs), especially given the rapid growth and unpredictable demand for computer data storage capacity. 'Just In Time Storage was designed to ease the burden of up-front storage acquisition costs, deployment, and day-to-day administration through a managed service-level agreement and a monthly 'pay-as-you-grow' billing structure,' HDS chief operating officer Dave Roberson said. 'We are the first to market this service, which provides immediate upgrades on demand to disk and cache capacity.' Just In Time Storage services initially are being made available in the United States and will be launched in other HDS markets early next year. The service will provide instant capacity on demand by allowing enterprise customers and SSPs to activate small increments of additional storage 'headroom' in their data centres with the click of a mouse, whenever they need it. That sort of fingertip control on storage resources should catch on quickly with SSPs - enterprises providing computer storage space and related management to other companies. Customers may be billed a monthly rate and for each managed terabyte of storage. For many data centre administrators, finding an extra 10 to 20 gigabytes of capacity to meet unexpected demand was a frequent time-consuming chore, Mr Roberson said. He said a significant percentage of storage management costs corresponded directly to such a situation, in which users needed small amounts of storage which were not immediately accessible and must be opened by moving files around or deleting data that was not in use. 'Just in Time Storage allows users to maintain complete control of storage purchase and allocation activities as they respond to rapidly changing business conditions,' Mr Roberson said. He said the process involved 'no disruption of system operations or intervention by Hitachi Data Systems service personnel'. The platform for Just In Time Storage is the firm's flagship storage system, the Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9960, which has a built-in capacity monitoring system that automatically determines how much storage capacity and cache memory, and how many host connections are activated in a user's facility. That information is communicated via an existing automated 'call-home' feature to the HDS Global Utility Center in San Diego, California, which provides a metering service for billing. Mike Kahn, chairman of Massachusetts-based technology acquisition consultant The Clipper Group, said: 'Enterprises strive for storage transparency. They want and expect it to be there when it is needed and regardless of how it is being used. 'Hitachi's Just In Time offering moves the enterprise closer to that objective by removing most of the procurement tactics required to keep up with unpredictable storage growth.' Storage units intended for use in Just In Time Storage environments are designed to be equipped with substantially more capacity than the customer immediately requires - as much as 37 terabytes of raw capacity in a single system. According to HDS, Just In Time Storage is built into the storage system and does not require any host-processor-based software. As such, it can be used - without any modification - in all major computing environments, including IBM's OS/390, Microsoft's Windows NT and Windows 2000, Linux, and a variety of Unix-based operating systems. The Just in Time Storage suite also includes capacity forecasting, centralised control and business continuity - a service that enables users to activate the company's 'point in time' copy and remote copy functions should there be a need for disaster recovery operations.