The next time you cheer on your favorite singer on "American Idol," save some props for the scientists at IBM in Tucson.
Technology developed here at IBM's storage-systems development center helps Fox Broadcasting manage the massive amounts of data needed to create, edit and store today's high-definition digital TV programming.
About 1,400 "IBMers" at the company's storage systems center at the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park continue to churn out new products to help big data users handle storage needs that are growing at an estimated rate of 60 percent annually.
"Their budgets don't grow 60 percent, so you have to do things to help clients manage that data more efficiently," said Cindy Grossman, IBM vice president of tape and archive storage and senior location executive in Tucson.
This week, IBM rolled out new offerings in four areas to help clients handle the media-driven torrent of digital data:
• Easy Tier, an industry-first technology developed for IBM's DS8700 high-end disk storage system that automatically shifts the most frequently used "hot" data to faster solid-state storage drives, moving less critical data to slower and cheaper disk and tape drives.
• A new feature for IBM's ProtectTIER "deduplication" technology - which strips out repetitive data like e-mails with duplicate attachments - to save storage space. IBM acquired the technology in 2008 as part of its purchase of Massachusetts-based Diligent Technologies. The new feature allows multiple data centers to replicate backup data to a central location.
• A new file system and a fifth-generation version of IBM's Ultrium Linear Tape-Open (LTO) drive, which is based on an open industry standard, using magnetic-tape cartridges holding up to 1.5 terabytes of data (1,500 gigabytes or roughly one and a half trillion bytes).
IBM's new Long Term File System allows simpler, less expensive access to very large data archives created by "unstructured" data, such as images and video.
• The latest version of its XIV Storage System, which IBM gained in another 2008 acquisition, doubling capacity with two terabyte-capacity disk drives and adding lower-voltage processors to cut peak power usage by up to 59 percent.
Grossman said the new products and features are part of the company's effort to help clients manage huge volumes of data, such as millions of text messages, digital video and digital medical images.
Those clients include Fox Broadcasting, which uses an IBM Ultrium LTO-3 tape storage system, developed in Tucson, to store and access high-definition digital video for programming including the hit show "American Idol" and NFL football games.
Fox says the IBM system is the first of its kind in the industry and cut storage costs by more than 70 percent while allowing greater flexibility, saving space and eliminating the need for costly high-definition video recorders.
Fox notes that a typical NFL game filmed in HD requires around 115 gigabytes of digital storage - about half the typical hard-drive capacity of home computers sold today.
The new products show that IBM is still a leading player in data storage, Grossman said, noting that IBM is the top patenter of new technologies.
"A lot of those patents are strong patents, and a lot of them come from the Tucson lab," she said.
Such efforts are paying off, IBM says, as the parent company reported this week that revenues from its storage business grew 11 percent in the first quarter. Big Blue said it gained market share across its storage product lines.
IBM competes in the $7 billion disk storage market with companies including EMC Corp. - the market leader according to the research firm IDC - HP and NetApp Inc.
IBM remains a leader in tape-based storage, and the new tape features such as the Long Term File System show it continues to innovate, an industry analyst said.
"That's pretty significant," said Mike Kahn, managing director of The Clipper Group in Rye, N.H., noting that the new file system is unique in the industry.
"Tape is anything but dead, and here is a new technology that is very important to the media companies and anyone managing huge amounts of data," Kahn said, adding that tape storage also uses less energy than disk systems.
Another analyst said IBM's recent storage acquisitions have helped fuel further innovation, citing the deduplication technology it acquired through Diligent.
"I think it's been a balancing act - make it or buy it - but it's done well for them," said David Hill of the Mesabi Group, near Boston.
Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at email@example.com or 573-4181.