Over the past three years, DVR maker TiVo has undertaken several major IT projects looking to reduce its risk of data loss and to virtualise its server environment to boost its partnerships with electronics stores, cable TV operators and television networks.

The company's most recent IT efforts have focused on creating a database infrastructure that can be easily provisioned, offer developers the ability to independently create and test code, and offer networks the ability to get next day results on viewer habits.

"We track everything you watch second by second. If a television show runs an ad campaign for potato chips, we can say who watched it and then combine that data with [supermarket data] and see who went out and bought the product," said Richard Rothschild, senior director of IT and facilities at TiVo.

Rothschild said being able to produce next day reports on viewer trends is a huge advantage in an industry where advertisers are looking to tailor their product to specific demographics.

"We can augment a single instance of business intelligence software across our virtual databases," said Rothschild, noting that the company's two data centres house 1,500 servers, 100 production databases, 200TB of storage on EMC and NetApp arrays and support 1,400 desktops and laptops.

Last year, TiVo's IT team deployed database virtualisation appliances from Delphix, which allow developers to clone physical databases for testing and report generation.

Prior to virtualising the database, TiVo could have taken up to a week to produce a viewer ratings reports because the information had to be generated from one large database that included all of its clients. Now, with the ability to create many cloned databases, each can be used to produce reports for specific clients, such as Best Buy, NBC or Comcast.

Delphix uses standard database APIs to load physical databases onto its x86 appliance, which can then create multiple cloned databases, each of which can use the same backend storage pool, further saving on resources.

For example, if TiVo developers were to create four database clones, typically 70% of the data would remain the same throughout their use, so they could draw from the same storage capacity while only creating about 30% unique data which would need to be stored separately. Rothschild said 75% of TiVo's non-production ERP environment is being run on a virtual database, along with the training, quality assurance and development environments.

Along with storage consolidation for TiVo's Oracle 10 and 11 and MySQL databases, the virtual database deployment saved the company $120,000 in the first year by reducing development lifecycle time and increasing the ease and agility of provisioning, Rothschild said. The savings will increase by two and a half times this year, as virtual databases are used more often, he added.

"Now we can use that money for other things," he said. "The best thing of all, is saving 20 hours a week per person. For me, human resource time is the most scarce thing. Anytime you can free up people's time, its great and you get more productivity."