SAN FRANCISCO - With mushrooming volumes of data, companies will soon have the same problems as an apartment-dwelling shopaholic: too much stuff.

As regulations expand the types of information that has to be stored indefinitely and the social information saved by employees grows exponentially -- think of new-baby photos emailed to everyone in the company -- data centers are reaching a breaking point, says Andy Monshaw, general manager of

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

Systems Storage.

The volume of data being stored is growing by about 57% a year, says Barry Rudolph, vice president of IBM Storage. About 80% of that data is unstructured -- a type that doesn't fit easily into spreadsheets.

IBM is taking a run at the problem with a set of new and evolved products announced Monday. They comprise a multi-year effort to grapple with the data explosion through a broad range of technologies, the company said. Toward this goal, IBM invested about $2 billion in research and acquisitions, including

Cognos

and

XIV

earlier this year. Cognos software helps companies classify and retrieve unstructured data.

Executives declined to estimate revenue expectations from the group of announcements.

While few of IBM's 30 announcements Monday will likely change the game, taken together they tackle the headaches caused by burgeoning data storage centers.

The most intriguing of IBM's announcements is the XIV storage array, says independent technology analyst Charles King, of Pund-IT Research.

The system uses existing industry-standard storage technology -- 180 low-cost, low-speed, high-capacity SATA drives -- but adds sophisticated software, such as data acceleration, to get very high performance out of it.

The $500,000 system was released last week. Over 100 XIVs are in use, many in trial phases, at corporations typically requiring high-end open systems, Monshaw says. About 95% of the arrays are at companies that had not bought IBM storage equipment in the past.

"This piece of

Monday's announcement will be a dominant force in the industry over the next several years," Monshaw predicts. "XIV has turned out to be a brilliant acquisition."

That company was the brainchild of a former

EMC

(EMC)

engineer. IBM competes with EMC and others to supply corporations with storage equipment and software.

Other aspects of IBM's latest announcement include several new models of storage equipment, as well as an acquired "deduplication" technology, which can delete all but one of those redundant baby pictures from corporate servers while giving all the users access to the remaining image. IBM bought Diligent, developer of the technology, in April.

EMC and

Data Domain

(DDUP)

have a head-start in deduplication software.

And a recent research breakthrough in IBM solid-state (Flash) storage technology opens the door to products from IBM targeted at businesses with demanding transaction-intensive operations, such as financial trading desks, says Bruce Hillsberg, director for Storage Systems at IBM's Almaden Research Labs in San Jose, Calif.

Shares of IBM, caught in the market's bold move higher Monday, were recently up 2.8% to $117.11.