IBM Uploads its first virtual ANZ conference

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IBM Uploads its first virtual ANZ conference

IT delegates from across the nation gathered online today for IBM’s first virtual customer conference to be held in Australia and New Zealand.

The Upload 2008 virtual summit aimed to address what IBM has identified as new business pressures brought about by the credit crunch, rising fuel prices and skill shortages.

Following a global study of 1,130 CEOs across geographies and industries, the summit brought together speakers from all over the world to discuss methods of accelerating change and doing business.

Attendees arrived at the conference via a free-to-use Web interface. Once in the virtual environment, each was greeted by video footage of Glen Boreham, managing director of IBM Australia and New Zealand.

“This event is a sign of things to come,” Boreham said in his opening address.

“Holding a virtual conference is just one of the hundreds of ways IBM is changing how we work in response to the new pressures facing all of our businesses.”

Boreham described pressure from the recent credit crunch to reduce costs, pressure from rising fuel prices to avoid travel, and pressure from skill shortages to achieve more within a working day.

“These pressures that were barely on the radar a few years ago have now come to the fore,” he said.

The virtual setting of Upload 2008 demonstrates one method of alleviating such pressures by allowing attendees and exhibitors to access the event via the Internet, thus avoiding the need for travel.

An interactive visual environment was coupled with hyperlinked text to create a welcoming, user-friendly blend of the Web and virtual world experience.

A virtual auditorium, exhibition hall, networking lounge, and prize centre were mere clicks away from each other, providing attendees with easy access to interactive seminars, vendor representatives, and networking opportunities.

Lenovo, Intel, Nortel, NetBox Blue and VMware were among twenty-three exhibitors who established a virtual presence in IBM’s exhibition hall.

Exhibition attendees navigated the hall either via a hyperlinked list of exhibitors, or by eyeballing the scene and exploring the hall in true virtual world fashion.

At each exhibition booth, attendees were greeted by a team of avatars –- and, in some cases, videos -- with whom they could interact via private or group chat.

“It is a very worthwhile experience,” said Anthony Groves, a spokesperson at Lenovo’s exhibition booth.

“It is a good way to learn about a number of products all without having to leave the office,” he told iTnews via the virtual world chat interface.

According to VMware System Engineer Wibowo Leksono, the virtual setting allowed exhibitors to respond to far more queries than what would be possible in a real-life situation.

“It's been great. I get coverage of a lot more people this way rather than a real life booth,” Leksono told iTnews via private chat at VMware’s exhibition booth.

“[In] the morning, [there] have been non-stop queries, but it is excellent. It has also brought to our attention what issues are out there in the field.”

While virtual environments often take some time to get used to, Leksono reported minimal difficulties in preparing the VMware team for the exhibition.

“To be honest, most of us attended just a bit of training in the morning, and were up and running in no time,” he said.

As part of the Upload 2008 summit, IBM also invited environmentally-conscious conference attendees to give their Green egos a boost with the use of a Web-based carbon counter.

Compared to a traditional conference held in Sydney, IBM estimates the virtual setting to save up to 0.001 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions for an attendee based in North Sydney, and up to 0.4251 tonnes of emissions for an attendee travelling from Perth.

IT infrastructure, management and security were key topics that were discussed in the auditorium by speakers such as Future Exploration Network’s Chief Futurist Richard Watson, IBM’s CIO Mark Hennessy, software architecture and engineering veteran Grady Booch, and compliance and risk management expert Kristin Lovejoy.

Live seminars will be held until 5pm AEST today, after which recorded presentations will be available online until November 6.

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