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IBM, Linden plan to give enterprises a Second Life

Jointly developed private virtual environments will run behind corporate firewalls

By Heather Havenstein
April 3, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - IBM and Second Life creator Linden Lab are jointly building private virtual worlds designed to help employees collaborate more effectively.

The announcement, made Wednesday, marks the first time a portion of the Second Life Grid will operate behind corporate firewalls, the two companies said. IBM and Linden plan to demonstrate hosting regions of the Second Life Grid operating behind IBM's firewall at the Virtual Worlds 2008 conference that begins today in New York.

IBM, one of the largest corporate users of Second Life, said it plans to pilot the new technology internally to allow its employees to move between IBM's custom-built, firewall-protected system and the open Second Life virtual world without having to log off and on.

The goal is to let IBM employees use one Second Life client interface to access public and private spaces in the virtual world, the companies said. As a result, employees can create content internally, chat and instant message while staying connected to all the content housed in Second Life.

"As virtual world technologies and platforms become more commonplace, we see a need for an enterprise-ready solution that offers the same content creation capabilities but adds new levels of security and scalability," said Colin Parris, IBM's vice president of digital convergence, in a statement. "Combining IBM and Linden Lab's solutions together has the potential to make custom-created environments a viable option for enterprises."

Ginsu Yoon, Linden Lab vice president of business affairs, added that the ability to operate Second Life regions behind a firewall will help accelerate the adoption of all virtual worlds.

As part of the agreement, IBM and Linden Lab said they also are exploring options for creating interoperability between virtual world platforms and technologies, and plan to join industrywide efforts to further expand the capabilities of virtual worlds.

Paul Jackson, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said the joint effort may help ease key corporate concerns about virtual worlds – that they lack adequate security measures.

He noted that the technology underlying the virtual worlds “wasn’t an infrastructure designed to be particularly secure or robust for enterprise applications.” The joint IBM-Linden effort should take away some of those concerns, he said.

He also noted that many corporate may have difficulty using the virtual world interfaces, which he said “are quite cludgy at the moment -- quite difficult to get used to.”

Once the concerns are dealt with, he added, virtual worlds are a much more natural way for employees to communicate than teleconferences or instant messages.

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