IBM Softlayer and Chicago Made at the SXSW Trade Show

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South by Southwest is an institution in Austin, TX. It first came to life as a little music festival back in 1987. Now, almost 30 years later, the event has grown exponentially, covering three overlapping conventions under the same umbrella: music, film, and digital culture.

All three facets of the festival converge during the four days of the SXSW Trade Show, and the exhibitors reflect that congruence. It’s not unusual to find displays from The New York Times, NASA, and the Price is Right (along with a giant spin wheel, of course!) at the same gathering, a mixture that reflects the truly eclectic nature of all things SXSW.

The SXSW Interactive branch of the festival, formerly called SXSW Multimedia, sprang to life in the mid-90s, and it’s become one of the event’s key elements, keeping pace with the rapid impetus of technology in our lives. Indeed, SXSW Interactive is also a venue for setting trends, most famously pushing Twitter into the wider consciousness in 2007.

At the Trade Show, our Indiezone.TV representatives checked out one of the biggest ideas showcased at SXSW Interactive this year: the Urban Art Cloud. This powerhouse, developed by IBM, is an exciting—and fun—new way to make digital art that is instantly shareable. IBM’s Steven Fury described it as “a traveling art installation, where we let visitors to festivals or trade shows be creative.”

Get the inside track on the future of interactive media by learning more about the Urban Art Cloud in the clips that follow.

The IBM Urban Art Cloud Lets People Get Creative in a Big Way



Powered by IBM’s Softlayer infrastructure, the Urban Art Cloud has been designed to make the company’s next-generation software instantly accessible. The artwork is more than made widely accessible, it’s also easy to display on walls, building exteriors, and even famous landmarks. The side of the Siegestor in Munich served as a recent exhibition space.

Of course, tools themselves are essential to artists, and the Urban Out Cloud app allows creatives to use digital pens, paint brushes, shapes, and effects to work their magic. “With this digital easel,” Fury explained, “visitors can create their piece of art within this cloud.”

The Softlayer infrastructure is capable of much more than empowering visiting artists; it’s a cloud-computing platform that can operate at a massive scale to achieve all sorts of goals. The company’s Rollie Melanson described how they gird the globe with accessibility: “At Softlayer, we have over 21 data centers around the world in addition to the 20-somewhat data centers IBM has.”

To demonstrate Softlayer’s capabilities, Melanson had a game set up, challenging visitors to plug into the various drives and interconnections needed to access the cloud storage live. After hooking everything up himself at rapid speed for our cameras, which you can watch for yourself in the next clip, Melanson explained, “We just like to show people, this is what we do on a daily basis. We do it fast; we do it good.”


Rollie Melanson from Softlayer Shows off the Power of IBM’s Cloud Computing


Some exhibitors at the Trade Show sought to attract artists from all branches of SXSW, not just those with a digital bent. Looking beyond the borders of technology, and indeed, Austin itself, was Chicago Made, an initiative to bring more creatives to the Windy City.

“Chicago Made is an overall brand platform initiative in which three organizations come together as collaborative partners,” explained Melissa Cherry, the vice president of Cultural Tourism & Neighborhoods at Choose Chicago.

“Chicago is a great scene. You have 225 music venues, you have over 16 music festivals,” Cherry espoused. “We really have it all.” 

Melissa Cherry Describes the Creative Energy Blowing through the Windy City



With Cherry’s passion, no doubt a few creatives found themselves considering investing a parka for an urban relocation and artistic rejuvenation. Whether seeking inspiration in transplantation or making a massive virtual mark on an exhibition’s wall, SXSW’s Trade Show will continue to be a fixture of future thinking in the arts for years to come.

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