IBM said Wednesday it would become the first company to host private regions of the virtual world Second Life on its own computer servers.
The project is in testing and will go live within several weeks. It marks a new focus by Second Life's parent company, Linden Lab, on providing software and services to corporate customers who want to use the virtual world for collaboration and teleconferencing.
IBM employees will be able to move freely between the public areas of Second Life and private areas hosted behind IBM's corporate firewall.
This will enable the company to have sensitive discussions and disclose proprietary information without having the data pass through the servers of privately held Linden Lab.
IBM has long been one of the corporations most engaged with Second Life, a popular virtual world with several hundred thousand regular users as well as its own currency and economy.
More than 6,000 IBM employees have created the Second Life characters called avatars, and the company signed a pact with Linden Lab last year to explore interoperability between different virtual worlds.
The project is structured as a joint development agreement, and no money will change hands, Colin Parris, IBM's vice president for digital convergence, said in a phone interview.
"We see a need for an enterprise-ready solution that offers the same content creation capabilities but adds new levels of security and scalability," he said.
After an initial phase of using the private Second Life areas internally, IBM will let its own customers access the privately hosted regions.
"We're doing this internally, and we're building the right kind of enterprise-grade solution," Parris said.
Second Life is increasingly used by corporations and other organizations instead of conference calls and meetings, but adoption has been hindered by concerns about the platform's stability and security.
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