Dimension Data's 11th annual Forum conference in Coolum, Queensland, opened in typical fanfare last week, only to have a blackout cut short the opening keynote by Cisco Internet evangelist Howard Charney.
The forums have become something of a channel icon for Australia's largest systems integrator, and this year's theme, "effective and efficient interaction", plays close to the general feeling of the IT sector.
"The IT industry has been put on notice," said Steve Nola, managing director of Dimension Data, in his opening address to conference delegates, predominantly customers, vendors and partners.
Businesses are looking for "cost-effective delivery of relevant information, to the right people, when they need it".
The challenge, according to Gerard Florian, Dimension Data's chief technology officer, is to "do that in an environment of constant downward pressure on IT budgets".
Dimension Data's Forum conference began in 1991 with 60 hardcore technologists and has grown to around 300 attendees spread across both technology and business vocations. Past themes of the conference such as standards, messaging, the Web, security and disaster recovery have touched on the Zeitgeist issues. The conference's focus has shifted from pure technology to a balance between technology and business issues.
This year's conference was very conscious of the amount spent on IT infrastructure with little tangible business benefits. "IT has to grow up and act like the rest of the business community," said Florian.
Besides the extensive series of keynote addresses, the jewel of the forum was a $7 million Solutions Showcase of technology and applications. The showcase took Dimension Data engineers over 5,000 man hours to put together and demonstrated the business applications of the latest technology from Dimension Data's vendor partners.
This year also featured an interactive voice recognition system giving attendees information on sessions, flight times, vendor briefings and a rugby competition hosted by the voice of ex-Australian captain Phil Kearns.
Round-table sessions designed to promote a free flow of communication between delegates and attendants were also added to this year's agenda.
But it wasn't all work for conference delegates. The forum's reputation as a "work hard, play harder" environment saw over 10,000 bottles of water consumed over the four days, largely on the golf course. Over 250 dozen oysters were slurped, and 45 kilograms of salmon eaten.
Charney, who is a Cisco vice president, kicked off the official business of the conference with an opening keynote on the positive future of the Internet. Charney compared the boom, bust and build-out cycles of the electricity, locomotive and automotive industries with that of the Internet.
Unfortunately, a power failure of the entire Maroochydore grid introduced Charney to the fourth "B" of the cycle: the blackout.
ARN will provide a complete wrap-up of the conference, including special interviews, in-depth analysis and previews of emerging technologies, in this week's issue.