Cirque du Soleil lets IBM in on the act

IBM wireless and storage products may help keep Canada’s most famous performance troupe flying high.

World-renowned Canadian circus company Cirque du Soleil has signed a three-year partnership with IBM Corp. Through the agreement, Big Blue will become a worldwide technology sponsor for Cirque du Soleil, responsible for designing and implementing a wireless infrastructure for the highly mobile Cirque. The infrastructure is to be based on the IBM WebSphere Everyplace software, which runs in the new IBM Wireless Enterprise Delivery Environment. The program is expected to manage personal information functions including e-mail, calendar and instant messaging.

The deal will also include providing digital content management consulting to Cirque, as well as storage. IBM spokesperman Mike Quinn says that because the partnership is only days old most of the technology is still very much a work in progress.

Cirque du Soleil spokesperson Renee-Claude Menard says the organization is already looking forward to simplified communication and reliable data storage. Both have been a source of frustration for Cirque employees, she says.

The performance company has eight productions running all around the world. Of those, five are travelling shows, which Menard says are in sore need of the type of wireless infrastructure IBM will implement because their environment gets completely taken apart every five to six weeks. In the periods of time when the stage and big top are packed up for transport, there is nothing close to a functional network, she says, and yet the production team needs to be able to communicate with touring and head office staff.

“”Some tear downs can take up to seven days. Now we need, in those seven days, to be able to still function and be ready to have an operational tour,”” she says. “”We do it now, but of course there’s jinxes and problems and sometimes frustrations for our touring people. So we’re trying to lower the frustration level and that’s where we think IBM can help us.””

Data storage is of highest concern for Cirque staff, Menard adds. With 2,500 employees sprinkled throughout the globe, passing and effectively storing information becomes a mission-critical process.

“”We’re maniacs about keeping everything,”” she laughs. “”But we need to have support that reflects what we do, which is quite unique and quite different.””

Cirque du Soleil’s storage needs are indeed unique, Quinn says, from the perspective of the type of data such as very large media files and video documents.

“”They’re also coming up on their 20th anniversary, so it was important for them to be able to create a archive of the old video documents in preparation for the 20th anniversary celebrations, “” he adds. “”That put even more emphasis on the need to have a robust storage m

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