5 min read
March 19, 2021

The Challenges and Opportunities of the First Fully-Digital CloudFest


Crystal Reid

CloudFest, the annual multi-day festival, gears up for their all-digital event to serve a post-pandemic era.

Since 2011, CloudFest has taken place at Europa-Park, the largest theme park in Germany. But this year, the annual cloud event is held online between March 23rd and 25th. The digital affair is expected to draw more than 40 exhibitors and several thousand attendees and experts from 70 different countries to gather and discuss the industry’s growing capabilities.

After the 2020 event was canceled, a purpose-built digital venue was created by organizers to host the conference. The platform would support virtual exhibition booths, live-streamed presentations and musical performances as well as networking lounges and breakout rooms. This effort followed a series of Zoom seminars to find out what attendees really needed so that intuitive handling would be centered as CloudFest made a pivot.

The clunky Powerpoint presentations of the past are replaced by smooth delivery techniques that provide access from anywhere in the world at any time. Live chats will run in real-time, which allows attendees to interact with each other as sessions take place. Digital booths will enable participants to schedule time with exhibitors, collect the latest information on products and services and take advantage of CloudFest-only deals. Loud in the Cloud, the event-side music festival that brought the likes of Run DMC and Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach to the after-party in 2019, is set to return on virtual stages.

cloudfest (image: crowd and stage at music event
The CloudFest in-person event included live performances

Road-testing the digital platform led to record-breaking attendance at two online conferences for CloudFest’s sister brand, NamesCon, in the past six months. Chairman of the Supervisory Board at CloudFest, Soeren von Varchmin is convinced this year’s CloudFest will be just as popular. “Attendees [for digital events] tend to register closer to the event since they don’t have to book hotels or flights,” he tells Virtasant. “We’re confident that the CloudFest audience will also turn out on a record-breaking scale.”

On the Agenda

CloudFest has three themes. Day one will explore “The Intelligent Cloud”, addressing the deeply intertwined relationship between cloud technology and artificial intelligence. Day one’s keynote presentation will come from Endel CEO Oleg Stavitsky. He will explain how his Berlin-based company uses digital experiences to improve mental health. This is a theme we can all relate to in these often-overwhelming times. Endel saw a 30% growth in engagement at the start of the pandemic last year. User behavior shifted from Sleep to Focus products as the world started working from home. “Endel is all about cutting edge engineering, science and art, and in that sense, the Intelligent Cloud ticks all the right boxes for me to get excited,” says Stavitsky. “I think we're barely scratching the surface of what’s possible.”

On day two CloudFest’s theme, “Web Pros in the Cloud” will play matchmaker. The web professionals who create front-end experiences and the cloud service providers that make the internet secure will come together to forge the next generation of experiences. Rock stars of the day include Java inventor James Gosling and Portland’s Draplin Design Co-founder Aaron Draplin.

“I think we're barely scratching the surface of what’s possible.”

Day three will explore “The Secure Cloud” and address the responsibilities of the industry to protect the cloud against threats. Not to be missed on this day is a presentation by former MI6 spy boss Sir Alex Younger. Younger witnessed first-hand the impact of misinformation and cybercrime on global security. “The pandemic, as well as recent cases of election tampering and high-profile ransomware attacks, have shown how vulnerable the world is to bad guys,” says von Varchmin.

Tech for Good

As in previous years, CloudFest 2021 will lead fundraising efforts to support Entrepreneurs for Knowledge (EFK). Through its “Foundation as a Service” concept, EFK takes the hassle and risk out of donating to community causes. With their administrative costs covered entirely by their founders, EFK runs school projects with local partners all over the world. The 22,000 euros raised by CloudFest in 2019, for example, funded the restoration and modernization of a struggling and overcrowded school in Guatemala.

EFK program manager Leoni Rossberg will be speaking on day two of the conference, explaining how tech has played a big role in their ability to serve. While many of EFK’s projects they work on have suffered over the past year, they have muddled through. Whether it’s monitoring projects, transferring funds or communicating with partners — the cloud has been vital in keeping EFK in step. “The pandemic hit those that have the least possibilities to stay safe and healthy the hardest,” Rossberg says. She added, “But if I am to pick out positive aspects, it’s the creativity and resilience of many people in impoverished areas and the increased willingness of people in more privileged positions to support the less fortunate.”

Networking in the Cloud

With industry professionals being starved of face-to-face meetings for the past year, an emphasis is placed on digital gatherings. Networking opportunities will be provided at CloudFest in every area of the digital venue. A virtual lounge will recreate a crowded bar. There, colleagues and friends can gather and empty seats with new groups can be nabbed. Idea sharing and contact details are also gamified, with points for interaction and participation to redeem for prizes. “CloudFest is like the oasis in the desert where all the wild animals gather to drink,” says von Varchmin. “But the real prize is when you make that connection that helps you reach your business goals for the year ahead, and we’re making sure that that’s as easy as possible.”


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