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IBM extends support for BRIC open source startups

Believing that the future of IT innovation will happen overseas, Big Blue is hoping to get a leg up on the competition by offering emerging market partners free support.

Continuing its strategy to tap the IT resources in the so-called BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China, IBM recently promised to provide BRIC startups with access to Big Blue hardware and software free of charge.

The move is further evidence of what IBM and some analysts believe will be one of the industry's most significant trend in the coming years: The future of IT innovation will be based overseas, and that future will be built on open source technologies.

According to a study released by the research firm IDC, China and India will experience the highest growth among professional software developers in the world by 2008, with compound annual growth rates of 25.6% and 24.5%, respectively. The firm also forecasts that the total number of professional developers in those regions, many of whom will be building on open standards technology, will reach nearly 15 million in 2008.

Mark Hanny, vice president of IBM's independent software vendor alliances and partner programs, said 45% of all college students majoring in computer science and engineering are studying in one of the BRIC nations, meaning the success Big Blue has had with its emerging markets initiatives is most likely going to continue to grow.

"We continue to be extremely impressed by the tremendous growth in these emerging countries as far as embracing open source," Hanny said. "We can't keep up with the demand."

According to Charles King, principal analyst for the Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research, the jump in IT activity in these markets could pay off for IBM.

"The way you create demand for hardware is by having valuable applications to run on it," King said. "Getting [BRIC nations] on board with your platform is a critical piece to driving market support later.

"I think the [BRIC] areas are generally considered to be the next hot markets for IT," King said. "What's important in all four of those markets is that they all have emerging economies … [and] they are the types of countries that will both be interested in information technology and have the finances to make significant IT investments."

A major piece of Big Blue's BRIC strategy is to support and foster open source solutions development. Open source technologies are generally less expensive than their proprietary counterparts -- a big plus in nations still struggling to find resources to support IT growth -- and have found more acceptance in many emerging markets because of a general philosophy that says "don't tell me what I can or can't do with my own code."

Under the new plan, developers will be given access to IBM's hardware and software portfolio from their desktop. According to Big Blue, developers who sign on will cut the time it takes to build open software in half -- at one-tenth the cost.

IBM also plans to host more than 40 different virtual enablement workshops through its Virtual Innovation Center. These classes, which students can attend remotely, are modeled after those taught by architects at the IBM Innovation Centers. Some of the major areas of focus include software development on IBM WebSphere Application Server, Advanced Portal Technology and IBM Express middleware.

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