IBM sets sight on Russia

IBM Corp. launched a new initiative aimed at attracting more Russian developers to use its middleware and hardware Friday.

The move is part of the company’s continued focus on emerging markets, notably five nations it dubs the BRICK countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Korea. Of the annual estimated US$1 billion IBM is investing in the BRICK countries in terms of initiatives with partners and developers, investment in Russia is in the “multimillions” of dollars, according to Mark Hanny, vice president of independent software vendor (ISV) alliances at IBM.

As part of the initiative announced Friday, IBM has established developerWorks Russia, a Russian-language version of the company’s technical resources program for developers, including a Web site . Developers can access tools, download source code and obtain access to educational programs on a range of IBM software and hardware as well as Linux and Java.

“Russia has the third largest developer population in the world,” Hanny said in a phone interview Thursday. He estimated that Russia is close to overtaking India and China as the number-one nation in terms of numbers of software developers.

The Russian economy is rapidly changing and companies are investing more heavily in enterprise applications like ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) software, according to Hanny. This is leading to more opportunities for Russian developers in their home market, he said.

IBM currently has one Innovation Center in Russia, a facility in Moscow that provides onsite or remote training and support for developers and ISVs. The company hopes to open several more such centers in the country, probably in partnership with local companies, according to Hanny.

IBM also intends to offer more virtual training courses in Russian for developers, Hanny said. In August, the company announced a new initiative dubbed Virtual Innovation Centers, to provide developers around the world with access to virtual workshops on its hardware and software. An individual can access a virtual workshop through a Web conference from their PCs, dialing into the lecture via phone or voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP).

IBM configures a customized remote environment for students so they can follow the lecture and also provides a virtual mentor to facilitate the lecture. Students can communicate with the mentor during the course via phone, e-mail or instant messaging.

Earlier this month, when IBM announced its fiscal 2005 results, the company highlighted Russia as one of the emerging markets showing strong growth. IBM grew its business 29 percent in Russia, trailing the 55 percent growth the company achieved in India, but well ahead of both China and Brazil, where IBM’s revenue increased 8 percent and 7 percent respectively.

IBM is also looking to increase its work with Russian universities. “Russia graduated more than 1.3 million IT students over the past seven years,” Hanny said. He also heads up IBM’s Academic Initiative, a worldwide program where the company works with universities to develop IT courses. So far, IBM working together with Russian universities has trained more than 4,500 students in over 45 universities.

The goal is to double those figures by the end of the year, according to Hanny.

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