IBM Launches Virtual Mentoring Initiative

Developers build on open standards.

As IBM moves to capitalize on the huge growth in software development outside the United States, it is taking on a new role: virtual mentor.

The goal is to help ISVs and developers, specifically those in emerging markets such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, but also those across the globe, build solutions based on open standards that are compatible with IBMs hardware and software platforms.

To achieve this goal, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., last week launched a new initiative to help startups more easily develop solutions based on open-standards technology by giving their developers instant access to IBM hardware and software right from their desktops. The program will include online mentoring classes for developers.

The classes are modeled after the courses already taught by skilled technical architects at IBMs existing Innovation Centers, and the goal is not just to teach developers about IBMs WebSphere and DB2 but to interactively work with them to design, build and test their applications to get them up and running on open- standards technology.

Students can attend classes from their home, office or local coffee shop by dialing into a lecture via phone or VOIP (voice over IP), said Mark Hanny, IBMs vice president of ISV and developer relations for emerging markets. Before each class, IBM will configure a customized remote environment for students so they can follow the lecture and participate in virtual learning labs, he said.

The instructor remains accessible via telephone, e-mail and instant messaging tools to support students through each stage of enablement.

IBM has chosen to stay out of the application business in favor of aggressively partnering with other companies to provide solutions to its clients.

As a result, IBM is continuing to focus on how best to expand and nurture a broad spectrum of skills and an ecosystem of influencers, Hanny said.

But the rapid growth in emerging markets was eclipsing IBMs ability to meet the demand for that assistance through its Innovation Centers. That demand was evident in the fact that last year more than 400 developers a day from Brazil, Russia, India and China alone joined IBMs developer networks.

"This equates to about 17 new developers signing up every hour," Hanny said.

Some ISVs, such as DH China Ltd., in Shanghai, China, took part in a recent pilot of the program. "IBMs easy-to-access classes and technical labs have helped us tremendously with our enablement work on WebSphere Portal," said Liao Xiao Gong, a DH China spokesperson. "We were able to speed up development and begin additional enablement work through the IBM Virtual Innovation Center."