IBM to Send AlphaWorks to School

IBM is taking its emerging technologies to school with a new program aimed at academic institutions, has learned.

IBM plans to announce Thursday an Academic Licensing program designed to “train, educate and build a loyal base of future developers on emerging technologies and open standards,” according to an IBM note about the plan.

The technology is available to any accredited university around the world and includes a wide variety of technologies, ranging from tools to help developers create grid computing applications to games and simulations to teach Java skills.

Harvard, MIT, Texas A&M and San Jose State are among the universities expected to participate in the program.

While details of the license aren’t known at press time, it will likely expand on the 90-day trial and evaluation license that’s currently available to any interested party that’s a registered member of alphaWorks. The technology itself will be hosted on the alphaWorks Web site.

IBM allows individuals to download alpha-version software in development at its emerging technologies site. If the technology downloaded is then developed into a commercial product, or part of a commercial product, users can purchase a license.

IBM already gives wide latitude to colleges and universities participating in its Academic Initiative. The software giant gives discounts on IBM servers and provides course curriculum, certification resources and technical support. They also let initiative members download trial and evaluation versions of much of its software, from Lotus Notes to the DB2 enterprise database.

Colleges and universities are finding themselves the lucky recipients of a mindshare battle between Java proponents like IBM and Microsoft’s .NET development platforms.

Curriculum had been based on general platform technologies like Visual Basic or Java. Now, with a heightened need for experienced developers on particular tool platforms, vendors are getting their software to the schools where they can gain that knowledge.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) occupational outlook handbook for 2004/2005, today’s employers are looking for programmers who understand the company’s business and technical requirements. Developers who also have vendor-specific certifications stand a better chance than those who don’t.

While job growth within the information technology sector has been slow the past couple of years, the BLS finds growth in computer systems design and related services will grow by 54.6 percent and add more than one-third of all new jobs in professional, scientific and technical services.

Microsoft, which keeps its source code close to the vest, save for its shared source initiative, has been a firm believer in academic outreach. This is in large part because of the encroaching popularity of open source Linux, many versions of which are free.

While the company charges universities for academic versions of its software through its Academic Select License, Microsoft for some time has opened the source code for its C# and common language infrastructure and some of the components that run Visual Studio.

IBM, on the other hand, offers its commercial software but has been more public about its support and use of open standards and open source software used on the Eclipse framework. The Java-based environment has become one of the two dominant development platforms (the other is .NET) used by enterprise developers.

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