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Developer.com Q&A with Stephanie Martin, Director of Worldwide Developer Relations for IBM


April 11, 2008

Q: Hello, Stephanie. Welcome to Developer.com and Gamelan.com. Thank you for joining us for this Q&A. You were recently appointed the Worldwide lead for IBM Developer Relations. What is your agenda in your new role and how do you plan to cater to the IT professional community?

A: As the new Worldwide director for IBM's Developer Relations, it is my goal to continue to inspire and motivate our community of IT professionals and developers to drive innovation through its collective intelligence. As the community evolves and becomes more dynamic, developers will more easily find the answers and information they need to learn cutting edge skills. We are also enabling them to connect and share with IBM and each other.

Over the past year, we have observed that developers are no longer working in silos. As such, the resources that we offer to the community will create a global and collaborative experience for them. It is our goal to continue to educate IT professionals and developers, help them leverage key emerging technologies for their businesses and expand on a global scale, beyond the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries into other emerging markets.

IBM is committed to ensuring that the educational needs of developers and IT professionals are met by offering a number of technical briefings in many locations around the world, as well as on-line training through tutorials, product demos, hosted trials forums, and software evaluation kits. As our global community of more than 6 million developers continues to grow, we will enable and encourage them to really drive innovation by collaborating on development projects and deploying applications across heterogeneous systems.

One thing to note is that the skill level of our audience spans from the novice developer such as a student or a small business with limited IT resources to advanced developers, as well as early adopters of new technologies. IBM developerWorks has the resources to assist in skills-building for all levels of expertise and IBM alphaWorks provides early adopters with access to new and emerging software technology from IBM research and development labs around the world.

In addition, IBM will continue to support established languages such as Java and offer resources for skills development and training. Java's simplicity, portability, scalability, and security is helping our business partners meet customer needs and IBM is promoting Java skills development through a vast library of resources, including tutorials, forums, and software downloads to educate developers and promote Java-based frameworks and languages.

Q: What are some of the trends that you are seeing in the developer community? How is IBM reacting to keep up with these trends and the evolving marketplace?

A: Some of the most important trends that developers are focusing on today include Web 2.0, Linux, the adoption of SOA, Java technologies, and web development. To cater to these needs, we offer the best of breed in technologies and information at no cost to IT professionals to arm them with the skills that they need to stay competitive in the global market.

IBM offers a major resource for developers to gain access to information that they need to broaden and grow their skills on various platforms through enhancements to the developerWorks web site, and to benefit from the increasing adoption of Web 2.0 technologies and social networking.

IBM also works to prepare tomorrow's work force for the challenges that lie ahead through its Academic Initiative. In just the last few months, IBM has announced several innovative programs with colleges and universities across the globe, including the opening of the first Software Innovation and Collaboration lab at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the launch of Web 2.0 application development courses at both UCLA and NC State University.

Q: What are the major opportunities and challenges you're seeing in the market today? How is IBM working with developers and other technology professionals globally to address them?

A: IBM sees a major opportunity for global technology growth, both within the BRIC countries as well as in many other emerging markets. To help developers and IT professionals leverage this global opportunity, IBM offers a number of resources on a worldwide basis, localizing our efforts in some key emerging markets. For example, we have extended our global reach and translated the developerWorks web site into the local languages of China, Korea, Japan, and Russia.

IBM is also at the forefront of supporting skills training, designed to empower the next generation of developers with the skills that they need to stay competitive in the global market. One facet of this training is technical briefings, where IBM technical experts and senior leaders go through key technology topics with developers in different countries. In 2007 alone, there were 658 technical briefings held in 54 countries. This year, we will focus on expanding these briefings to take place online in environments such as SecondLife and ensure that developers from every country will have equal access to hands-on technology education.

Q: Global growth and opportunity appear to be major factors driving IBM and other technology companies. How is IBM working with developers all over the world to drive innovation?

A. We're seeing some tremendous global growth in our developer communities worldwide. As discussed earlier, IBM is working with developers worldwide on several fronts to offer resources and training, allowing them to take advantage of advanced development skills in today's global marketplace.

Like the rest of IBM, developerWorks has seen tremendous global growth in just one year. In 2007 alone:

  • China is the third largest and second fastest growing market of IT professionals worldwide, and 64% of those developers visit developerWorks each month. In fact, our users in China and Russia ranked developerWorks as their #1 preferred resources for technology and product-related content.
  • The developerWorks Korea web site saw a 57% increase over 2006; and
  • In Japan, we have seen a 15% growth over the last two years and the site continues to become integrated with our worldwide infrastructure.

Q: There have been several surveys indicating CIOs and other technology leaders are concerned about the skills gap in the IT work force, especially around Web 2.0 programming skills. What is IBM doing to address this?

A: IBM is invested in helping IT professionals take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies and use them to help grow their businesses. I saw a recent study by Robert Half Technology that said CIOs anticipate a 15 percent increase in the need for IT workers with Web 2.0 application development skills in 2008. That is a huge opportunity that we are capitalizing on. For example, IBM has invested extensively in future developers, promoting skills that increasingly use web-based technologies to capitalize on new business opportunities. The latest example of this commitment is the recent opening of the software Innovation and Collaboration lab at RIT.

Through developerWorks, IBM also offers resources for IT professionals interested in Web 2.0 skills development. Open standards technologies underpinning Web 2.0—Ajax, Java, REST, XML, and more—are available for free download. IBM also offers articles, webcasts, white papers, feature packs, toolkits, trainings, and certifications to help developers get up to speed on the latest trends in Web 2.0 application development.

Q: IBM has always been a big proponent of open standards and open source technologies, most notably Java. Can you explain IBM's commitment to Java and why it remains loyal to it while many developers are adopting other scripting languages like Ruby, PHP, and Perl?

A. We believe the simplicity, portability, scalability, and security associated with Java makes it a very popular programming language that is employed to businesses to help them meet customer needs. This is especially true because increasingly pervasive business models such as SaaS and SOA are more easily and effectively adopted through Java due to its superior interoperability and flexibility.

These observations are borne out in the marketplace where we've seen increasing market demand for Java developers, with more jobs available for Java developers than any other language. IBM has seen strong growth in demand for Java developer programs. For example, over the past four years, traffic to the Java section of the developerWorks web site has grown 34 percent. In addition, each month, thousands of developers in 194 countries visit the Java technology section of the developerWorks web site.

IBM's goal is to make sure we continue to educate developers and help them leverage Java as they also take advantage of new technologies, frameworks, and languages. Enterprises that write applications in Java are also inclined to use server scripting languages like Perl, PHP, Python, and Ruby.

IBM's developerWorks community offers Java developers resources to work with some of these new languages. For example, IBM offers several resources to help developers leverage JRuby, which enables Ruby to run Rails applications on the Java platform. We also offer a series of articles for developers to "master" the art of building applications with Grails, which is written in Groovy and gives developers a seamless integration with Java code while adding the flexibility and dynamism of a scripting language.

Finally, IBM is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of companies requiring developers skilled in Java. To meet the demand for Java proficient developers, our Academic Initiative has over 1.1 million students trained on Java-related technologies. IBM's Academic Initiative offers IBM mentors as ambassadors to schools across the globe, to teach aspiring developers Java-related skills through a vast library of resources, including tutorials, forums, and software downloads.

Q: Which technologies do developers need to focus on now, so they are well prepared for the future? What technologies do you think will most influence development in the next five years?

A. There's no doubt the global marketplace will continue to expand. IBM experienced unprecedented global growth in the last year, with growth in BRIC countries increasing 37 percent in 2007 compared with 2006. Key future technologies will support global growth and help companies meet both the challenges and opportunities afforded by today's global developer community.

Corporate demand for Web 2.0 skills continue to climb, and no wonder: Web 2.0 technologies promise to transform the way people will work with each other, partners, and clients. IBM believes Web 2.0 technology such as mashups, collaboration tools, and virtual worlds will help companies of all sizes provide better customer service, more flexible work environments, and meet the challenges of globalization. This is why IBM has made Web 2.0 a major focus of its developer initiatives.

We also believe key technologies such as SOA and SaaS will continue to drive the direction of enterprise IT in the near and medium term. Due to superior interoperability and flexibility, open source and open standards technologies will underpin the growth in adoption of SOA and SaaS worldwide. IBM's developer programs not only serve as a resource for the developers and IT professionals in today's work force, but also strive to incubate the next generation of developers.

One of IBM's recent initiatives, for example, was the launch of Innov8, a video game that teaches SOA and BPM skills to university students, helping them develop a combination of business and IT skills. This will become increasingly valuable in tomorrow's workplace.

As the community continues to evolve and become more dynamic, IBM will continue make it easier for developers to find relevant information, develop cutting edge skills, and most importantly—to connect and share their knowledge and ideas with IBM and each other.

Thanks again for joining us, Stephanie.

About the Interviewer

Rosemarie Graham is the Managing Editor of Developer.com and Gamelan.com.

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