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IBM Launches Academic Cloud

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IBM plans to make several parts of its extensive software portfolio available in a cloud-computing environment as part of an effort to help professors around the world to incorporate technology into their curricula.

Company officials on Wednesday said IBM worked with more than 200 academic and technology leaders to figure out the best ways to integrate IT learning into all aspects of a college education, which they hope will improve students’ overall aptitude for information management, business analytics, digitized records and green technologies.

The resulting Academic Skills Cloud is free and gives colleges and universities the added benefit of not having to pay for any of the infrastructure required in the past to offer a suite of business intelligence and IT management applications.

It also gives IBM (NYSE: IBM) an opportunity to expand its brand and make an early impression on the next generation of engineers, developers and business leaders as they become familiar with Big Blue’s software components.

“Businesses today are looking to the technology industry and academia to produce a highly skilled workforce that can help drive transformational projects and solve industry-specific problems,” Jim Corgel, general manager of IBM’s Academic Initiative, said in a statement. “IBM is collaborating with academia to meet these needs and deliver IT skills through cloud computing to help the next generation of entrepreneurs graduate and be ready to innovate.”

The first wave of academics using the cloud will be able to teach technology skills based on IBM Rational, WebSphere and Information Management software including Rational Application Developer, Rational Team Concert, Rational Software Architect, WebSphere Application Server, DB2 and Informix, IBM officials said.

It plans to add additional software over time including Cognos, Lotus and Tivoli.

IBM officials said the initial IBM Academic Skills Cloud aims to help students learn how to develop software and better understand how it works with Web 2.0 and cloud-computing platforms to assist business decisions. They will also be able to access IT curriculum from anywhere using their laptop or notebook computers.

Eventually, the goal is to give these students the skill sets they’ll need to differentiate themselves from other graduates down the road.

Faculty will be able to quickly integrate new IT courses in their course of studies and more easily facilitate long-distance and group learning programs while freeing up existing university IT resources for other projects, they said.

“Cloud computing is a new consumption and delivery model inspired by consumer Internet services,” IBM officials said in a statement. “Businesses are rapidly adopting cloud computing to consume information technology and services over a secure network.”

Analysts are predicting that 2010 will be the year of the cloud and the beginning of the decade of the cloud as more and more organizations adopt either a hybrid strategy with both on-premises and on-demand applications or move exclusively to cloud-based offerings.

IBM has announced a number of new cloud partnerships and customer wins including a giant deal to build and operate the first private sector, cloud-computing environment in Korea for South Korean telecom giant SK Telecom.

Competitors Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) have recently debuted similar collaboration and education features that can be accessed through the cloud.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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