IBM Opens AlphaWorks Technology to Universities

IBM has launched a new program to provide university students and faculty free access to nascent technologies on its alphaWorks site.

The goal of the Academic Licensing Program, says Marc Goubert, manager of IBM’s alphaWorks group, is to train, educate and build a loyal base of future developers on emerging technologies and open standards.

“We want to spur innovation from universities and our future software engineers,” Goubert tells ProgrammingTrends. “We want to provide students and faculty with new software concepts that wouldn't necessarily be taught otherwise. We feel that working with faculty, giving them some of these emerging technology concepts, will help us to build a firmer base and a more innovative software developer generation to come.”

Under the new licensing program, faculty at accredited universities will have access to more than 25 cutting-edge IBM technologies, including simulations and games, middleware tools for enabling grid computing, open-standards technologies such as Java and Eclipse, and new technologies for creating applications accessible to the vision impaired.

"Approximately 40 percent of these emerging technologies have evolved into future IBM offerings," says Goubert. "So this isn’t pie-in-the-sky stuff."

MIT and Harvard's Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences will be the first to participate in the program, Goubert says.

IBM launched its alphaWorks Web site in 1996 as an emerging technology showcase for developers. A component of IBM’s developerWorks, alphaWorks is where the company publishes early implementations of technologies and research prototypes primarily for early adopters.

Earlier this year, IBM opened the alphaWorks site to provide new online resources around what it calls research topics, which include technology downloads, demonstrations, articles and researcher profiles.

A year ago, the company launched the IBM Academic Initiative, a program that allows university faculty to use IBM software and middleware for free in teaching scenarios. More than 1,400 colleges and universities are participating in the Academic Initiative, which IBM credits with helping colleges and universities offer more than 2,000 new courses. The Academic Licensing Program was a logical next step, Goubert says.

"There’s a logical connection here," he says. "If we’re giving away licenses to academic institutions to use our full-blown enterprise-ready software and middleware, then why not do that with some of these emerging technology concepts and prototype materials as well?"

As part of this program, IBM is offering:

  • Free licenses with no time restrictions for emerging technologies that faculty can use for teaching purposes
  • Education events for universities to provide information on how these emerging technologies work and impact software development
  • Assistance with the development of classes that incorporate the emerging technologies
  • Forums on alphaWorks to allow faculty and students to give communicate and give feedback directly to IBM researchers

Examples of alphaWorks technology now available to universities free through the new Academic License program include:

- CodeRuler: an animated graphical simulator designed to "stretch your Java programming skills"

- CodeRally: Players develop a rally car and make decisions about when to speed up, turn, or slow down based on the location of other players or checkpoints, their current fuel level and other factors. Each player can test its car locally against a number of sample rally cars.

- aDesigner: a disability simulator that helps Web designers ensure their pages are accessible and usable by the vision impaired

Capturing next-generation mindshare by investing in schools with free IT is a classic vendor strategy, and IBM isn't the only one doing it. Microsoft recently announced plans to invest in joint research projects with Japanese universities on security and natural language processing.

For a complete list of alphaWorks technologies and downloads, click here. For more information on the IBM Academic Initiative, click here.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].