Yin meets yang
Blog Authors: Valerie Skinner 060000VKGS is part of the IBM developerWorks team, getting to know the real developers who make up the My developerWorks community and exploring the world of social networking. I'm enjoying learning what makes developers tick! I'm very interested in exploring online communities and social media and understanding real world application - how they can help people solve problems and work together.
vskinner 060000VKGS Tags:  interview ibm_innovation_center ibm_business_partners my_developerworks iic mydw israel isv 2 Comments 5,010 Views
This week I'm bringing you an interview with Eitan Gal, the manager of the IBM Innovation Center in Israel. IBM Innovation Centers help ISVs, developers and students learn about new technology, as well as helping IBM Business Partners build and integrate solutions, close deals and grow business. I wanted to interview Eitan because he can share what happens at an IBM Innovation Center, as well as giving the scoop on a lot of exciting activity happening with ISVs in Israel.
Tell me about yourself and what you're currently working on...
I have 25 years experience in the IT industry, started as an IT programmer at Intel IT here in Israel. I am with IBM for the last 11 years, in the first three years I was part of Lotus Sametime development team and since 2001 I am proud to be part of the Israeli IBM Innovation Center (IIC) team. In my first three years at the IIC, I have worked with IT architects from local ISVs in the Telecommunication area such as Amdocs and Comverse. In 2004, I became the IIC team manager. Today we are a team of eleven professionals, IT Architect and Technical consultants, covering the Israeli ISV market, which is one of the largest ISV communities in the world, with about 3,500 local high tech ISV companies. The Israeli IIC is part of the Global Technology Unit (GTU). The GTU's mission is to evaluate and develop partnership for IBM with local ISVs, whose innovative solutions are incorporated in IBM products and services, ensuring a strong value proposition for both IBM and the ISV in joint sales initiatives.
What aspect of software and solution architecture do you most enjoy?
As the IIC leader, I enjoy being part of the GTU team which assesses new ISVs for partnership with IBM. In addition to looking at business aspects, we explore the full technology potential of IBM Hardware and Software, which can be adopted by the ISVs in their solutions. The process requires deep understanding in the ISV solution architecture, and in IBM products which can potentially bring high value as part of the ISV solution. One of the end results of the assessment process is a technology road map, which we build jointly with the ISV. This road map outlines the IBM technologies that the ISVs will adopt according to a time line plan. In 2009 we evaluated 160 new ISVs, and performed around 200 Technology enablement projects, most of them took place with new ISVs.
From your perspective, how is the software industry unique in Israel?
In two aspects:
1. Israel has a concentration of more than 3500 local ISVs, in a country smaller then New Jersey :-). In the last 15 years over 250 companies were involved in M&A transactions. More than 90% of ISVs influence is outside of Israel as the local market is very small. Most local ISVs are looking for partnership with IBM, and see IBM as a partner which can bring global reach.
2. I think that part of our culture is risk taking, and local ISVs are early adopters that are willing to try new technologies and new product releases. This can be useful for these ISVs, but can sometimes put them in a problematic situation. It is important to understand that the Israeli high tech landscape is rich in entrepreneurial activity and early stage companies that are facing the decision about which platform to support. So we have a unique opportunity to work with these entrepreneurs at very early stages and in 2009 we increased significantly our activities with them through IIC events dedicated for this community.
What is the most interesting thing about IBM Innovation Centers that you think more people should know about?
We are one-stop-shop for ISV's IBM hardware and software needs for the local ISV market. We cover products in all IBM brands, with our primary focus on WebSphere, Information Management, Tivoli, System X and P. In addition to our IIC experts, we have Technical Business Partners which expand our support capabilities in areas where we are not experts. We also engage other IBM organizations and the IBM Lab whenever needed. In addition to product support we provide assistance for ISVs in the different certification processes available, such as "Ready for....." programs and the IBM Industry framework programs.
Do you have any plans coming up at the IBM Innovation Center in Israel soon that you're excited about?
We are excited to enter the Cloud space, In 2010 we plan to have some new exciting Cloud Products such as CloudBurst, and iDataFlex. We also evaluate the Cloud for Developers offering for our ISVs.
Which technologies or products does your IBM Innovation Center have the most expertise in?
Websphere and Information Management are the software brands we're strongest in. On Websphere in addition to the WebSphere Application Server we also support the Business Process Modeleing products such as Websphere Modeler, Process Server and Websphere ESB. In the Information Management area, in addition to the mainstream products such as DB2 and Data Stage, we have started in 2009 to support Cognos, and we see very high potential in the ISV market for Cognos.
Are there new technologies or products you want to learn or expand for 2010?
We are going to expand our support capabilities in two areas: Cloud related technologies on both the HW and SW side. With products such as CloudBurst and Cloud offering for developers. In addition, we plan to enhance our "vertical" Skills, which are Industry related skills. One of our main missions is to increase our ISVs presence in the different Industry Frameworks offered by IBM.
How do you use developerWorks?
developerWorks and My developerWorks demonstrate our technology strength. I see developerWorks as our face to IT professionals....in many occasions people that were introduced to the developerWorks site were amazed by the content they could find there and IBM's involvement in Open Source. We actively promote developerWorks and My developerWorks to our ISV community; it is our team's main resource for technical information, and often IIC technical consultants refer ISVs to developerWorks for technical information they need.
In your spare time, if you have any, what hobbies or activities interest you?
Reading..... .Swimming and Jogging.......outdoor activities...... jogging in a beautiful park near Jerusalem, near where I leave. Woodworking and Iron works, I have a small nice workshop, and have my works album in Facebook.
- Thanks Eitan!
This week get to know Jonas Martinsson, a product manager at Mainsoft creating integration with software platforms from IBM, Microsoft and Google. Connect with Jonas at:
His profile on My developerWorks
Tell me about yourself and what you're currently working on...
I am a product manager at Mainsoft, where we create products integrating various software platforms from IBM, Microsoft and Google. We focus on making collaboration easy and ubiquitous for end-users.
What first sparked your interest in technology?
My parents got me a Commodore 64 in the eighties, on which I spent endless hours developing programs around my ideas. Ever since those days, my fascination for technology has fueled innovative product ideas. I frequently update a huge document named "Projects for a Rainy Day". I hope to eventually get a chance to work on a couple of them.
Tell me about one of your favorite Mainsoft integrations with IBM products that you've worked on...
Having to choose one, I'd say the integration between Lotus Notes and SharePoint. If you're like the majority of knowledge workers, you send and receive document attachments on a daily basis. You probably never reflect on alternative approaches, but with this solution you put the documents on the collaboration server, and send document links to your colleagues instead. This makes a lot of sense on many different levels; for example, you will avoid parallel conflicts when many editors are collaboration on a document, while simplifying your Inbox.
As a former software developer, what do you think about Jazz and the movement towards collaborative development?
I am excited to see how Jazz changes the landscape for developers. For Java developers, I see Jazz as the natural choice for development environment. What I love most about Jazz is its great balance between getting up to speed quickly and assisting you to use a proven development process.
You have a long-standing interest in agile, with a master's thesis on the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). What's happening in agile these days that you're keeping an eye on?
In its early days, agile had a bad reputation in the higher echelon of organizations. It was a grassroots movement back then. I am thrilled to see agile becoming ubiquitous in the IT sector. Actually, the situation has changed so much now that we have an opposite problem; organizations claim agility, even if they just adopt a subset of the agile values. That's why I think the next logical step for the agile community should be to clearly communicate what agile is. The agile manifesto is a good start, but we need more.
The biggest challenge for a truly agile adoption is, and has always been, that it requires a shift in the organization's culture. I don't believe that there is a uniform approach to successfully tackling this critical challenge.
I am also happy to see ideas from my thesis on integrating agile and the CMM finally being resonated, with initiatives such as Scott Ambler's Agile Scaling Model.
You worked as a software developer before becoming a product manager - How are these two roles different? Is there anything you miss about being a software developer?
I couldn't have been a successful software product manager without a developer background. This knowledge helps me to understand the possibilities, challenges and limitations of the development teams. What I love most about being a product manager is that I have a full picture of the organizational goals and efforts, and an important role to play for any future success. And, I have natural contact points with everyone in the organization.
I confess that I miss working with code from time to time. When I do, I spend time on my personal, award-winning project FeedJournal, where anyone can generate a personal newspaper from a set of favorite feeds. Running a micro-ISV like this is an amazing opportunity to get practice performing a bunch of different roles, from marketing to QA.
How do you use developerWorks?
Beside following interesting bloggers, such as Scott Ambler, our company uses My developerWorks internally to dogfood our integration product between Rational Jazz and Lotus Connections. I also enjoy listening to the developerWorks podcasts while commuting.
How do you use social networking in your day to day life?
I am writing for several blogs, and I am active on Twitter. I am also consuming over a hundred news feeds. I use Google Reader for shorter news alerts type feeds, and FeedJournal for really digesting longer articles. With the large amount of information that hits me daily, this is the only approach that works for me.
I've had a chance to interview a few people working in IT in Israel, and I've been very fascinated by the hotbed of high tech entrepreneurship happening there. What's it like working at a software company in Israel?
I spent the first ten years of my career in the Swedish IT industry. When I moved to Israel, I was in a good position to learn the differences between Swedish and Israel approaches to software development and organizational structure. Generally speaking, Israelis are entrepreneurially strong and amazing at working hard to reach early success. This is why we're seeing so many Israeli startups scoring risk capital and gaining exposure on the TechCrunch scene.
One of the strengths of the Swedish software organization is process awareness. The Swedish mindset is focused, organized and methodological, a recipe which earns rewards as companies grow and become more mature.
One of the things you are interested in is existential risk - now that would keep me up at night! Has the topic of existential risk changed the way you view your work in IT or vice versa?
Existential risk is an area I became interested in a couple of years ago. It is obviously difficult to underestimate the importance of this subject, if we do, it is game over. So far, I haven't had the opportunity to combine this interest with my software development background, but a lofty dream is to in any way contribute to our survival as a species.
I have to say, checking out your blog, you're a very interesting guy, with such a wide range of interests, from writing to chess to agile to piano to existential risk. How do these other pursuits help keep you sharp?
Thank you. I feel I am always obsessing over something. I guess that doing this, diving deep into interests, helps me to stay sharp.
- Thanks Jonas!