IBM has invested R300 000 in the development of a new Open Computing Centre to benefit the community of KwaZulu Natal province, including academia, entrepreneurs, public organisations and businesses. 

This latest deployment adds to the two existing centres at the universities of Cape Town and Wits – altogether making up an investment in excess of R1-million.
IBM’s Open Computing Centres are resource facilities fully equipped with a network of workstations (at least 10 PCs), a variety of servers including Blades, and open source software such as Linux, WebSphere, DB2 (database), and Apache.
“This investment is a further demonstration of IBM’s strong, global commitment to supporting open computing and standards. Through these resource centres, the company is giving free access to the academia, business partners, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), entrepreneurs, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to latest technologies, which can be used for research as well as generation of new business ideas and solutions,” says Maureen Baird, IBM South Africa’s Executive – Business Development, Winback and Solutions.
The Durban Open Computing Centre is housed at the facilities of SmartXchange, which is a business incubator that is helping to drive the growth of new businesses and the economy through information and communication technology (ICT) in the province. The centre can also be used for demonstration of proof of concepts, infrastructure solutions, ISV applications and academic research.
“We are very excited to have the IBM Open Computing Centre located at SmartXchange, which the KwaZulu Natal province uses as a vehicle to promote economic development through ICT. Moreover, the fact that the academia and SMEs are able to access open computing technologies from a multinational of IBM’s stature is priceless, and it delivers the desired results almost immediately,” says SmartXchange’s CEO, Martin Cele.
SmartXchange runs investment promotion, skills development and business incubation programmes, and has a number of SME businesses that are working on IBM technology that would rely on this centre for quick delivery. In excess of 40 SME organisations in the ICT area form part of SmartXchange – and account for about 75% of the SME community in Durban. In turn, Durban accounts for about 80% of ICT activity in KwaZulu Natal, the country’s second largest centre of economic activity in terms of GDP contribution.
“Together with the professional support of IBM and SmartXchange, this centre promises to provide the academic community in KwaZulu Natal with high quality, state-of-the-art, facilities that will encourage and enhance intra-academic and academia-wide collaborations that were not previously possible,” says Prof Manoj Maharaj, University of KwaZulu Natal’s Head of the School of Information Systems and Technology.
He believes that properly managed, this facility will provide a fertile environment for the germination of new ideas and applications which will further the expansion of the open source movement and ultimately make affordable computing, together with its attendant benefits, accessible to all.
“IBM has concretely demonstrated its commitment to the University of KwaZulu Natal in particular by providing the School of Information Systems and Technology with high quality, taught modules in an investment exceeding R150 000,” Prof Maharaj adds.
IBM plans to grid all the three centres and introduce latest technology developments in the next expansion phase.