Ed ThumCurrently most college students learn core development skills by working on individual projects. But when those students eventually go to work for a larger software company, they will inevitably be part of a team of programmers, working on one small slice of a much bigger pie. While some students do have an opportunity to work on a group project while in school, many do not get exposure to modern collaboration practices.

IBM is helping to rectify this situation with a new offering -- specifically for academics -- called “JazzHub.” JazzHub (currently in beta) is essentially IBM’s flagship collaborative development software (Rational Team Concert) hosted in the cloud. Since its announcement in early June, professors from over 25 institutions spanning nine countries have been admitted into the beta to evaluate the new offering for their classroom usage.

In a typical university deployment, professors or IT administrators at the universities often take it upon themselves to deploy a source code management system – of course that requires not only hardware, but also administrative overhead. With JazzHub, students and professors can start a new project with just a few clicks.

One of the larger deployments of the JazzHub will take place in Italy; Professor Paolo Maresca from Università di Napoli Federico II recently spearheaded a Rational Team Concert initiative over the last two years. Professor Maresca and his colleague, Ferdinando Gorga, launched the project in an effort to give students an opportunity to use real-world collaborative tools in a classroom environment. To date, more than 800 students are using Rational Team Concert on the locally hosted servers in a multi-campus deployment.

When IBM announced the JazzHub in June, Professor Maresca was one of the first to join the beta program. He is actively evaluating the system, and hopes to begin moving students from the locally hosted server to the cloud-hosted JazzHub in the upcoming school year. To date, 33 professors from 26 schools across 12 countries have been admitted to the beta since early June. These professors share a common goal of offering a real-world collaborative environment for their students. Having this option on the cloud removes some of the biggest hurdles – hardware and administrative resources – and allows teachers to focus more on their students, and less on server administration.

IBM has deep roots with of cloud-based solutions, even in academia. For example, IBM teamed with North Carolina State University to create the Virtual Computing Lab. Through the NCSU implementation of VCL, over a quarter-million students at 29 institutions in the North Carolina university system have access the images hosted at NCSU. But the opportunity to leverage VCL images isn’t just limited to schools in North Carolina. Recently the source code for VCL was handed off to the Apache Software Foundation – giving any school the ability to build a similar system.

Another example is the “Academic Skills Cloud.” Currently only open to schools in the U.S., the Academic Skills Cloud offers online server instances which can run images of a vast catalog of IBM software. Just like with JazzHub, with its cloud delivery model, the Academic Skills Cloud removes many of the traditional roadblocks to faculty to accessing the software.

Edward Thum is the Program Director for Product Marketing for IBM Rational's Application Lifecycle Management offerings.