John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, joined Twitter in Siberia

The story is about a visit (19 – 23 Feb) of an IT-related delegation the USA to Moscow and Novosibirsk.

The delegation headed by Jared Cohen of Hillary Clinton’s policy-planning staff included John Donahoe, president and CEO of eBay; Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter; Esther Dyson, currently of EDventure; Shervin Pishevar, founder of Social Gaming Network; Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco Systems and some others. Well, among the others there was Ashton Kutcher (!). In Moscow, the delegation has had contacts at the level of the Russian President Administration and IT-related ministries. In Novosibirsk (mostly in Academgorodok – a research and techno campus) they visited some high-tech companies and an emerging Techno-park, and met technology experts, students, and administrations.

Couple of reasons inspired me to write about this visit:
- My software development company LEDAS (basic CAD technologies) and CAD/PLM web portal isicad are operating in the above mentioned Academgorodok, you can read about this for example in Ralph Grabowski’s book; (unfortunately I could not accept an invitation to the yesterday Round Table of the USA delegation with Novosibirsk IT experts but I’ve got a lot of internal notifications and infos),
- I met Esther Dyson in late Soviet times when she was already very active in contacting with Soviet programmers; in 1990, the first thing I saw in her NY office was a bottle of Russian brandy – although (likely forever) unopened,
- There is a hypothetical specific relationship between this delegation and a recent scandal in the Russian CAD market (see my special post AutoCAD for $50: Scandalous Suspension of torrents.ru),
- The Russian media closely connects the visit with the current Russian innovation wave.

While scanning some USA and Russian publications, I tried to formulate my own feeling about what is all this about.

From the USA part, it looks more or less clear from at least:
- An official quote saying that the visit is a “… part of a State Department-sponsored initiative to share U.S. expertise on such daunting problems as corruption and human trafficking”,
- An interview with John Donahoe who confirmed his clear business interest in Russia: very soon launching a Russian language eBay service in the immediate future, negotiating on local partnerships on PayPal and other projects.

From the part of Russia, all reasonable high-tech business investments and partnerships are obviously useful and welcome. On the other hand, maybe there is also a strong political aspect, both internal and external. In Russian society there is a visibly growing understanding that basing national economy mainly on oil and gas is a dead end. The government seems to recognize that Putin’s slogan of stability which was politically very advantageous (and maybe initially useful) is now becoming not efficient and not popular – if not politically dangerous. Recently, President Medvedev announced a national slogan of modernization (or innovation) which sounds attractive but not very constructive. The government feels that some concrete projects should be launched, the projects that can definitely be associated (internally and externally) with the policy of innovations.

One of such innovation projects was announced by the Russian President Administration a couple weeks ago: to invest billions into building a Russian Silicon Valley near Moscow. Some aspects of the plan look at least not obviously natural: first, the government is strongly asking big Russian businesses to invest their money; second, the government itself is going to promptly (in 1-2 months) organize a selection of projects that will be invited to the new Silicon Valley; third, the government is going to broadly invite foreign specialists and managers to help bootstrapping this tech-tech zone (which maybe will have a somewhat restricted access). What is interesting, there are governmental explanations that such big high tech projects are worldwide usually organized top-down; in particular after the Moscow meetings with the USA high-tech delegation, there were official statements saying that the leading USA experts confirmed that such top-down scheme is reasonable and probably traditional.

On the other hand, many people in Russia believe that innovations should naturally arise as private initiatives in an appropriate social, economic and legal setting. In Russia there are already many interesting innovative projects (two of them that I know quite well were shown to the USA delegation in Academgorodok); and such initiatives would mushroom in a favorable atmosphere and benefit from it, and of course would be open to investment support.

So far, as Jared Cohen mentioned in his twitter, 1000 engineers from Novosibirsk are working for Microsoft, other 40,000 working in Silicon Valley, CA.

Above all, the Delegation got a lot of Siberian impressions, some of them easily extracted from twitter: snowing, frost, vodka, … , scientific broadness of the Academy, so many very clever guys, candid communication with the University students…. In particular, one can find out that it was in Siberia where John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, decided to join Twitter – however with a specific name @TallBoy6.

One can read official news about this visit at the US Government web page – marked as “diplomacy in action” with a photo of Ashton Kutcher speaking to Siberian schoolchildren (however not seen at the pic). A much more informative English article is U.S. Government, Geek Luminaries: To Russia With Tech .

AutoCAD for $50: Scandalous Suspension of torrents.ru in Moscow

Yesterday a discussion section of the Autodesk Russian web site was attacked by numerous angry users of torrents.ru. The Autodesk web site administrators had to clean up their pages from obscene words blaming Autodesk as guilty for temporary closing of the very popular torrents.ru which then moved from Russian hosting to rutracker.org.

The closing was initiated by the Moscow prosecutor's office which opened an investigation against the web site. The investigation has found that torrents.ru users downloaded illegal software – in particular, those of Autodesk and of 1C (the largest and a very popular Russian ERP vendor). For example, a purchase of AutoCAD for the price $50 was traced to torrents.ru.

As I can conclude from the discussion at the Autodesk Russian web site, the company denies any explicit or implicit suggestions that these actions would have been performed on behalf of Autodesk which got the news in the same way as all other people – from the media, meaning that law executors never ask the right holders what should be done to lawbreakers.

For me, the key point of this episode is that among angry comments at the forums there was no blaming of the illegal software downloading. In particular, in a related discussion at isicad.ru (where I am the editor) one of the angry CAD professionals, an active visitor of isicad.ru who does not look like a friend of Autodesk:), argued that the prosecutor's decision was not fair because (a) “in Russia you can buy illegal software everywhere almost for free; this is a basic feature of Russian mentality” and (b) can’t believe that Autodesk did not itself initiate the case.

So, many people in Russia believe that a simple and straightforward interpretation of the torrents.ru case (and similar cases) is improbable; and prefer looking for some underlying reasons. A nice example is an opinion – repeatedly expressed at some web forums – that recent severity of the Moscow prosecutor's regarding torrents.ru is related to a current visit of a USA high-tech delegation to Russia (see my post John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, joined Twitter in Siberia): i.e., the Russian authorities are pointedly demonstrating to the international community their strong commitment to combating against illegal software and more generally – to establishing the rule of law in Russia.

Whatever it is, the actual trend is positive: compared to 90% of illegal software in the 90s, today this indicator is estimated as 70% or less. My own impression is that, in spite of the above mentioned comments, social mentality (at least in high tech) is slowly but definitely developing in the right direction.

One of the sources (in Russian): a Vedomosti newspaper article.


HP and PTC support COFES-Russia Seminar in September 2010

Earlier I already presented COFES-Russia Seminar and Multi-vendor Forum isicad-2010 in Moscow . Today I want to announce that Hewlett-Packard and Parametric Technology have decided to become the event’s partners.

HP is mainly interested to present to relevant audience the company’s large format printing solutions that are becoming more and more popular in Russia. Above all, the Russian CAD/PLM market is excited by the prospects of democratization of 3D-printing recently outlined by the entrance of HP into this market domain. For sure, the audience will expect to hear news about all kinds of HP hardware – not excluding cloud computations as they mentioned at the HP web site. HP will also support the event’s exhibition of printed projects developed by students in CAD, architecture, design, and other related fields.

Today PTC demonstrates growth not only in financial indicators but also in general activity including marketing. For instance, during this spring in four Russian largest cities the company will hold its “Innovation Forum” (isicad is invited to become the general information partner of this event). At COFES-Russia, PTC will in particular organize a working group to discuss topical issues of CAD technology.

Earlier Autodesk and Dassault Systemes also became partners of the COFES-Russia and isicad-2010 Forum.


Clouds in Russia

Cloud technology is rapidly becoming a mainstream solution worldwide. Although in Russia this direction, at least as SaaS, was earlier implemented in some particular cases (see for example Ralph Grabowski’s report about ASCON, the leading Russian CAD company), it's interesting that here this trend came up very fast to a somewhat advanced (meta?) business and technological scheme – a large marketplace to get together developers and customers of cloud and SaaS solutions.

As it was announced in today’s press-release (available so far only in Russian), business and infrastructure aspects of this marketplace (called Softcloud) is organized and supported by Softline, a Russian company which likely is the biggest Russian provider of IT-services, a partner and VAR of Microsoft, Oracle, Autodesk, Symantec, and many others. Softline has a really huge reselling network - not only in Russia.

Technological partner of the project is Parallels, Inc., a privately-held virtualization technology company. Its marketing, finance, sales, and management are located in the USA while its 500+ developers are working in Russia (Moscow and Novosibirsk). Softcloud is based on the Parallels Automation platform which supports development of cloud services.

The press-release says that, along with technological support from Parallels, Softline offers to SaaS developers a spectrum of opportunities related to distribution and promotion of SaaS solutions.

Softcloud provides platforms for services hosting as well as a full-cycle of sales organization. It is mentioned that "among vendors of Softcloud there are Microsoft, Google Inc, Symantec, and others". Currently the project’s catalogue includes 20+ SaaS-services, their "accessibility and security are guaranteed by hosting in a network of high level data centers allocated in the USA and Europe".