Exclusive: IBM Inaugurates New Cloud Services Center in Costa Rica

In an exclusive interview with IBM's Manager of Cloud Services in Costa Rica, Nearshore Americas uncovered the details of the new center, as well as IBM's talent-boosting collaborations with educational institutes.

Cloud computing is fast becoming a topic akin to IoT, Big Data and artificial intelligence, with enterprises of all sizes beginning to take more advantage of software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), data centers and other services, on a pay-for-use basis.

But, even with the absence of physical infrastructure and in-house software installations, the requirement for support in these cloud-based services has not changed: companies and individuals still need experts to guide their hand when the going gets tough.

In an exclusive announcement, Luis Carlos Murillo Zamora, Manager of Cloud Services for IBM Costa Rica, revealed to Nearshore Americas that IBM had inaugurated its newest Cloud Services Center in Costa Rica, providing a physical location for its cloud support team in the country. Read on for the full interview.

Nearshore Americas: What brought about IBM’s decision to dedicate an entire center to cloud support in Costa Rica?

Zamora: Cloud computing is growing at an accelerated rate, so IBM is forecasting high demand in the near future. This demand is likely to grow massively, so we are enhancing our center and the skills of our technical professionals in order to mitigate this exponential growth.

Luis Carlos Murillo Zamora
Luis Carlos Murillo Zamora

Four years ago, it was uncommon to hear about cloud computing in the same way we know it today, so we began forming a team in Costa Rica who would support most of IBM’s global cloud services clients. But, with the growth I mentioned on the horizon, we needed to react, so the inauguration of this dedicated operational center in Costa Rica is to focus only on cloud customers and cloud services. The new center gives our cloud team a physical headquarters, which includes a client briefing room and a training room–or laboratory–for internal training. This was necessary in order to create new professionals in certain technologies.

The company has been operating in Costa Rica for several years, but we just have around five years working as a center in cloud technologies. IBM Cloud Services in Costa Rica supports around 14 data centers around the world and more than 15 cloud products, as well as infrastructure, customer applications used within the cloud, and our 360 service.

In the world of technology, there’s a huge selection of technologies that we could support. For every single application that goes into the market, there should be an expert to back it up. In order to be prepared to support any technology that the client uses locally, or through our cloud service, we constantly prepare these experts to absorb knowledge on any new solutions. Our new Cloud Services Center provides us with the tools we need to prepare these professionals.

Nearshore Americas: This is the most recent in a number of IBM investments in Latin America over the last few years. How will the new center fit into IBM’s LatAm ecosystem?

Zamora: We now have 9 IT services centers and 23 data centers in the region, including a new 900 square-meter SoftLayer data center in Mexico, as well as a Cloud Center in São Paulo, which is connected to the Cloud Managed Services Pod in Hortolândia and was launched last year. This new center in Costa Rica is a continuation of our investment strategy and our plans for cloud services.

The company has a virtual team structure in cloud computing that allows us to work independently of the countries we serve. These virtual teams cover each specific technology that we support, and can be based in any cloud center in the world. Costa Rica is right now becoming one of those centers.

Nearshore Americas: How did IBM approach the acquisition of talent when it first arrived in Costa Rica?

Zamora: At the beginning, we arrived without the talent we needed in Costa Rica. There were not enough experts in the country to cover certain technologies, so we hired experts from Venezuela and other neighboring nations to help us build internal academies. Our SAP academy in Costa Rica has been successful, starting with just one person but turning that into a wave of ten experts, which was difficult to find in Central America. Today, most of our talent is from Costa Rica.

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Nearshore Americas: Alongside the SAP academy, how else does IBM train local talent to be ready for the tidal wave of cloud services on the horizon?

Zamora: Once engineers finish their studies, they are ready with a basic knowledge of software and services, but finding people with knowledge of supporting applications is difficult, because those skills are obtained during work experience, not university. This is a big picture for us; we can’t just train people internally and forget about everyone else. Our focus now is to help Costa Rica develop this talent.

To do this, we are working hand in hand with Universidad Latina and Universidad CENFOTEC to train these high-demand skills and prepare new experts. With Universidad Latina, we are working on creating a Master’s degree program on cloud computing, which should be ready to go this year. We do this by supplying our experts to train their teachers and by implementing some of their knowledge into the country’s current curricula. We hope that both public and private universities will share this vision with us to constantly maintain the high-level technical skills of the student community in Costa Rica.

Additionally, we have been investing in local mentorship programs that almost acts as its own local university in our office. Our plan is to expand these programs to our internship students as well, because the chance to learn with us with ensure that the technology professionals of the future are created at the right stage.

Nearshore Americas: What do you consider to be the strongest traits of Costa Rican talent?

Zamora: Language, particularly English, is a big part of Costa Rica’s culture, so we have started to absorb some of that English culture. It is very common to find a large amount of Costa Ricans who speak fluent English, but we are also getting accounts requesting services in Portuguese as well, so this willingness to absorb new languages is providing us with new opportunities. Portuguese was something we were lacking a couple of years back, but now we are trying to become a three language country. English is very important for the business we are in, because our global clients expect a certain level of English proficiency.

Costa Rica is also in a great central location, close to the US and close to Brazil. Our time zone has also allowed us to obtain more customers, and our relatively short time in dealing with the technologies we support, we are able to provide our services at a lower price for some clients, which gives us a strategic advantage. Customers also really appreciate the values of our people—we love challenges and we love to always be on top of things.

Nearshore Americas: What is your personal view on the importance of cloud? What future can we expect from the continuing growth of cloud services?

Zamora: I am an IT geek, and, in the geek community, we understand the importance of the huge milestone that is cloud. In 10 to 20 years, companies will need to be on cloud to be efficient, so they need to be ready. Just like the internet, cloud is a concept: you can’t say the internet is just one entity because of the variety of things it has opened up to the world, but cloud can also be considered a concept. Mobile apps run on cloud, IoT devices will also be absorbed by cloud, and the cognitive computing movement, which will allow machines to communicate better with humans, will also rely on cloud to function.

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