A Look Into Moldova’s ICT Spirit with Grigore Raileanu

Moldova has a lot of entrepreneurs.  As you walk along the streets in Chisinau, the capital city, you constantly pass signs advertising software development companies, data centers, and computer sales.  As citizens of a “developing” country, young people know they need to work smarter, harder, and more creatively to compete with not only each other, but also others countries in Europe and the world.

Grigore Raileanu is one of those aggressive young people.  And an entrepreneur with a successful company named Remsys.  In fact, you may not even know Remsys is a Moldovan company, possibly believing it is based in the US!

Grigore met with us on 4 Feb 2011 to talk about ICT, innovation, and Moldova.  You can listen to the audio file HERE

John Savageau: Today with have with us, Mr. Gigore Raileanu, who does business development with a Moldovan company called Remsys.  Good afternoon Grigore!

RaileanuGrigore Raileanu: Good afternoon John and everyone!

John Savageau: So, please start us off and give us a little background on yourself, and give us a little background on Remsys.

RaileanuGrigore Raileanu: I’m actually doing business development for my first company Remsys.  This company has successfully grown to thousands of systems, managed systems, and heterogeneous infrastructure.  We are positioning ourselves as a managed solutions provider for small and medium businesses.

We are also doing 24 hours (a day) custom technical solutions for our clients, and we are designing and managing complex infrastructures, networks, fighting SPAM, and building clouds.

John Savageau: That’s exciting.  I believe that Remsys has roots based in web hosting and managed services, are you expanding on the initial concept of the company?

Grigore Raileanu: At first our customers were mainly hosting companies, but as I said we have repositioned as a managed solutions provider for small and medium business.  So it’s not only hosting and the like, but our customers quite big, and we even have video-on-demand providers and medical companies.  So it’s not only hosting.

John Savageau: And you are not just limited to Moldovan companies, you also go outside of Moldova?

Grigore Raileanu: Well our companies (clients) are mostly out of Moldova.  A lot of the Moldovan companies we are working for, are actually subsidiaries of foreign companies.

John Savageau: So let’s move on and talk a little about Moldovan ICT.  We’re curious, (you) being an entrepreneur and running your companies.  How do you feel about the ability of Moldovan companies, not only to compete in Moldova against foreign companies, but also within global markets?

Grigore Raileanu: In my opinion Moldovan companies are highly competitive.  Firstly because of costs.  Our teams are delivering full project lifecycle from development and testing, to technical support, and hosting.

ICT companies in Moldova are mostly oriented to business process outsourcing, like software development, testing, or eCommerce.

Many private companies are opening and operating their offices here in Moldova.  This way our companies can be considered as competing on the global market.

John Savageau: Do you have any significant strategies, or ideas you use to make your company – or other Moldovan companies competitive in a global market?

Grigore Raileanu: Actually we are working to improve our technical team skills, our procedures, training, participate in different expositions in order to get more skilled people.

John Savageau: Do you believe the academic community, or education system,… are they preparing workers well enough to compete in the workforce, or to meet your needs with technical or management-level talent?

Grigore Raileanu: I think that our academic community can do it better.  Actually, the universities are not able to satisfy the demand.  Most importantly the quality of studies has to be improved a lot.

Companies spend a lot of resources and money in order to educate and graduate students, as the university’s programs are outdated and need to be revised.

John Savageau: And how about the teachers and instructors,… are they prepared to teach students what they need, or do the instructors also need to increase their capacity?

Grigore Raileanu: Yes, as far as I know, our teachers are also working in ICT companies, so mostly they are involved in the continual process of education.

John Savageau: As far as the students, do the students also have an opportunity to have internships or participation with priovate companies while they are in university?

Grigore Raileanu: Yes, even the ICT Association has such programs, and are running internships, and Moldovan students are participating and gaining knowledge – they are even getting to know the companies they may work with in the future.

John Savageau: Outside of Chisinau, Chisinau being the largest city, with obviously the most resources available – how about the countryside – what is the future of children in the countryside for participating in ICT?

Grigore Raileanu: I think we need to consider that people should not orient towards Chisinau only.  We have a lot of great place like Balti, Cahul, Tiraspol, and we must build our IT development centers there as well.

John Savageau: Is there a  partnership opportunity between private companies and the academic community, or private companies and the government for that matter?

Grigore Raileanu: Actually, yes.  Our association of private IT companies is doing that.  They are doing a lot to improve the situation, and also to change the educational programs and curriculum for our universities.  Also, work with the government to get better conditions for taxes.

Up until this year there was no tax for programmer’s or software engineer’s income.

John Savageau: Let me move on to a different topic, that is cloud computing.  This is a big buzzword.  Everybody around the world talks about cloud computing.  Is cloud computing important to your company, or to Moldova?

Grigore Raileanu: I think yes.  Actually, like you said, cloud is a buzzword, every speaks about cloud, but people understand different things about this.

In my opinion, the cloud is infrastructure able to scale on demand, it is highly secure, and able to decrease IT costs.  Cloud computing will have a significant impact on Moldova, but there is still no market for this in my opinion.

We have to create, and stimulate this market somehow.

I’ve also heard that our government is going to launch, or already launched, a Moldavian cloud project.  It is looking to improve the government, and its subsidiary state corporations by owning the highest available and scalable IT infrastructure.

John Savageau: How about Software as a Service (SaaS).  There are a lot of software companies, specifically in Chisinau.  Do Moldovan companies have an opportunity to develop SaaS applications on a global scale?

Grigore Raileanu: Well, yes, and we are already doing it.  But it is not for internal use, I mean it is not for the Moldavian market.

John Savageau: Is that still an opportunity to learn those skills and be prepared once cloud computing is a factor in Moldova?

Grigore Raileanu: I thin kwe have many things to learn, and improve, in order to create and launch this market.  But yes, there is a place for this market here in Moldova.

John Savageau: How do you believe that Moldovan companies should approach the global market?  Again, we know there is business inside Moldova, but there is also a very large world outside of Moldova – how do you approach that global market?

Grigore Raileanu: Moldova has a lot of companies that are subsidiaries and offices of global companies.  Moldova has to deliver something better in order to compete with countries like India, the Philippines, and so on.  So I think that we will lead by our cultural approach, we are more closed to the occident compared to the Indians or Philippines.

John Savageau: For people who are adults, or have not grown up in the Internet age from childhood accessing Facebook, Skype, and things like that where it is normal, how does the 25~40 age group – how do you think they are going to globalization of communications, and societies and things – are they ready for it?

Grigore Raileanu: Yeah, I am sure they are, it’s not really hard.  From my experience I have talked with people who have never seen a computer.  And if that person is young, has elementary skills, they can work it out and improve their skills.

John Savageau: What so you see as a future for Moldova?  I mean if you have a white board, and you have any idea that you want to put on the white board, what should Moldova do to make itself more competitive, and become a factor in the global economy or in the global marketplace?

Grigore Raileanu: I think Moldova has to orient on mobile services, startups, and even why not build centers for startups to meet investors, governments, and work together to launch some new companies with new ideas.

Maybe the next Facebook will be launched right here in Moldova!

John Savageau: If the Moldova cloud, the government cloud, actually moves forward as aggressively as it does (is planned), that might be one of the first successful cloud projects in the world (government clouds), which means that Moldovan companies that participate would be able to replicate that process in other developing countries in Africa, eastern Europe, Asia,..

How do you feel about that?  Are you ready to go there?

Grigore Raileanu: Of course, being a patriot, I would be very happy because my country is one of the first countries able to launch this project and to give a good example for different countries.

John Savageau: Any other ideas you would like to pass on to the global ICT community, about Moldova, your company, yourself?

Grigore Raileanu: Well my company, we are starting some nation-wide programs, and we are very present on the Moldavian market, and maybe we will have some meetings this year, and bring our services into the (global) market, and if there is no demand for some kinds services we will try to create it, so everyone can benefit.

John Savageau: Thank you very much for taking the time this afternoon.  I wish you and Remsys, and Moldova the best of luck.

How Moldova’s Academic Community Prepares Students for the Internet Age – An Interview with Dr. Victor Besliu

On 2 Feb 2011 we met with Dr. Victor Besliu, Chairman of the of Automation and Information Technology faculty at Moldova Technical University.  Dr. Besliu is a graduate of the Moscow Technical University, and has many strong ideas and recommendations for how Moldova can make students and graduates more competitive not only in the Moldova ICT community, but also the global community.

The interview was conducted mainly in Romanian language, with translation done by Ion Stanciu.  You can listen to the entire audio recording of the interview in Romanian HERE.

Main topics discussed during the interview included;

1.  His opinions on Moldova’s eReadiness

  • He conducted extensive research on the topic during 2005 and 2009
  • Moldova still has only a couple of universities with curriculum focusing on ICT (information and communications technologies)
  • Moldova Technical University (MTU) does offer a major in computer science
  • MTU has around 500 graduates from the program each year
  • Moldova currently has approximately 1500 professional, qualified ICTR specialists working in government and private industry
  • He considers the quality of Moldovan graduates quite high, as most are actually being recruited to work in foreign countries following university

2.  His opinions on how well Moldova is meeting the needs of children, preparing them to function and succeed in an Internet and computer-enabled world.

  • Children at a young age need access to ICT tools, and are able to quickly absorb the technology
  • If children are given access to computers and Internet too early, they could run a risk of slipping into a virtual world, and not being able to function correctly in social environments

3.  On distance education and eLearning

  • Moldova currently has no legal framework for eLearning, meaning formal credits towards degree programs are not available through online education
  • The academic community has begun discussion and planning to consider the question of incorporating eLearning into the curriculum, however that is still an open topic
  • There has not historically been a culture of lifelong learning in Moldova
  • Historically paper (degrees and diplomas) has been given higher status and more respect than experience or knowledge
  • Some face-to-face interaction in the education process is important

4.  On adult education

  • In the old days of the Soviet Union, there were age restrictions on persons entering degree programs (35)
  • Today, in Moldova, there are no age restrictions, allowing any person with prerequisite qualifications to apply for formal university programs
  • Many students from foreign countries apply to, and are accepted, into Moldova’s university system

5.  On how to make the Moldova education system more capable in meeting the needs of all students

  • Politicians must understand the role of communications, computers, and ICT education in the future of Moldova
  • Increase educator salaries and benefits to the level being a teacher in Moldova is an attractive profession
  • Many instructors are already working in private companies part time, allowing them to not only increase their income to the point of survival, but also to keep on top of new and emerging technologies
  • They are changing the university curriculum every 2~3 years based on technology and emerging ICT trends
  • Provide more opportunities for student internships in local companies to give them more practical knowledge of the concepts and theory learned in classrooms
  • Continue tracks within the ICT faculty that allow students to take courses to the degree level taught entirely in a foreign language, including French and English
  • Continue to emphasize beginning Internet and computer exposure into education system from the beginning – young students need to develop tacit knowledge of this technology and become computer/Internet literate not only to function in the workplace, but also in normal society

On a positive note, Dr. Besliu acknowledged many of MTU’s graduates are now well-positioned in Moldova companies, and that trend is expected to continue.  In addition, Many Moldovan expatriates are now returning home, further reinforcing Moldova’s ability to support development of a knowledge economy.



Please check Moldova technical University’s website for more information on their programs and activities.

Audio file for entire interview (in Romanian language) HERE

A Look into Moldova’s ICT Community with Ana Chirita

We first met Ana Chirita while surveying ICT companies in Moldova for a national cloud computing project.  As Executive Director of the Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies, Ana provided introductions to local companies, industry background, and aggressive follow-on support to our project.  As an advocate and evangelist for her community, Ana plays an important role in developing Moldova’s ICT industry.  You can listen to the entire interview on audio here.

John Savageau: This morning we have Ms. Ana Chirita who is the Executive Director of the Moldovan Association of Private ICT (information and communications technology) Companies. Good morning Ana!

What I’d like to do is just have you start out and describe the purpose and the role of the Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies. What is it?

Ana Chirita: It is an association formed of 29 companies, and we are comfortably growing. The main reason to have this group of companies come together is in a way, to have a common vision of how the ICT sector should be developed. And, in a way achieve the main goal up front, which is growing the ICT sector and having it be the main driver for the whole economy of the country.

So basically what we do is represent our company’s interests through constructive dialog. With government we also do promotion of our companies. We try to reach certain levels of education and HR development that can help our companies grow. Because, one of the key issues they have put in their strategy is to help out the industry through investments in education and having good specialists that can work for them (the member companies).

We also focus on opening markets, market development – both locally and internationally. So we do a whole range of activities that help our companies get more visible, grow their revenues, and become viable partners.

John Savageau: And how did you find your way into the association?

Ana Chirita: it was very interesting in a way… I received an email from the current deputy minister (Dona Scola, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information, Technology, and Communications). By then, Dona was working at Chemonics on a project. That was about a year and a half ago.

I just received an email, “would you like to apply for a job?” “Please send me your CV.”

I did not know Dona by then, so I did not know what the job was for, what it was about, what should be done, what I was supposed to do, … So I just send my CV in and said “OK.” The I called for an interview, not even know for what kind of a job! That was quite fun.

I entered the room and there were six men, the current board of directors of the association, and Dona helping out the board.

Then they started asking a lot of questions. I was like, “what?…” The interview took about one hour, I’d say, or an hour and a half. In three, four languages or so. Everybody talking their own language – Romanian, French, English… Then I got out of there and said “oh my gosh… what was that? I didn’t know what I was coming for… I didn’t know what I was supposed to do – just so many questions. ”

In two hours I received a call, “we want to hire you.” So basically that’s how it started. I had my first meeting, we signed a contract, and that was my way into the ICT Association.

John Savageau: It seems like you’ve done pretty good getting 29 companies into the association. Do you have any examples of specific benefits the ICT community members have gained from participating in the association?

Ana Chirita: Yes, I’d say the first thing is they get exposure with, and get dialog with the government. Which means they will know everything that is going around that is in the ICT sector, and what the government wants to do. That is strategy, it means different laws, it means different aspects of that kind of which they can benefit from.

For example, let’s say the fiscal policy. The government was changing the fiscal policy last year, and they got an intervention. Like author rights. The government was changing the law on author rights – we got an intervention.

So basically it is exposure, information, and being able to contribute, to a certain extent, for the benefit of the companies.

Other things that I would like to mention are they (members) get various possibilities to work in a consolidated model. For example if we have campaigns with the universities, or training, or seminars, they get to work as a group, which means lowering their internal resources (costs), because when you do something alone it is one amount, when you do things in a group it is a completely different amount. Basically it is lowering the expenses.

The other thing is that all the training and certifications they get, they get with discounts through the association, which is up to 50% discount. For example, CMMI, for certifications and training in project management, human resource development – whatever it is they always get it for a discount.

All the initiatives on expert promotions. Many companies participate either for free or at reduced costs. (including) various events and business missions, which is considerable for those who are considering export.

Other things, what we are launching now and what we are trying to kind of change within the association is to create new services as a cluster approach that the companies can benefit from, the companies that are in the association can participate, and at the same time benefit.

There are several projects in the concept phase, which in mid-March may be launched or find partners, and be able to get on the market.

So even if we are not able to act as a service provider, we will try to foster that, anyway. So besides lobby, discount – we started the discount program again now. Like 29 companies, that’s about 2000 employees, maybe more. And they can get better prices, lowering their budgets (OPEX/CAPEX) and internal costs by participating in a group.

That makes it reasonable why to pay membership fees (to the association), if they pay, because in a way (paying the fees) it helps in reducing your budget, and makes it less expensive (to operate).

But the main thing of course, lobby and dialog with the government, which can enable the business environment for them to make business or do business easier.

John Savageau: Do you have any major success stories from association members?

Ana Chirita: Depends on which side…

If we talk about the certification side we have six companies certified in IT Mark, basic IT Mark, going for CMMI Level 2.

If we talk about exports we have companies that through the activities we do have gained contracts. If we talk about lobbying we are present in at least five or six working groups in various ministries and agencies and we have been able to get into the position where our opinion is being taken into consideration.

For example with the fiscal policy, or with the author rights. So, we’re working on that now as well. And we hope that within 2011 we’ll achieve those results that we’ve worked for and made studies for.

So basically there are achievements that can be taken into consideration. If you like I can send the report of 2010.

John Savageau: Another question,… With Moldovan ICT companies is how competitive they are within Moldova. What is going to make Moldovan ICT companies more competitive in the global marketplace?

Ana Chirita: Better exposure. (Using) International standards, and because competitiveness is about the human resources, it is about the processes you have inside, it is about the things you follow, and how you follow, maybe a country positioning paper to understand where we’re heading to will help them do better.

But now I think that through those processes they are improving inside, like for some of the companies pursuing certain standards, they are already able to compete. Because many of them do export and compete in international markets.

John Savageau: Is there a role the Moldova government should play in making companies more competitive or to give them greater exposure to the international marketplace?

Ana Chirita: Definitely. I think the government should, first of all the government should identify its priorities in this area, and it will be able to enable. Because without the support of the government it’s like a “one man show.”

Many of the companies have developed themselves (independently) in a way without having certain benefits up to let’s say 2005, 2006 from the government.

The government should play a big role, such as to enable better education , better access to the markets, better positioning, better exposure.

The government is very important to have as a partner.

John Savageau: On import tariffs for things like ICT equipment, is the government supporting the ICT community with tax holidays or anything like that on (equipment) imports?

Ana Chirita: We are trying to work on that now., That’s one of the results we want to achieve, like we want to get a preferential rate on the import of equipment, on ICT goods.

And there is one thing we have in Moldova that we have never promoted in a way, is we have a fiscal facility for software development companies, from 2005. Which is an exemption from income tax. And it depends, up to 18% on physical persons – programmers mainly. And we want to keep that. It gives them a competitive advantage on the regional market for Moldova.

Otherwise we get to the same level as Romania, Bulgaria, and other countries in the region.

So for us it is important to keep these kinds of things (tax breaks), like a preferential regime for ICT, would be able to enable and help out (our competitiveness).

John Savageau: How about the education community in Moldova? Is the academic community adequately preparing graduates to enter the workforce or participate in ICT?

Ana Chirita: According to our studies, and the studies that certain USAID projects have delivered, for example the “Competitiveness Project,” the quantity (of graduates) that Moldova delivers is quite good – by numbers is enough. But the quality (of graduates) is still lagging behind in a way.

So there is a big need for investing in, and promoting, certain technical and soft skills. Because the company has to invest up to 3, 4 times more than the universities or the government gives to the students.

So in a way certain initiatives have taken place contributing vendor-based curricula, or in schools and universities they are trying to update the curricula, or there are private companies that actually hold classes within the universities. Like software engineering classes or quality assurance or something like that as optional or mandatory courses.

But that is a big effort, and that is not enough. There is a need to do more.

John Savageau: That’s an interesting statement you made, do you believe there is a space for private companies and the academic community to work as partners in developing a better ICT capacity?

Ana Chirita: We, as the ICT association are trying to do that in a way, but yes I think there is enough space to have more companies, with educational companies or other types of companies – or even ICT companies trying to work back-to-back with academia in order to reach the (required) level.

Because it’s not only the university level, it’s about the (primary) school level. Because a career in IT is not pursued as a nice thing. The people are not aware that a career in IT has a future. So actually you do not have to go out of the country, or emigrate. You can stay in the country, and have a decent salary.

John Savageau: I agree. And when you compare, perhaps people who are living in the countryside in Moldova, with students who are in Chisinau, or even comparing them to London or Los Angeles,… The ability of children who are growing up in the Internet age possibly could be different based on how much exposure they have to ICT tools that are available at a very young age.

Do you believe there is a risk in Moldova of not being able to compete in the digital community if children today are not rapidly given exposure to that type of environment?

Ana Chirita: it depends. Maybe yes, maybe no. it depends on what is our strategy.

I think we need to invest, and need to encourage getting children more and more involved in technical things and Internet. And being able to know how to use it wisely, and being to have various programs and different types of teaching – not only the traditional one (teaching method) to acquire the skills which are already not (just) a luxury, but a “must have” in the future.

So it’s knowing the basic things, like working with a computer is not a luxury like it would have been 10 years ago.

John Savageau: It’s part of life now.

Any last words you would like to give us on either the association, ICT in Moldova, or any other topics that are of interest to the community?

Ana Chirita: Let me think! You’ve been asking a lot of questions!

Basically I think that we, and I, am very thankful for what is happening now in Moldova. I think with common efforts we can reach better exposure, a more competitive country, and more competitive industry.

As an association we will work and hope the government will be more supportive. We’ll see that steps are undertaken in that sense.

So, that’s it!

John Savageau: That’s a very positive outlook, and we all certainly look forward to seeing how it is going to develop in the future. Thank you very much for taking the time this morning.


MICTMission, Vision, Goals

Mission:  Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies promotes the development of the ICT sector in the Republic of Moldova through viable partnerships between the private companies, similar organizations, state institutions, international organizations in order to enhance the competitiveness and development of the sector and company capacities, enlarge the market, attract investments in the country and participate in the decision making and regulatory process on the national and international level.

Vision: The ICT sector will become an enabler of the Moldovan economy, and Moldovan Association of Private ICT Companies( further ATIC) will contribute to this process through its consultancy means in creating a better life and a better environment in terms of business and social needs. ATIC will get involved into the spheres of education, export, capacity building, competitiveness enhancement to have ICT lead the industry and become a part of any system and process to ensure its development.

Objectives:

  1. To raise the Moldovan ICT industry’s profile and image within the country and on International markets.
  2. To raise the level of co-operation and collaboration amongst members of the Moldovan ICT business community.
  3. To work with Government to improve the business context, legal framework and overall prospects for the sector.
  4. To collaborate with Moldovan Educational institutions to improve over time the quality and quantity of ICT trained graduates.
  5. To help improved levels of professional & management skills within ICT companies.
  6. To improve all aspects of investment opportunities for ICT enterprises in Moldova.

Is Moldova Ready for Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is now a common topic within the Moldova IT community.  Whether we embrace the idea, are skeptical, or reject the idea of cloud computing, it is a topic all of us know we will need to deal with in the very near future.

Cloud computing requires education on several different levels, from the software developer to company CEO.  All of us will need to have a basic understanding of not only the high-level technology of cloud computing, but also the impact cloud computing will have on organizational finances, personnel, business processes, and impact not only locally, but also our place in the international community.

Cloud Readiness Topic 1 – Cloud Training

Learning CloudNot much available in Moldova if you want to take an adult education course in cloud computing, virtualization, or cloud-enabled business.  While there are millions of hits for cloud computing on a Google search , those of us working long hours every day and week cannot always find time to sit and take courses over the web, or do personal research over the web each day.

Nor do all of us have broadband access to the network at home, and will find it difficult to spend hours browsing cloud computing topics at your workplace.

But some good news…  How many of us use GMAIL, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, or other public mail services?  Most?  Then we all have at least a basic exposure to the idea of cloud computing, as all of those services are based in the “cloud.”

Extend that into Google Apps or Microsoft Live Office, and you are actually learning the concepts of cloud computing – at the user level – possibly without even being aware you are already in the cloud community.

However, for business and government decision makers, IT managers, and applications developers – we will quickly need to bring ourselves up to speed on the impact cloud computing models will have on information technologies, organizations, economics, and finances supporting our business.

BOTTOM LINE 1:  Cloud computing is here, and will be as important to us as individuals and organizations as the Internet was 20 years ago.  Take some time and learn the basics – it won’t be too difficult, and may even inspire new ideas how this may help in your personal and professional life.

Cloud Readiness Topic 2 – Our Existing and Future IT Infrastructure

Data CenterLet’s close the door and be honest with each other for a moment…  A large percentage of the software used in Moldova (and to be fair, most countries) may not be licensed.  It is not supported by the vendor, not up to date with security and functionality patches, and all the other pending problems that put our organizations and companies at risk.

We have little disaster recovery planning, incompatible data bases, poor file backup management, and unplanned equipment that has been added piece by piece over the years, with an IT manager who goes home at night praying the disk gods do not decide to crash a drive.

Cloud computing will give us the option of moving our risky IT infrastructure into a virtual, hosted environment.  That will require us to migrate existing applications into the cloud, and (hopefully) start to “dumb” down our individual workstations.  All the right reasons for moving to a cloud.

But, as institutions, we need to start preparing our existing IT environment to move to a cloud environment.  Cloud Readiness preparation will mean we do not add new features, applications, or equipment that will not eventually support migration to a cloud computing platform.

A “cloud first” IT procurement and development policy, everything else approval by exception.

Yes, it will take work.  Yes, it will cost money.  Yes, it might require IT professionals to either learn new skills, or find new jobs.

Much like the changes we made in the 1990s when moving from FAX to Email, floppy disks to hard drives, and stand alone computers to LANs.  Cloud readiness preparations will require us to think differently, much as we have needed to learn new technology and skills throughout history.

BOTTOM LINE 2:  Cloud computing is here, and will impact ALL IT professionals within the next couple of years.  Start preparing your organization for the inevitable move to hosted computing now – you will not regret it.  Even if you do not embrace cloud computing in the near future, the exercise can only have a positive effect on your existing operations.

The Future is Staring at Us, Challenging us to Resist

There are realities we deal with every day.  The sun rises in the east, sets in the west.  We are born, we live, we die.  Beautiful white snow eventually gets dirty, turns to slush, and melts away.

Cloud computing is in our future, and that is as certain as your children using Facebook (another cloud-based application).

We have a very small “window of opportunity” to prepare ourselves to compete and function in a cloud computing world.  Let us not waste this opportunity.

Wireless Moldova

Business travelers worldwide fight a constant battle of connectivity.  Can I call Home?  Can I “Skype” with my family?  Do I have adequate Internet access?

During recent business trips to Chisinau, Moldova, I have had the pleasure of working in a country with excellent, if not superior, Internet access within hotels, parks, Internet cafes, and really any other location within the capital city you would like to “jack in” to the Internet.

As I watch my Slingbox connecting to Channel 2 Evening News in Los Angeles, I am enjoying anywhere between 500Kbps and 900Kbps throughput, more than adequate to keep homesickness under control and keep up to date on the community.

CH2-cap2 Moldova has several Internet Service Providers available for public access, including StarNet, Orange Moldova, MoldTelecom, and lots of resellers of other company Internet capacity. 

The cost of accessing high performance Internet is a fraction of what you would expect to pay in the United States or other “developed” countries, and the performance is among the best I have experiences traveling in at least 15 countries during the past year.

Starnet and Orange take advantage of new terrestrial fiber optic capacity connecting Moldova through Romania, and then directly interconnecting with the global Internet community at Europe’s major Internet Exchange Points, including the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the Frankfurt Exchange (DE-CIX), and London’s LINX.

A traceroute (following the path an Internet packet takes from my computer to my webhost in California) shows excellent routing outside of Moldova:

Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7600]
Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation.  All rights reserved.

C:\Users\John R Savageau>tracert http://www.pacific-tier.com

Tracing route to sbs-p4p.asbs.yahoodns.net [216.39.62.190]
over a maximum of 30 hops:

  1     3 ms    10 ms     2 ms  itns.md [93.113.118.1]
  2     5 ms     3 ms     3 ms  10.11.16.254
  3     7 ms     6 ms    14 ms  ex-starnet.starnet.md [89.28.1.177]
  4     8 ms     5 ms    10 ms  95-65-3-161.starnet.md [95.65.3.161]
  5    68 ms    49 ms    49 ms  ge-1-3-0.pat2.dee.yahoo.com [80.81.193.115]
6   135 ms   137 ms   136 ms  as-1.pat2.dcp.yahoo.com [66.196.65.129]
7   135 ms   134 ms   205 ms  ae-1-d171.msr2.re1.yahoo.com [216.115.108.31]
8   137 ms   137 ms   137 ms  gi-1-45.bas-b2.re4.yahoo.com [216.39.57.5]
9   136 ms   139 ms   136 ms  p4p2.geo.re4.yahoo.com [216.39.62.190]

Trace complete.

Disposable Income Demands Additional Considerations

Market conditions in Moldova are different from the US and other economically developed countries.  Those living below the poverty line in Moldova, according to the CIA World Factbook,  is around 30% .  Disposable income continues to be low, and a small percentage of the population owns or has access to private personal computers.

Thus the cost of Internet access, to develop market, is possibly artificially low.  or the US Internet access providers are artificially high…

Cost of accessing prepaid wireless Internet per month through Liberty WiFi Internet Access, a StarNet reseller:

Capture

NOTE:  1 US$ = ~12 Moldovan Lei

During a recent visit to Moldova I used Orange’s wireless Internet product, which was about 2 times the price of Liberty WiFi, but with equally impressive performance.

Internet Access is Essential for Moldova’s Development

As Moldova continues to struggle through the challenges of building a market economy, dealing with the issues of a newly democratized country, poor rural infrastructure (roads, telecom, power, etc), and socially coming to grips with their place in the European and Eastern communities, Moldova will need to quickly bring their citizens up to speed with technology and wired everything.

chisinau Cloud-based software, such as Microsoft Live Office, Google Docs, Yahoo Mail, and other hosted services will allow Moldovans access to Internet utilities without the high cost of software licensing, further allowing better use of shared resources in Internet cafes, schools, and other public locations.  The government is aggressively pursuing modern eGovernment projects to help the citizens reduce the burden of bureaucracy on their lives , and children are exposed to technology throughout the education system.

With Moldova’s Internet Service Providers delivering some of the highest performance network access in the world, Modovans will further be relieved of the burden of constructing large and small data centers, taking advantage of cloud and SaaS service providers located within Europe and North America, returning precious funds to building business – rather than ICT server and services infrastructure.

Moldova Supports Private Enterprise

While there are some items that could use some adjustment, such as high tariffs for importing computer equipment, Moldova has at least supported both domestic and foreign telecom companies in developing both fixed line and wireless infrastructure.  Orange (France Telecom), MoldCell (TeliaSonera),   and Starnet continue to build fiber optic and wireless network infrastructure, with nearly 100% 3G coverage throughout the country. 

The entire wireless system is 4G-ready, and deployment is planned within the next couple of years.

Impressive.  Really.

Celebrating Independence in Moldova

Americans like to stress the fact we declared independence from England in 1776, and have been celebrating that event on the 4th of July ever since. No American remembers the struggles our country endured in securing our independence, and for the most part the day represents a great excuse to head to the park and barbeque hamburgers or hot dogs – topped off by a short fireworks display in the evening.

At the Independence Day Celebration in ChisinauIn Chisinau, Moldova, independence is an event everybody over the age of 20 experienced. August 27th marks the 19th year of independence from the Soviet Union. As a newly democratized state, Moldova has faced challenges, whether it is from politicians attempting to understand the dynamics of a democratic state, communists desperately trying to retain some snippet of control, or corruption by leaders who wish to capitalize on the chaos Moldova overcomes while rebuilding their society and economy.

Most Moldovans look to Europe, and their ethnic roots to Romania as a model and direction to build Moldova’s future. European Union flags fly beside Moldovan flags, and automobiles from around the EC routinely fill Chisinau’s streets. It is an exciting and scary time. Like starting a new job in a company that has a different culture and objectives – but a great reputation in its industry, Moldovans welcome the opportunity to make their country and quality of life on par with the rest of Europe, and the world.

But Now it is Time to Celebrate

The streets of Chisinau are filled with Moldovan flags, and you can see people on the street wearing makeup in the shape of Moldovan and Romanian flags on the side of their faces. An enthusiasm for their country, an indulgence On stage at the Chisinau independence day celebrationin celebrating their national identity. Walking into the center of Chisinau the main street is blocked off to accommodate a huge stage, with performers singing Moldovan folk tunes, rock songs, ballads, and anything else that makes young and old well up with pride in their country.

Americans and other western nations will find it a bit foreign to see the energy radiating from people on the street, but then again, we have not recently experienced 70 years occupation by an oppressive government. A government whose army is still entrenched along Moldova’s border in Transnistria, which is internationally recognized as part of Moldova, but in reality is an uncontrolled region that is part Moldovan, part independent, and part occupied by Russia. Unless you were present at Pearl Harbor in 1941, for an American the taste of foreign military encroachment on our own soil is an abstract.

Those over 30 years old will remember that at the time of independence, there was bloodshed, there was a human cost of freedom and independence that is still fresh in the mind of all Moldovans. And a deep-rooted desire to celebrate the sacrifices and courage of their family members and friends who paid the price of freedom.

And celebrate they did. While a large police force was clearly visible throughout the city center during the concerts and festivities, most appeared slightly jealous they could not strip off their uniforms and join in the indulgence of national identity. Others merely focused their energy on ensuring the safety of the people. No incidents such as you would see in Los Angeles or New York such as policeman kicking cyclists off their bicycles, threatening citizens, or trying to intimidate – just keeping it safe.

A Long Way to Go

20 years ago the nation was an infant desperately trying to get to its feet, now, while among the poorest countries in Europe, it is a comfortable place to live and work. While a large percentage of the population lives on a very small income, the GDP is growing at a steady rate, and there is always hope for the future.

Telecoms and Internet access are a very pleasant surprise. As in many developing countries, nearly every man, woman, and child has a mobile phone. On one street in central Chisinau you can find up to four separate Orange distributors on one city block (Orange claims they have more than 2400 distribution points), and most have a line of people waiting to get a new phone.

Wireless Internet is available throughout the city, and in the central park many park benches are filled with professionals and young people accessing the Internet on laptop computers. Orange Telecom claims they have complete national coverage with 3G, and offer wireless access speeds up to 21mbps.

Now, I sincerely wish I could get that performance in Burbank, California. Maybe when Verizon eventually gets around to implementing LTE or 4G…

NOTE: I was able to pick up an Orange prepaid phone in about 2 minutes, for about $20 and 600 minutes. I picked up a wireless internet account at the same time – about $15 for 2 weeks wireless access, and have been averaging just over 1.2mbps download speeds – quite enough to watch my Los Angeles TV stations with very high quality over Slingbox.

Moldova PrideHowever, on the bad side, Moldova has no energy resources within the country, and is completely dependent on Russia and other countries for fuel, natural gas, and power. While relatively self-sufficient on food, energy availability is at the will of Russia, and Moldova holds the same risk as Ukraine and other countries which have had resources throttled due to political issues with Russia.

But today is a celebration. I am almost jealous at the enthusiasm and level of pride Moldovans have for their country. Americans show pride by tying yellow ribbons around a tree in their front yard to show support for soldiers on military duty in a foreign land, we take pride in our economic and industrial achievements, and we show a lot of pride in our ability to show leadership in many ways around the world. Slap an American flag on your pickup truck – and you are a patriot.

But we have lost the scars of revolution, and lost the physiological sensation of emerging from oppression to taking on the challenge of democracy.

Moldovans have not. Happy Independence Day Moldova!

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