Acronis to work on joint research with Singapore government

Data protection vendor reveals plans to embark on joint initiatives with Singapore's R&D agency, A*Star, when it officially launches its research facility in the country by June 2015.

Acronis will be working on joint projects with local government agencies when it officially opens its research and development (R&D) center in Singapore later this year.

Headquartered in Singapore, the data protection vendor is looking to launch the third of its global research facility by June, with plans to hire 150 engineers, half of whom will be locals or are permanent residents, said Mark Shmulevich, Acronis' chief strategy and operations officer. Its other research centers are in Moscow and Estonia, which house 200 and 20 engineers, respectively.

Shmulevich said the company was in the "late stage of discussions" with A*Star and Economic Development Board (EDB) to work out details on its growth plans and five joint research initiatives focusing on cloud backup optimization and software-defined data storage, among others.

Its discussion with EDB revolves around Acronis' commitment to invest and grow its business in Singapore, including government grants that will help offset the vendor's expansion cost in the country. It also operates a data center here.

Its five joint research projects will be run together with A*Star's Data Storage Institute, Institute for Infcomm Research (I2R), and Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), he said, adding that the organizations were now finalizing details concerning intellectual property rights (IPR), scope of research work, as well as number of staff each would provide to support the respective project.

Acronis also will be working with local universities and polytechnics to address any manpower crunch. "At 150 engineers, it's going to be the largest R&D center in Singapore so it may be challenging to find the people we need," Shmulevich said, noting that its software engineers comprised largely PhD holders with expertise in software architecture and programming languages.

"There are not many education programmes in Singapore that provide such skills. That means, for us to be successful in hiring people, we need to establish direct relationships with the universities and specific education departments, such as data security and storage," he explained, adding that the company might eventually establish research projects with some of these educational institutions as well as internship opportunities.

Its new R&D center will be initially housed at its current office at Suntec City, and will later move to a new location that has yet to be determined. Shmulevich, who is currently scouting for the new location, said it would "make sense" to have it in a location such as Fusionopolis where other research facilities were, but declined to confirm an address until details were firmed up.

He said Acronis also was in talks with ICT regulator, Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), to explore research areas that could "add value" to Singapore's smart nation ambition, but was unable to provide details as this was still in the early stage of discussions.

Acronis Founder and CEO Serguei Beloussov told ZDNet the company will be looking to participate in national projects that involved the collection and management of voluminous data. The Russian-born who became a Singapore citizen in 2001 explained: "Any city that depends on data needs that data to be protected," he said, pointing to the government's plan to deploy data sensors islandwide so information can be collected and analyzed, and used to improve services.

Beloussov further underscored the need to ensure data was sufficiently secured as the country looked to tap the Internet of Things (IoT) and its associated technology in its smart nation rollout.

"It's very important that when you connect everything, you need to ensure everything is secured because a breach could lead to a life-threatening situation," he said. "In a physical world, distance could provide some safety since you're no longer within an attacker's reach. However, in a digital world, this is no longer true." Malicious hackers could penetrate home-automation systems to break into houses or stop a pacemaker from keeping a person's heart beating.

Elaborating on plans for the new research facility in Singapore, the CEO said Acronis' commitment to the government was to hire 120 engineers within three years, though he was expecting the number to hit 150. Foreign hires could come from China and India, and include internal transfers from the company's other global sites including Russia.

He added that the Singapore research center will focus its efforts on three key areas the company's products were built on: safety, security, and privacy. These would encompass the technology, policy, certification, and processes needed to support these three primary areas. Research efforts also will look at software-defined storage technology, designed to handle huge amounts of data or big data, he said.

Beloussov noted that Singapore was among only a handful of countries, including Switzerland and Austria, that did not impose restrictions on the kind of encryption companies export. The United States government, for instance, requires security companies to submit an encryption registration before they can export such products.

"We want to be in places where we are completely independent and can do business with whoever we want. We are a technology company, and we don't want to be involved in politics," he said.

The company also is looking to set up new research facilities within Europe, outside of its current site in Estonia.

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