EDS picks Winnipeg office to lead Canadian .Net development

The Winnipeg branch of global consulting firm Electronic Data Systems Corp. will be hiring several employees per month and working with local IT businesses to support its role as one of nine centres of excellence worldwide.

EDS has chosen the Winnipeg office to head new Microsoft .Net development as part of a global initiative to ramp up application development on the software giant’s platform.

The Winnipeg centre will focus on new development of applications for primarily the health-care, financial and insurance industries, said Cathy Nieroda, vice-president of EDS Canada in Manitoba. Other locations include Saginaw, Mich., Swansea, U.K., Cairo, Egypt and San Paulo, Brazil.

“Over the last year we’ve done more and more work for EDS globally,” said Nieroda. “We’re on the EDS global worldwide map now to send work to.”

The .Net platform provides the backbone to allow organizations to develop and deploy new software applications quickly, said Jeff Zado, senior product manager of development tools at Microsoft Canada. “.Net integrates people and processes in many different languages so people have a unified view of data,” said Zado.

Approximately 35 per cent of companies said they were building their applications on top of the .Net framework compared with 25 per cent in 2004, according to a recent IDC Canada study. More and more companies are turning to hosted applications to save time and money within their organizations. “We’re seeing outsourcing increase as a model for how people want to manage their IT infrastructure,” said Zado.

But Strategic Counsel analyst Warren Shiau says despite cost and labour savings, Canadian companies are still relatively conservative when it comes to outsourcing parts of their business. “In the Canadian market software as a service is still not all that huge,” said Shiau, adding companies like Oracle and SAP have started offering hosted solutions here with Microsoft starting to go in that direction as well. “It generally comes down to a larger degree of conservatism in the user base.”

While EDS did not disclose internal targets, the firm did say that it is aiming for approximately 50 new hires by 2006 at the Winnipeg location.

“We want to have a critical mass which would be much larger than that because we want to dominate here in Winnipeg and be the best centre in expertise,” said Nieroda.

Monday’s announcement is a shot in the arm to the Manitoba government‘s efforts in recent years to focus on growing the province’s IT sector, specifically in areas like biomedicine, said Manitoba Minister of energy, science and technology, Dave Chomiak.

“We like to think we punch higher than our weight,” Chomiak told ITBusiness.ca in an interview Monday. “With EDS setting up one of their .Net technology centres here, it speaks to the fact that Winnipeg can and will continue to be on the leading edge with respect to innovations in technology.”

Newly developed applications will form the next generation of EDS’s network-based utility architecture, called EDS Agile Enterprise Platform, which will integrate with Microsoft products including Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006. Applications will be available to EDS customers as a hosted solution or developed under a traditional contractual agreement. EDS, for example, is currently hosting an application for Industry Canada that allows businesses to determine what permits are required to open up a business in a particular jurisdiction.

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