IBM unveils two new campuses

Company’s Mass Lab will be home base for software developers

By Hiawatha Bray
Globe Staff / June 17, 2010

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IBM Corp.’s 3,400 software development workers in Massachusetts have a new home base. The giant computer company yesterday officially opened IBM Mass Lab in two campuses, in Littleton and Westford. Together, the sites form IBM’s largest software development facility in North America, and will host 10 percent of IBM’s worldwide software development force.

“This is an excellent place to innovate and add value,’’ said Steven Mills, senior vice president of IBM’s global software business.

IBM’s software operations have put down deep roots in the state. In 1995, the company acquired Lotus Development Corp. of Cambridge for $3.5 billion, in a bitterly contested hostile takeover. And since 2003, IBM has quietly absorbed 14 other Massachusetts companies, including Rational Software, a maker of programming tools, and business management software company Cognos.

At the Mass Lab campuses, IBM will encourage interaction among its software engineers, in hopes that sharing ideas will generate innovative new products.

“The goal was to get everybody together,’’ said Alistair Rennie, IBM’s senior executive in Massachusetts. “Software development is a team sport.’’

Rennie said the Mass Lab has a vast data center, with 59,000 square feet of space for server computers linked by 31 miles of wire and optical fiber. But the Littleton site also features a number of Silicon Valley-style social amenities.

“We’ve got patios, we’ve got coffee shops, we’ve got a volleyball court out back,’’ Rennie said.

Carl Howe, director of consumer research at Yankee Group in Boston, noted that IBM’s high-profile Lotus software is designed to let people meet and share ideas while thousands of miles apart, but the Mass Lab shows that the company still values face-to-face communication. “At the end of the day, we’re really much more primitive than we think in how we interact,’’ Howe said. “We like to talk to people, not to machines.’’

Before touring the Littleton facility, Governor Deval Patrick touted the lab as evidence that Massachusetts’ appeal to high tech industry is as strong as ever.

“Innovation is a centerpiece of the Massachusetts economy,’’ Patrick said. “It’s a sweet spot for us economically.’’

The Littleton facility is inside a building formerly owned by Digital Equipment Corp., once the world’s second-largest computer company after IBM. Digital was later acquired by Compaq, which in turn was bought by Hewlett-Packard Co. Along the way, the Littleton building was abandoned. IBM received $5 million in tax breaks from the city and state governments in return for its $63 million investment to renovate and occupy the facility, and a pledge to create an additional 42 jobs at the Littleton site by 2028. The company has created two new jobs in Littleton so far.

IBM officials declined to reveal the size of its total Massachusetts workforce. The company also operates a research laboratory in Cambridge and an innovation center in Waltham, where customers can test-drive IBM software and hardware products.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at