The Open Source TMS Reality
By: Gary Prioste (Welocalize) - Welocalize
01 December 2008
Is the translation and localization industry ready for open source technology? We've already seen some momentum in the areas of open translation platforms, crowdsourcing and open-source Translation Memory tools.
What about a complex Translation Management System (TMS)? GlobalSight is an open source enterprise-scale TMS that will be released to the public on January 5, 2009. Does the zero-license-fee ticket price guarantee its success? Of course not.
Implementing enterprise software such as a TMS is a non-trivial process that requires careful planning, integration, support, training and maintenance. GlobalSight is no exception. So what is the value proposition for an open source TMS? Economic viability and community support. GlobalSight plans to garner enough enthusiasm, resources, and business incentives to rally an entire community behind the development of the product and program.
Not everything is free, but some things are
When planning for a TMS implementation across an organization, it is true that software license fees only make up a portion of the total cost of ownership (TCO). Some of the bigger pieces of the pie come from setting up the infrastructure, integrating with other enterprise applications, providing training and support to multiple users, etc. However, given license fees are often 6-figures and most companies are looking at ways to reduce costs in this economy, license fees are becoming quite meaningful.
In addition, the important thing to remember here is that a company (LSP or enterprise customer), can install the product and, using the Getting Started Guide, be up and running in a couple of days with a pilot project. In a typical scenario, more pilot projects would follow, and results would guide how fast the system is moved into production – if at all. Likewise, the number and variety of projects and departments that are moved onto the system are guided by the success and confidence gained from its gradual use. Issues that can’t be resolved internally or by the open source community or through professional services will become apparent early on in this process, minimizing the investment risk.
We aren’t arguing that a company should download, install and commit a significant amount of resources from day one, just because the license is free. We are simply suggesting that the approach to innovation in this industry has been inefficient. It is time to “Collaborate to Innovate” instead of reinventing the wheel on both the client and vendor side each time we try to solve the same problem. Economics, freedom of choice, long-term security and the desire for collaborative innovation are driving the GlobalSight Open Source initiative. Participating companies will be in a position to try a sophisticated, enterprise-level TMS for very little cost. The downside risk to this approach is very small.
Community Needs Drive Community Interest
In order for this open source TMS to succeed in the long term, it must be supported by a robust and organized community. This does not happen overnight. And it doesn’t happen a couple months shy of the product release either. Potential adopters want to get their hands on the product and see what value it brings to their organization. Ease of adoption, confidence in the product, and a sound support and economic structure will drive interest and critical mass.
Web Services API
The fact that GlobalSight is a very complex piece of software, with over 1.5 million lines of code, does make it a challenge for the typical developer to modify and extend the core application. But in talking to typical users, we hear the most need is around filters or adaptors, custom reporting and dashboards, and integration into existing business processes. Most of this work, it is important to point out, can be done external to the core application – either through the web services API, or through other forms of external code. Therefore, the modifications most companies need become simpler to make, share with the community and secure for their future.
Participation and Leadership
It is important to note that although the product has not been released yet, the community numbers close to 200 participants. Corporate clients, LSPs, translators, technology providers and more have already affirmed their interest and support for an open source TMS initiative. In addition 12 industry-leading clients have championed this effort and volunteered their time to be on the GlobalSight Steering Committee to help support the initiative’s success.
Scalable, Open Source Standards
Welocalize is making a significant investment to modernize the technology with a 12-person development team currently transitioning the source code to tried and true open source standards such as MySQL, JBOSS and OpenLDAP. So the effort to move to open source also has the consequence of making Globalsight a more robust and scalable application.
Welocalize is committing its $50 million dollar services operation to using GlobalSight internally. This in itself will create momentum for the product through constant enhancements and extensions to the product. Using the web services API, Welocalize is developing a portal to allow customers to track projects and key performance indicators through dashboards and other types of business reporting.
Corporate Users vs. LSPs
While the needs of these two groups are sometimes different, a vast majority of the requirements are the same. Everyone needs robust, server-side translation memories, terminology management, editable workflow tools and flexible reporting to provide the tools one needs to manage a business. Everyone is looking for standardization around TMX, SRX and TBX. The rest can and will be developed by the open source community. There are over 35 LSPs who have signed up so far to be a part of this initiative, many of whom were part of the Idiom LSP program.
Welocalize is absolutely committed to providing a robust, open source TMS to be released in January 2009, which both clients and vendors can use to support their business. Our vision is to drive innovation and standards in the most creative, collaborative and efficient way possible, thereby creating opportunity for the industry as a whole by increasing the size of the market.
Gary Prioste is the vice president of technology services at Welocalize.