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Gary Prioste
Open Source TMS Reality
2008.11.07 19:00:00
On October 23rd, Common Sense Advisory came out with “Industry Dreams of Open-Source TMS”, a blog post discussing the challenges of the GlobalSight Open Source initiative (www.globalsight.com). While it did raise several interesting points, the article brings up a few issues that require further discussion.

Total Cost of Ownership
The CSA article purports that “license fees account for 10% - 20% of the total cost of ownership,” and suggests that a free, open source GlobalSight license isn’t really consequential.   Well given license fees are often 6-figures and most companies are looking at ways to reduce costs in this economy, our clients are telling us that the license fee is quite meaningful.
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In addition, the important thing to remember here is that a company (LSP or enterprise customer), can install the product and, using the QuickStart 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.
Lack of Critical Mass in Open Source Community
The article states that “the majority of open-source initiatives fail to garner enough development energy to stay competitive with commercial efforts over the long haul.”   This statement, on its own, is true. But here are some reasons we expect the GlobalSight initiative to have a different result:
  • The fact that GlobalSight is a very complex piece of enterprise 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.
  • Over 160 people have signed-up for the initiative so far, even before the product has been launched.
  • 12 industry-leading clients have volunteered their time to be on the GlobalSight Steering Committee to help support the initiative’s success.
  • A standing-room-only crowd attended the first GlobalSight community meeting at the recent Localization World in Madison, WI where many clients and LSPs requested to be included in the Beta testing.
  • Welocalize is making a significant investment to modernize the technology (see roadmap), 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.
The Conflict Between the Needs of Corporate Users and 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 30 LSPs who have signed up so far to be a part of this initiative, many of whom were part of the Idiom LSP program.
In Summary
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.   Some might question our motives in providing technology to competitors, but our vision is to drive innovation and standards in the most creative, collaborative and efficient way possible, thus increasing the opportunity for the industry as a whole to grow the overall size of the market.



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