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Interview with Gary Prioste
VP of Technology Solutions, Welocalize

Q: Please explain to our readers what the GlobalSight Open Source Initiative is?

ClientSide News Magazine pictureIt is an Initiative that aims to drive the development of GlobalSight Ambassador, an industry-leading Translation Management System (TMS), through open collaboration. GlobalSight is a non-captive, vendor-independent community where participants are free to discuss, discover and build upon a TMS that can be shared by all.

GlobalSight was the name of the company that first developed the Ambassador product in 1997. For the next eight years, GlobalSight grew Ambassador from a software tool to develop and maintain multilingual websites, to the industry’s first TMS that could automate the translation process and leverage previously translated material. In 2005 Transware acquired GlobalSight and continued to develop the product. In May of this year, Welocalize acquired Transware and subsequently inherited Ambassador.

GlobalSight is the name of the open source initiative, and Ambassador is the name of the TMS product.

Q: Why have you decided to take Ambassador open source?

A: Both GlobalSight and Transware invested heavily in this product. However, neither of them was able to generate widespread use. Other companies with competing products have had similar results. The market today is dominated by commercial TMS products. By converting Ambassador to open source, we free users from the potential captivity at the hands of service providers and ISV’s. In addition, our industry is in a consolidation phase, and users want protection from mergers and acquisitions that present a risk to their ongoing operations. The SDL/Idiom merger led to disappointment and frustration from LSPs and clients alike.

Managed under a to-be-determined open source license, GloblSight Ambassador will provide users with choice, flexibility and opportunity. We understand that there are a lot of smart people out there with great ideas for the next generation of TMS’. By leveraging the contributions of the community, we can go above and beyond the capabilities of the status quo. With the growing demand for translated content, we can no longer operate in independent silos. It is imperative to collaborate in order to innovate.

Like many open source software vendors, Welocalize intends to generate revenue through services and support.

Q: Is GlobalSight Ambassador the right tool to take open source?

A: Ambassador is not just any translation process automation tool. Over $50M has been invested in the last ten years. There are 1.5 million lines of source code. Ambassador is a complex product with web-services API, extensive filters, work-flow driven process automation, management reporting and integration with leading content management systems (CMS) such as Documentum and Interwoven. It has the potential to become the next generation TMS for enterprise-level clients. But the question isn’t about whether Ambassador is the right tool now. It’s about engaging a community to help manage and develop a tool that is right for them and can adapt to their evolving needs in the future.

Q: What steps are you taking to engage users?

A: This month we formed a steering committee made up of recognized thought leaders in the industry to spearhead the direction and development of this initiative. They include representatives from Autodesk, Business Objects (an SAP company), Cisco, EMC, NetApp, Novell, Sun and TIBCO. We held our inaugural meeting to spur discussion on the strategic direction and technology roadmap of the product. We are also digging deeper and organizing sub-committees to focus on more tactical issues in managing this program. This includes answering questions about open source licensing, governance, product development and community building.

So far we have been in information gathering mode. We want to hear from all players in the industry. On the program website (, we have asked interested parties to sign up and let us know why they are interested in the program and what they want to see moving forward. I’m happy to say that we now have over 100 subscribers to date. Based on this community input, we are working on building a more interactive, online community that allows members to quickly find what they want the most: source repository, demos, development instructions, FAQs, discussion forums and more.

Q: Sso when will the product be ready to release to the public?

A: We have begun the first phase of open source development, which is to re-architect the underlying technology, replacing third-party software components with their open source equivalents. These functions include workflow, database, object relationship mapping, middleware, directory mapping and scheduling. The target completion date is December 15th. At that time, we will have the source repository available for download, along with accompanying product specifications, deployment standards and a quick-start guide to get users up and running.

Q: Tell us a little about the technical architecture of Ambassador.

A: It’s a Java application, and will have a MySQL database. It will run in both a Linux and Windows environment. Further technical details will follow soon.

Q: Will the open source product be a SaaS, or an enterprise application?

A: Both. We plan on hosting an open source SaaS solution that the community can contribute to, and allowing users to download an enterprise version that they can run behind their firewall.

In both cases, the community can extend and enhance the product through the web-services API, or by modifying the core application.

Q: How will this open source project differentiate itself from others that have failed?

A: The idea of knowledge sharing and crowd sourcing is not new. We have seen several of these initiatives in our industry, from TAUS and TDA in translation automation, to TinyTM, OmegaT and TMOSS in translation memory. These projects and initiatives have gained traction only through collaboration and reciprocity. What about other open source projects that haven’t succeeded? Perhaps it was due to a lack of initial investment, poor planning, bad timing, or lack of enthusiasm?most likely a combination of the above.

Whatever the case may be, I don’t believe these projects were aligned with the true needs of the industry, at the enterprise level. And they certainly did not anticipate a change in those needs. Without support, advocacy and collaboration from users with a vested interest in developing and adopting a product that can achieve their business goals, the product cannot thrive in an open source community. We are listening carefully to what clients are saying. We want the initiative and product to succeed. And we believe the entire industry will benefit if it does.

Published - November 2008

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