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IBM Open-Sources Translation Memory Software
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on June 28, 2010  in the following blogs: Technology
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Two years ago, the computer-aided translation (CAT) software industry resonated with major market consolidation, a declaration of independence, and open-source translation technology.  Since then, buyers on both the corporate and language service providers have watched a succession of translation memory (TM) and management systems (TMS) vie for traction in the marketplace. A new entrant joined the fray today when IBM announced that it had created an open-source project around its TranslationManager/2 software.

Dubbed OpenTM2, the open-source TM is immediately downloadable from the project's website.  IBM’s stated goal is to create a reference implementation for the TMX (Translation Memory eXchange) specification. IBM, which requires most of its language service providers to use the TranslationManager/2 software on which OpenTM2 is based, also hopes that freelancers will find a "cost-effective" standardized TM technology useful.

Our research into the likes and dislikes of freelancers points to a pronounced opportunity for translation memory not tied to potential language service competitors (see "The State of Freelance Translation," May09). In what we view as a challenge to SDL TRADOS, the most widely used TM on the market, IBM’s press release noted that "With consistency in tooling and exchange standards in an open environment, translators are no longer limited to the choice of expensive proprietary software with very limited interoperability with other commercial tooling." Working with other open-source initiatives, the steering group’s vision is to create an open platform for integrating language services.

This initiative is unlike the recent licensing of machine translation technology to Lionbridge. For the OpenTM2 project, IBM created a steering group to shepherd the evolution of its proprietary TM2 proprietary solution to open-source product. The group includes IBM itself, the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) which developed the TMX spec, the Linux Solutions Group (LiSoG), the Forum for Open Language Tools (FOLT), language service provider Welocalize, and Cisco, a worldwide corporate user of language technology and buyer of translation services. As with previous open-source efforts in the language industry, the challenge will be to get the principals beyond steering to actually driving development by an active community.

Arle Lommel, LISA’s newly minted director of open standards, told us that the OpenTM2 project will use the Eclipse open-source license, which allows developers to sell add-ons to the core technology. This model paves the way for a marketplace in translation components built to work with an open application programming interface (API). Previous attempts at open APIs, such as Translation Web Services (TWS), have failed to gain traction, but the interests of large technology and service buyers such as Cisco in this project may give such a standard the push it needs. Ideally, such an API would go beyond today's single-direction "exchange" of information from one TM to another to a more powerful bi-directional "interchange" that would foster the creation of a broader catalog of interoperative CAT technologies.

OpenTM2 has the potential to do a few things in the translation memory market. It could provide a needed reference implementation for the TMX specification, provide a cost-competitive rival to a pervasive solution, drive the development of more interoperable technologies, and revive the "S" in LISA, whose specification-defining activity has not lived up to its promise in recent years.


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Keywords: Open-source translation technologies, Translation management systems, Translation memory, Translation technologies

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