2,500 users working with 7,000 projects, 72 million translation units in 3,500 translation memories and 1 million terminology entries across 320 termbases; these are some of the exciting metrics describing the biggest ever translation industry beta program we performed prior to the SDL Studio GroupShare 2014 release this week.
It all started back in March. I was approached internally by our Language Services division to see if the Language Technology group could help with rolling out the then early beta release of SDL Studio GroupShare, along with installing the beta of SDL Trados Studio 2014 for all project managers who are distributing work internally. The main purpose was to find out if this would help increase productivity and reduce cost in our network of overall thirty translation offices. Testing included the new task assignment functionality available in the GroupShare 2014 release which enables project managers to assign tasks securely to both internal and external translators and reviewers.
A few deep breaths later … we decided that this would indeed be a very compelling step to take. All stakeholders were aware that this would ultimately mean using beta software in production. A significant challenge in itself as we needed to ensure that the software worked and didn’t have any “showstopper” issues that could effectively halt production work, while at the same time ensuring that the engineering team was not overly “distracted” by production issues which could have delayed a release in the October time frame.
So off we went – first of all starting with the seven EMEA offices – such as UK, France and Germany – and one GroupShare server instance, all hosted in the cloud for most efficient and cost effective central access. In the first weeks, everything went surprisingly well given that the software was still at a pretty early stage in the beta cycle. Users specifically highlighted the ability to reduce manual file and folder management by centralizing all project work thanks to GroupShare’s project server component, an addition to the more traditional TM and Terminology Server. This helped to free up more time for linguistic tasks, which was one of the key desired benefits in using GroupShare.
Slowly but surely, however, the challenges and issues started getting more serious. We found that over time, GroupShare had more and more difficulties in keeping up with the increasing load put on the server. More and more users were starting to complain about poor performance such as long log-in times, database timeouts, or the inability to use termbases effectively.
To address these issues, the Language Technology engineering team devised a strategy to help isolate the system bottlenecks that were responsible for leading to the slow performance users observed. At the same time, technical representatives from the Language Services team helped facilitate the communication between users and developers as well as support internal and external users. This cooperation led to a series of patches and enhancements deployed on the beta production servers. Some focused on the very long log-in times that some users experienced, others addressed database timeouts during TM search as well as slow batch processing and syncing of projects between the Studio client and the GroupShare server. All in all eight updates were deployed over four months. At the same time, SDL Trados Studio 2014 with its own set of performance enhancements was finalized. These also played an important role in bringing the performance back to suitable levels.
Today, I’m very happy to say that we see a throughput of 100-150 projects, large and small, being processed successfully on a daily basis. By now also the CEE and NASA network offices have started using GroupShare as well, bringing the total number of network offices using it to sixteen.
What does this mean for you? It means that during this period prior to the release, we have focused on scaling GroupShare beyond small to medium teams to being able to handle team work truly distributed at a worldwide level. At the same time we carried out the most comprehensive beta test ever seen in the translation industry – which benefits both Studio and GroupShare users alike, as both products have been enhanced not only from a functionality perspective, but also with specific focus on performance and speed, well before the official product launch – and not after ;-).
Lastly, this will mean that GroupShare is getting ready for new deployment scenarios – including the cloud. In our beta test, sixteen internal LSPs have in fact been sharing three GroupShare instances in the cloud. I can foresee a situation where we could offer GroupShare in similar ways to interested LSPs and corporate customers – all those that do not want or cannot afford deploying GroupShare on premise, but still have the requirement of sharing work with translation and review teams. I can imagine that this should be interesting for quite a few LSPs and corporate customers out there. At the same time, GroupShare will also remain a product that can be installed on-premise – as this is obviously a critical requirement for many of our corporate and LSP customers. In any event, it was great being part of this beta program and seeing how the product developed throughout this development cycle. Exciting times behind and ahead!