SYSTRAN has been in the machine translation space since 1968. We’ve launched numerous closed-source solutions, iterated countless projects, and put forward a significant amount of R&D into the statistical machine translation, deep learning speech recognition, and (of course) neural machine translation. But, in 2017, we decided to do something a little unprecedented.
Today, we build our solutions on the framework of this open-source system that we share with the community. But why did we ditch the highly controllable nature of closed-source and shift our focus to the wild west of open-source solutions? Today, we want to talk about OpenNMT, what it is, why it matters, and how it allows us to create better value for our customers, our community, and the world.
Welcome to the world of endless possibilities. Welcome to the world of open-source neural machine translation.
What is OpenNMT?
OpenNMT is an open-source NMT ecosystem started by Harvard NLP and SYSTRAN and currently maintained by SYSTRAN and Ubiqus. Currently, OpenNMT has two implementations — OpenNMT-py (PyTorch-based) and OpenNMT-tf (TensorFlow-based). OpenNMT can handle a variety of tasks (e.g., image-to-speech, speech-to-text, language modeling, sequence classification, etc.) across multiple models (e.g., ConvS2S, GPT-2, DeepSpeech 2, etc.) and model configurations (e.g., multi-source, hybrid, copy attention, coverage attention, etc.)
Note: Here is the full list of OpenNMT features.
Originally, OpenNMT was built on the architecture of seq2seq-attn — mostly focused on standard sequence-to-sequence models applied to machine translation. Today, OpenNMT offers various ways to train and deploy NMT models – researchers and industries across the globe use it. OpenNMT is the fastest across multiple metrics on the WNGT 2020 Efficiency Shared Task, and it continues to produce results for both industry and academia. We also help run a robust and vibrant community forum.
Of course, maintaining and open-source NMT solution in parallel to running a business hyper-focused on providing NMT solutions-as-a-service may seem strange. Why not keep the source code closed? Why spend liquid capital maintaining a solution that can be leveraged by other parties? And, perhaps most importantly, why spend time and money creating the systems possible to facilitate an open-source development model?
Why We Switched to Open-source
Transitioning from closed-source to open-source isn’t easy. Sometimes, the transition can be easy on the development side. After all, every developer leverages open-source solutions to build out projects, so giving back to the community and becoming a beacon of open-source reliance can be particularly attractive to players in this role. But convincing sales takes some doing.
The open-source nature of OpenNMT means one thing: competitors can leverage our solution to build out competing projects. On the sales side, that’s a nightmare. We had to sit everyone down, discuss the pros-and-cons, and make a conscious decision to determine if open-source was a smart move for our company and our employees.
We decided to try it out. Three years later, OpenNMT powers our solutions, and Guillaume Klein and Jean Senellart split their time between solution-side delivery and open-source maintenance and the broader open-source community. So, how did this strategy work for us? And what benefits does using an open-source platform provide to our customers, our community, and the NMT ecosystem?
The Value of OpenNMT For Our Customers, Community, and Language Ecosystem
Running an open-source solution opens an entire world of possibilities. You can bring hyper-talented, smart, and action-ready community members to the table. You get to create solutions at a pace set by the community — which is rapid, evolution-prone, and always moving. For our customers, this means higher code quality and faster iterations.
We are deeply involved in setting the standards in the NMT space. So, our customers get access to best-in-class solutions. As for our competitors, we’re more than happy to compete. Not only do we believe that competition is a key component of driving the NMT space towards a bigger and brighter future, but our competition gives back by pushing new iterations, ideas, and changes into the OpenNMT system. It’s a give-and-take.
At the same time, we get to give back to something bigger than our business. Our leaders and developers are involved in the translation space both in and outside of the SYSTRAN ecosystem. We get to bring tangible value to the research and development side of NMT, which is invaluable for us. Obviously, advances eventually make their way to the industry — which benefits us. But they also help progress a space of study that we’ve all centered our lives around.
We live and breathe translation. So, being able to captain the wheel of a continually evolving industry is rewarding, challenging, and, most of all, essential for us. NMT is in our DNA. OpenNMT is our way of proving that.
Are You Ready to Experience the Future of Machine Translation?
Whether you’re a university team looking to make the next big profound learning breakthrough or an industry-leader looking to add another new solution to their stack, OpenNMT is one of the most significant open-source NMT solutions on the planet. You can start diving into the code, testing, training, and deploying solutions, and involving yourself in the nooks-and-crannies of NMT in a matter of days with OpenNMT.
With open-source technology, we can accomplish things we could never dream of handling alone. There are hundreds of NMT papers published each year, major breakthroughs happening at every end of the industry, and thousands upon thousands of professionals creating vibrant and holistic NMT-based solutions. Open-source brings the power of NMT to all of our fingertips. And there’s real power in that. Are you wondering how this impacts you as a SYSTRAN customer? OpenNMT is the skeleton of our award-winning, industry-leading translation services. Are you ready to experience the power of machine translation, eDiscovery, collaboration, and compliance? Contact us. Let’s bring the power of OpenNMT to your business. We don’t close doors in fear of a little competition. Our doors are wide open, and our customers get a faster, smarter, and more agile solution to boot.