Blogger: Larry Cannell
Yesterday Acquia, the commercial open source company started last December to serve the Drupal community, announced they are “now open for business!” Specifically, Acquia announced the availability of:
- Acquia Drupal – a distribution of the popular content management system (previously code named “Carbon”) which provides core Drupal functionality as well as support for over thirty additional modules that were previously only supported by a community.
- Acquia Network – a set of network services Drupal site owners can hook up to their website to improve their operation. These include software update management, spam blocking, heartbeat monitoring, and site usage statistics.
- As part of the Acquia Network site owners also receive technical support for their Drupal installation.
Drupal is kind of a WCMS/Web 2.0 toolkit/application framework all wrapped up into one. It is a flexible solution capable of supporting a number of types of dynamic Internet-facing websites while also providing the basis for a functional intranet. Acquia likes to calls this combination “Social Publishing.” But whatever it is, there is clearly a large community that like building solutions on the product. Conservative estimates place the number of Drupal Internet sites at over 250,000.
One of the reasons for this is Drupal’s ability to be extended with new functions. This has resulted in the creation of “sub-communities” within the larger Drupal community that develop these extensions (called modules). Two of the most popular modules, CCK and Views, are included in Acquia Drupal. At last count, there were over 1,900 of these contributed modules whose functions range from the extremely cool to the incredibly narrow.
Drupal was mentioned in our recently published Burton Group report “Open Source Communication, Collaboration, and Content Management: Cutting-Edge Innovation, Low-Cost Imitation, or Both?” as one of the few projects that has seen an open source project ecosystem (OSPE) form around it. In the report we describe these ecosystems as self-reinforcing cycles of activity made possible through motivated integrators, low-cost Internet resources, and strong open source projects.
Acquia network services and technical support for Drupal should further strengthen this ecosystem, benefit existing Drupal integrators, and open new opportunities for enterprises previously hesitant to use an open source product that isn’t commercially backed. The challenge for Acquia is to maintain leadership in the Drupal community while finding ways to make a profit. No doubt, serving two masters (the Drupal community and Acquia financiers) is a tough balancing act but is not a entirely new path for a company to take. Acquia’s approach is very similar to Redhat’s.
All Acquia-specific modules as well as improvements to the additional modules included in the distribution are being contributed back to the Drupal community (which, of course, means they are licensed under the GPL). Acquia likens this to the relationship Redhat (along with the Fedora distribution) has with Linux. However, the Acquia/Drupal relationship is much tighter since Dries Buytaert, the project leader of Drupal, is Acquia’s CTO and Co-Founder.
Providing technical support and network services for Drupal is a good start for Acquia. There is probably a significant number of website owners waiting for a service like this to come online. In addition, this should help Acquia get a foot in the door of many enterprises. Technically, Drupal is capable of fitting in well with just about any IT environment. For example, the product has long had hooks to support external authentication, which can be exercised by add-on modules to integrate Drupal with single sign-on systems. However, the modules required to get Drupal working with a single sign-on system are only supported by a community and are not part of the Acquia offering.
To further strengthen Drupal’s advance in the enterprise market Acquia should embrace more enterprise-focused extensions, like a single sign-on module. But, for now, this looks like a good start for Acquia. It will be interesting to see how they progress and how their relationship with the Drupal community evolves.