Hopes and beliefs for Open Source web projects

Open source is the best way to build and distribute software. There are few things about which I'm more convinced. In some, but not all cases, Open Source also offers a viable business model. When it does, it's great because it allows you to do well and do good at the same time. I'm convinced that Open Source is the future for all software needs, but niche applications. I believe in this so sincerely that I've spent over ten years of my life building Open Source software, and I haven't once faltered on my resolve. In fact, I've become more convinced over the years.

The second factor about which I'm convinced is that traditional hosting as we know it today will be for bespoke applications. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) will become the de-facto standard for building and hosting web applications, especially in combination with Open Source web applications. I believe in this so much that I've been betting Acquia on it since its inception three and a half years ago. Now it seems the markets are aligning with that vision: the hosting industry, after years of being dormant, is going through a new innovation cycle driven by "cloud computing".

With both Open Source, PaaS and SaaS, the question is not if it will happen, but when. The transition is inevitable; it might take ten, twenty or thirty years, but it's just a matter of time. The terms PaaS and SaaS might die along the way, but their concepts will certainly remain and change the hosting industry.

I'm willing to bet that in the future, every Open Source web project that wants to reach a certain level of adoption, will have to provide a PaaS and SaaS offering in order to be truly relevant. I think that's exciting because it creates new business models for Open Source projects which will help fuel the Open Source movement. In fact, I hope that Acquia can become a role model for other Open Source projects and Open Source companies. It's going the take plenty of hard work, but the passion and the conviction is certainly there.


aka006 (not verified):

As long as it can compete with my Dreamhost account for $9 a month I don't care how my Drupal site is hosted.

Bruno Lowagie (not verified):

I also agree. One of our major customers is using iText in a Cloud Computing project that goes beyond what we ever could imagine when we wrote the first lines of iText code back in 2000.

Thanks to paying customers like that, we now succeed in doing well and good at the same time. We have some huge projects coming up (some of which can be interesting for Drupal too). We're working on a demo; watch my Twitter account (@bruno1970) if you want to be informed when the demo goes online.

Sean Larkin (not verified):

Our company has been following the PaaS movement in Drupal closely. We've got sites running on both Pantheon and Acquia's Dev Cloud. The Dev Cloud site actually serves the production site of one of our clients. And while I can't say that getting the site up and running was 100% painless, we've learned a ton already partnering closely with Acquia as a PaaS provider and we're excited about the efficiencies this model opens to us as a dev shop that would not be anywhere close to the hosting game ourselves.

So, on one hand, I agree with everything that you've said, Dries.

On the other hand, I do wonder how open source innovations in hosting infrastructure will be affected by the rise of PaaS. You could argue the point either way. Pantheon, in particular, seems to be striking a great balance by keeping Mercury and most of their tools open source. I haven't heard of Acquia open sourcing any of its stack (you'd be the one to ask, Dries). I would imaging that open sourcing elements of Dev/Managed Cloud is either happening or will, and I'm just not aware of it.

What are you thoughts on this balance, Dries? (Or others on this comment thread.)


Imre Gmelig Meijling (not verified):

I would suggest that the commercial aspects of setting up a sustainble business model around OSS and SaaS is as much a challenge as all of the technical aspects. Any recommended case studies on how Acquia pulled that off?

P.s. Goede 'Paas' dagen ;-)