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Acquia Search goes public beta

At Acquia, we've launched Acquia Search in public beta today.

As I've previously announced, Acquia Search is a hosted Acquia Network service, delivering the capabilities of the Apache Solr as a web service to Drupal websites of any size.

Acquia Search is 100% free for now, and here is our marketing pitch: "Acquia Search can be installed as a module on any Drupal 6 site, and enhances a site's search experience with faceted search navigation, content recommendations, and configurable results weighting, all delivered through a redundant hosted service infrastructure.". Put a bit more directly, Acquia Search is simply a great way to supercharge your site's search experience, without having to invest in your own Solr engine and development.

Though we're not sure how long our beta program will last, one of our motivations in providing a free beta is to help figure out the pricing model. There will likely be two main components to our price structure -- the number of nodes on a site and the number of search queries. The free beta will allow us to get a better feel for that.

But what about Drupal's built-in search module? This announcement doesn't mean that we'll stop enhancing it -- in fact, the Drupal 7 search module already has some improvements over the one in Drupal 6. There's lots of room in the "search" arena, with lots of different use cases, and it is hard for the core search module to compete with commercial-grade search engines while running on shared hosting environments. For a certain class of sites, including drupal.org, Drupal's built-in search is simply not an option, and we think Acquia Search can be a great fit for those sites.

Acquia Search is only possible because of the fantastic work of the many people who have helped make it a reality. The Apache Solr Search Integration project on Drupal.org, for instance, reflects the work of many community members, including Robert Douglass, Peter Wolanin, Jacob Singh, Damien Tournoud, and more. Thanks!

Acquia Stack Installer (aka DAMP)

If you're looking to evaluate Drupal, or if you're a Drupal developer, you have got to check out Acquia's Stack Installer, aka DAMP, that we released at DrupalCon DC today.

No doubt most of you are familiar with LAMP, MAMP, WAMP or XAMPP, which are installers designed to help people get started with PHP applications. DAMP is similar to MAMP, WAMP, and XAMPP, except that it comes with Acquia Drupal, and is specifically tuned for Drupal. The Acquia Stack Installer includes Acquia Drupal, Apache, MySQL, PHP, PhpMyAdmin, and an Acquia Drupal Control Panel.

The installer has been tested on Macs with OS 10.5 (Intel-based, not PowerPC) as well as all major flavors of Microsoft Windows. For Windows and Mac users, it is the easiest way to get started with Drupal. The installer is available for free, and is part of Acquia's efforts to simplify the Drupal experience for non-technical users. We think it will help the Drupal project grow. If you have friends, family, or co-workers that want to get started with Drupal, the Acquia Stack Installer is a great starting point.

While designed for end users, the installer is also good for web development. In fact, as part of our alpha testing, I switched from MAMP to Acquia's Stack Installer, and have already suggested some developer improvements for future releases. One will be to compile the Process Control Extension (PCNTL) into PHP -- something which is not available on MAMP or XAMPP. Enabling PCNTL allows SimpleTest to take advantage of multi-core processors; on a dual core machine this should cut the running time roughly in half.

Give it a try, and let us know if you have other suggestions or recommendations.

Tom Erickson joined Acquia as CEO

Acquia's subscription business has taken off as expected, and we are now launching a number of new initiatives as announced in the Acquia 2009 roadmap. With the coming release of Acquia Search, new projects like Acquia Fields and Acquia Gardens, all in addition to our existing subscription business, there is a ton of stuff going on at Acquia. We've set ourselves some very ambitious goals.

With all these new projects and opportunities, we needed additional management bandwidth in the company. Today, we're pleased to announce that Tom Erickson is Acquia's new CEO. Tom has had an important role in Acquia since our inception, as a member of our Advisory Board since day one, and as a Director on our Board for the past year. Jay, myself, and the rest of the management team have thoroughly enjoyed working with Tom. We've seen how much he can add to a company and so we really wanted Tom to take the reigns as CEO.

Tom has run both startups and large multi-nationals. Most recently, Tom was the CEO of Systinet Corporation, a privately held software company that was acquired by Mercury Interactive in 2006. He has also been Asia Pacific President of the Baan Company and International Vice President of webMethods. Beyond that, Tom has held executive positions at Filenet/Watermark Software and MRO Software.

I've wanted Tom to be an integral part of Acquia from pretty much the first time we met. We went out for sushi that day (I'm a sushi fanatic) and Tom ordered 5 different plates of tuna sashimi in Japanese. That evening, I learned that he has lived abroad for over 10 years and has picked up a smattering of languages (including Dutch) and other cultural insights. We spent a lot of time talking about Open Source, how to build a great business, and Drupal world dominance. I've learned a tremendous amount from Tom, respect his role as a mentor to Acquia, and have seen how he is able to help manage our team that spans several continents and time zones.

Bringing on a new CEO and expanding the executive leadership team is not unusual in a venture-backed startup. In addition to Tom, we've also added a VP of Sales, Warren Utt, who brings an extensive sales and operations track record to help us grow Acquia. Jay Batson, Acquia's founding CEO, will continue in a management role for the company and has his own thoughts to share about this -- including that Tom has been a first choice for this from the beginning. Like Jay, I'm very excited about the fact that we were able to convince Tom to join us full-time. Welcome Tom and Warren!

Drupal in the New York Times

The Drupal NYC group just hosted its sixth annual DrupalCamp on Saturday, February 28th, at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in downtown Brooklyn. Held the weekend before DCDC, the event was attended by some seventy people and can boast of something not many DrupalCamps have -- a writeup in The New York Times (subscription may be required).

As the article notes: "Drupal is free software used to run web sites, and participants at the event said they were drawn there, despite differences in backgrounds and ideologies, by a belief in an almost utopian form of technological cooperation".

It also takes a lot of cooperation to pull off such a successful event. Congratulations to all of the participants and event organizers, and a Thank you! to the sponsors, who included Acquia, Openflows Community Technology Lab, Open Green Map, and Siruna. Way to go, Drupal NYC!

DrupalCon DC

Drupal has thousands of contributors. About twice a year, we stop contributing long enough to have a beer together. We call that DrupalCon. ;-)

DrupalCon DC, or DCDC for short, is this week, and I'm leaving in a few moments to attend. DCDC's official events are held March 4th through the 7th at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. There is little doubt that this will be our largest DrupalCon yet. In fact, the conference has been sold out at 1,300 ticketed attendees since early in February (before the conference program was online!). With guests and volunteers, around 1,500 in total are expected to attend.

The conference schedule is great, featuring multiple tracks of workshops, presentations, and birds-of-a-feather meetups on all the important topics in our community. Special presentations include keynotes by David Weinberger and Chris Messina and a recap of the Drupal.org redesign by Mark Boulton. My regular presentation on the "State of Drupal" is Wednesday at 10:15am.

Acquia is a DCDC platinum sponsor, and Jay Batson, Tom Erickson and I are leading a presentation on Wednesday at 1:45pm providing an overview of Acquia's Drupal support model, our vision looking forward, and the newest products and services that we're launching this week. I'd like to invite everyone to attend, ask questions, and learn more about how Acquia intends to keep participating in the community.

Of course, DCDC is largely driven by volunteers, and many of them are hard at work already. It takes a lot to coordinate a huge event like this, and everyone involved -- from the local volunteers to the Drupal Association to the event planning staff -- has my thanks!

I'm looking forward to meet you all!

Drupal and Alfresco

Alfresco and Optaros, in conjunction with Acquia, have made available a set of Drupal modules that integrate Drupal with Alfresco using the CMIS APIs. See the CMIS module and the CMIS Alfresco module on drupal.org.

It all started with my Amnesty blog post a year or two ago. A lot of people mailed me asking me if I could find out more about Amnesty's Drupal Alfresco integration. I've had ongoing discussions with Alfresco ever since, and Matt Asay (VP of Business Development at Alfresco) assigned Yong Qu to do the initial integration work. Optaros, who has extensive experience with both Drupal and Alfresco (they are partners with both Alfresco and Acquia), saw a similar demand in the market and joined the integration effort. They have since built on top Alfresco's initial implementation and released the two Drupal modules on drupal.org.

Jeff Pots from Optaros provides a lot of details in his blog post.

These modules mark a first step towards enterprise-grade document management support for Drupal -- something enterprise users have asked for a lot. What is also cool about this approach is that different Drupal sites can share a single repository of assets. Images and other media assets from one site could be shared with different sub-sites, for example. Futhermore, the CMIS interface, which operates independently of the Alfresco integration, enables your Drupal site to connect with different content repositories. As indicated in a previous blog post, this could be a big deal if enough vendors adopt CMIS.

It is still very early and there is plenty of work left to be done. The high level roadmap for the modules is available in the module descriptions on drupal.org. Now that the foundation of the integration is in place, the goal is to improve the work based on customer demand, and if available, with help from the community.

Acquia 2009 roadmap

Now that the Acquia Network and Acquia Drupal are available, it is a good time to provide more visibility into where Acquia is headed. Just like we did early on in Acquia's life when we announced "Carbon" (now called "Acquia Drupal") and "Spokes" (now called the "Acquia Network"), we'd like to provide some transparency and visibility in our product strategy for 2009. This post provides a window into those plans.

As we started making plans for 2009, we realized that the best thing we could do, not just for us but also for our partners and the Drupal community at large, is to help tear down the barriers to using Drupal so that it can fulfill its full potential. As a result, much of what Acquia will do in 2009 relates to improving Drupal's adoption rate (e.g. improved usability, increasing awareness, better scalability, commercial-grade support, etc).

Here are Acquia's biggest projects for the year ... just like we did in 2008 with "Carbon" and "Spokes", we're using code names for most of our new projects.

Acquia Front Lawn: Drupal 7 usability

With the success of the drupal.org redesign in mind, I wondered if it would be possible for Mark Boulton and Leisa Reichelt to help us improve usability in Drupal itself. Since one of Acquia's key goals is to help expand Drupal adoption, and improving Drupal's usability is key to that, we decided to hire Mark Boulton to help with Drupal 7. We've asked Mark and Leisa to do all their work out in the open, in the Drupal community, so that the community can be involved and give input every step of the way. They have already been brainstorming with some members of Drupal's usability team, but the actual work will start at DrupalCon DC in two weeks.

Acquia Fields: scalable Drupal infrastructure

As a Drupal site gets more popular and bigger, keeping the site running and making it scale can be a huge challenge. Drupal can scale well, but expertise required to make Drupal scale well can be expensive and hard to find. We will address this problem with Acquia's custom Drupal hosting -- code-named Acquia Fields.

We built acquia.com in the cloud (using Amazon EC2), and have learned what works in the cloud and what doesn't. And we've had a rapidly growing number of requests to help customers build out similar infrastructure for their large-scale sites. We'll continue to build this incrementally, but our long term vision includes virtually unlimited scalability, automatic off-site backup and recovery, continuous site performance monitoring, and more. All of this will be backed by Acquia's support team.

Acquia Gardens: Drupal for everyone

Many individuals and organizations want a killer web site, but have no idea that Drupal is a great way to build one or to connect with other websites. Even if they did hear about Drupal, few non-technical people succeed in installing and hosting a Drupal site. In much the same way that Wordpress.com and Ning make it easy for people to start blogging or set up a social network, Acquia Gardens will provide an on-ramp for people to experience the awesome power of a Drupal based social publishing website. Our goal is to make the base service free of charge, and to introduce Drupal to millions of new users. Having a free entry point is essential to promoting viral adoption via word of mouth, which will help dramatically increase awareness of what Drupal has to offer. To make the services sustainable, we will charge for premium services and features.

A fundamental tenet of our strategy is the freedom to grow, migrate, or leave. We believe that site owners should be able to start with Acquia Gardens and migrate their site to Acquia Fields if they need more features, or to their own hosting provider if they prefer. To make that possible, you'll be able to export your Acquia Gardens site.

Acquia Network at the center

If we succeed in building the products above, we will have 3 deployment models for Drupal: (i) using Drupal, or Acquia Drupal, on your own infrastructure, (ii) using Drupal on Acquia Fields, and (iii) as part of Acquia Gardens. At the center of these 3 deployment options lives the Acquia Network. The Acquia Network provides three types of services for site owners: technical support, site management services (site traffic and usage statistics, uptime monitoring), and services to add valuable functionality to your site (powerful content searching, spam blocking, media delivery). The need for these services are universal regardless of how you use Drupal or where Drupal is hosted.

Acquia roadmap

Acquia Search

What we offer today in the Acquia Network is just a start. We have a long list of ideas for new services that will enhance Acquia Drupal sites and generally make life easier for site owners. The newest member of the Acquia Network services will we our hosted search offering based on Apache Solr. Acquia Search will provide Drupal site owners multi-site search, better results, faster performance, document search, federated search, and more. We already blogged about this, and we are recruiting beta testers. We think it has big value for Drupal users.

Conclusion

There are other great things that we are working on, but I've decided to focus on the broad initiatives that we're undertaking in 2009.

As always, much of the work we'll do, we'll do in the community, and we hope that others will join us as partners in realizing these plans, because we need the collaboration and support of many people outside the company to make it all work well. If you aspire to some of the same business objectives, we're open to joining forces around common goals.

There is a lot of work ahead to implement this strategy. Needless to say, it will be a multi-year effort to implement everything as envisioned. The game may change along the way, however, the groundwork is in place and we expect to be in the market with incremental progress as soon as possible. In the mean time, we'd love to get your feedback on what we have planned so we can make adjustments and improvements.

We can't wait to tell you more -- at the right time. In the mean time, you can find our roadmap at http://acquia.com/community/projects/acquia-2009-roadmap.

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