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Drupal Gardens now in open beta

Today we’ve reached another important milestone at Acquia: Drupal Gardens is now in open beta. No more beta codes. No more waiting to try the service. Now anyone can access Drupal Gardens and create a free Drupal 7 site!

It’s been fun to watch Drupal Gardens grow and mature during the private beta. In addition to building out the feature set, we’ve spent a great deal of time improving the stability and underlying performance of the service. And we’ve had a wild ride on Drupal 7 HEAD along the way, as Jacob Singh describes so colorfully:

Running from an Alpha versus HEAD is like the difference between playing Jenga on a sleeping elephant to playing Jenga on a cocaine addled elephant riding a skateboard being jabbed in the [rear] with a hot poker.

We’ve also invested plenty of time with Drupal Gardens users - gathering feedback, performing user tests, discussing potential features. One request that was added in the latest release is site duplication. This is the ability to clone an existing site, including its design, functionality, information architecture and content, to create a new site. It’s one of the first Enterprise Drupal Gardens features, enabling site builders and designers to do rapid prototyping in Drupal Gardens and roll out new sites quickly according to pre-defined templates. Site duplication will evolve into site and theme marketplaces where anyone can share site templates for use by others.

Drupal Gardens continues to advance with great strides. I encourage you to take Drupal Gardens for a test drive and to share your feedback with us.

Acquia Search: an update after one year

About 20 months ago, at Acquia, we began working on a hosted offering for Apache Solr, an open source enterprise search platform from the Apache Lucene project. Exactly one year ago, we launched it commercially as Acquia Search. Time and the public reaction have proven that we made the right choice. In the past year, Apache Solr has received a tremendous amount of traction in the Drupal community. Most large sites launched recently use Apache Solr because it provides a faster, more scalable search solution, as well as improved search accuracy and more features than the built-in search features of Drupal's core.

If you want to install, run and maintain Apache Solr yourself -- assuming you have the resources required -- you can of course do so. However, many organizations lack the technical expertise to deploy, maintain and scale Java applications. Even if they do have the resources, it's often cheaper to use Acquia Search. Acquia Search has been part of our overall plan to sell simplicity and enhance the experience of using Drupal. Today, the majority of our customers that subscribe to the Acquia Network, which includes very large Drupal sites, actively use Acquia Search instead of maintaining their own or using Drupal core's built-in search. In the past three months we have handled about 20 million search requests on behalf of our customers. These are important proof-points of our strategy.

The growth in popularity of Apache Solr and the story of Acquia Search haven't finished, though. This week we released some excellent new features for Acquia Search which we believe will further help drive adoption of Apache Solr and Acquia Search. We added support for attachment indexing (e.g. search PDF and Word documents), multi-site search (i.e. search multiple Drupal sites at once), and other additions. For more details on this latest release of Acquia Search, check out Peter Wolanin's blog post on the subject. I think our customers will be quite pleased at the improvements we've made in this release. And if you're not using Apache Solr or Acquia Search, you should seriously consider implementing it. It's cool stuff. :-)

10,000 Drupal Gardens sites

Earlier this year, we launched Drupal Gardens in private beta here at Acquia. A couple of days ago, we hit the 10,000 site mark! I want to thank all the people that that continue to help test Drupal Gardens, and whom created 10,000 new Drupal Gardens sites in such a record time. It is great to see more and more people build real sites on Drupal Gardens, and to see the platform that once was only envisioned, come to life.

We decided to build Drupal Gardens because we believed that many individuals and organizations want a killer web site, but have no idea that Drupal is a great way to build one. Even if they did hear about Drupal, few non-technical people succeed in installing a Drupal site, creating a nice-looking theme for it, and keeping Drupal up-to-date. We also learned that there are plenty of organizations that maintain tens, and even hundreds of micro sites and that Drupal Gardens has real promise in the enterprise. Our goal is to make Drupal Gardens a good fit for all of these audiences.

Talking to Drupal Gardens users, and reading people's reactions on Twitter, I'm convinced Drupal Gardens can be the game changer that we envisioned it to be. It's frickin' exciting!

Now we've passed 10,000 sites, our goal is to work towards an open beta, rather than a private invite-only beta. This means that over the next couple of months, you'll see us focus more on fixing bugs and fine-tuning so we can open our doors for more people. Of course, we'll continue to add new functionality too. A lot of big new features are already in the design and planning phase, but more about our plans in a future post.

Moving to Boston for two years

I pretty much spent my entire life in Antwerp -- 31 years to date. However, in just a few weeks, my family and I will be moving to Boston. Why?

  • Primarily, it allows me to reduce my travel and spend more time with my family. I flew 65,000 miles the first five months of this year, and 100,000 miles in total last year. Being away from home that much isn't fun; neither is having a permanent jetlag.
  • My wife has accepted a research position at Broad Institute, a genomics research center jointly of MIT and Harvard. As a postdoctoral researcher, it is a tremendous opportunity. Did I mention how proud I am of her?
  • Acquia, my company, is based in Boston and I want to spend more actual person-to-person time there. While working remotely is OK, nothing beats face-to-face interaction, especially when you're a fast growing start-up.

We've decided to move for a period of two years, and to return to Belgium in 2012. By then, Axl and Stan can go to school in Belgium, my wife can resume her research position at Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, and hopefully, Acquia will have offices in Europe.

Moving 3,500 miles from your home town, most of your relatives, and many of your best friends is not an easy choice. It's quite likely that -- at this early date -- we do not understand how significant of a change it will really be. While we'll miss our friends and family in Belgium, we believe that it will be a win-win.

I'll keep you posted about our move, and our adventures abroad!

Extraordinary glimpse of Acquia Client Advisors in action

Working at Acquia often means taking on the hard problems, the big challenges, and making the difference between success and failure for our customers. To highlight just how flexible our Client Advisory Team needs to be on a daily basis, I want to share with you this extraordinary glimpse into the inner workings of a real life customer who was dealing with a Drupal problem they never even imagined could exist. Please be warned, this is a real screenshot of a real "support incident" - nothing has been held back, except the customer's name (for their own protection). For the truly daring, there is also a high resolution version.
Support ticket jingle

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