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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.

Drupal.org redesign code sprints: update 2

This week, twelve of us have gathered in Paris to continue our work on upgrading drupal.org. Sprinters include: Joeri Poesen, Damien Tournoud, Neil Drumm, Mike O'Conner, Gerhard Killesreiter, Klaas Van Waesberghe, Todd Ross Nienkerk, Aaron Stanush, David Stosik, Morten Heide, Gábor Hojtsy and myself. Upgrading and redesigning drupal.org is a big project, and, when implemented, will be an important milestone for our community. We're hopeful that we can push the drupal.org redesign closer to completion this week.

The Boston sprint two weeks ago was dedicated to upgrading drupal.org from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6 in preparation for this week's redesign. We worked hard, putting in 12-14 hour days, fleshing out solutions over breakfast, lunch and dinner and left only a short time for sleep. As a result, we're close to being able to upgrade drupal.org from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6.

This week in Paris, our group is split into two teams. One group will implement the new theme designed by Mark Boulton and Leisa Reichelt with the involvement of many people in our community. The second group will continue where we left off in Boston and will also start implementing some of the new functionality planned for the new drupal.org (e.g. better search, improved project pages, better landing pages, a jobs page, an events page, and more).

These week-long sprints are non-trivial. Although all of the participants invest their own time free of charge, we'd like to cover their airfare, hotel and some of the food required to keep them running. We've only been able to hold these sprints due to your generous contributions in the past; we still need to raise more funds so it is not too late to donate. Please consider using the Chipin widget to contribute if you can.

A number of organizations, including One Laptop Per Child, AF83, Four Kitchens, DrupalTherapy, OpenBand and Looforyoo, Capgemini France, NowPublic, Tag1consulting, and Acquia have already come forward with donations of money and resources to help make these sprints be successful.

At the end of the sprint, we'll update you on our progress, so please stay tuned for details.

Mark Boulton to help with Drupal 7

Drupal's steep learning curve filters out far too many smart, motivated people who could benefit from Drupal. We see it all the time in the Drupal.org forums, in my "State of Drupal" surveys, on Twitter, when talking to customers, and on the web. Even though we've made significant progress with making Drupal easier to use, a lot of work is left to be done. With other content management systems such as Joomla! and WordPress making strides to catch up to Drupal in terms of development flexibility, if we want Drupal to remain competitive, we have a challenge we have to face: we need to create a user experience that makes it easier for people new to Drupal to discover all of its richness and power.

With the success of the drupal.org redesign in mind, I wondered if it would be possible for Mark Boulton and Leisa Reichelt of Mark Boulton Design (MBD) to help us improve usability in Drupal itself. They have done a tremendous job with the drupal.org designs that are currently being implemented, but why stop there?

Since one of Acquia's key goals is to help expand Drupal adoption, and improving Drupal's usability is key to that, I thought it would be right for Acquia to finance Mark and Leisa to help us work on Drupal 7, for a couple of months, too. The consensus among my colleagues was that hiring Mark and Leisa would be a both great way to help Drupal conquer the world, and a really good contribution Acquia could make to the Drupal community.

Mark and Leisa were both instantly excited about continuing their work with the community. Starting in March, they will spend time working on making Drupal 7 easier to use. We've asked them to do all their work out in the open, in the Drupal community, just like they did with the Drupal.org redesign, so that the community can be involved and give input every step of the way. We have also encouraged Mark to dare to envision wide-ranging, far-reaching usability improvements, rather than incremental usability changes on the status quo. This is a great chance for us to all collectively think "outside the box" about how great Drupal's user experience could be.

Both Mark and I have been in contact with key members of the Drupal usability group. They are going to be deeply involved in this effort by including Mark and Leisa in their planning and by giving feedback, guidance, and assistance. As a starting point, we've pointed Mark to the existing Drupal usability reports, and he has already been brainstorming with some members of Drupal's usability team about what aspects to work on and how to work together. Mark and Leisa will not be able to start before March, but it's important that this work starts as early as possible.

However, beautiful usability improvements are no good to anyone unless they have code behind them. Therefore, in addition to paying MBD, Acquia will also contribute a signficant amount of our own internal engineering time to the implementation of the mockups and ideas produced by Mark and Leisa. Their suggestions will be posted as patches to the drupal.org issue queue for community review, input, and refinement and Acquia will dedicate two or three full-time engineers to help implement suggestions from MDB and the usability team. It is too early to tell who exactly these engineers will be, but probably a combination of Gábor Hojtsy, David Rothstein, Barry Jaspan, and Paul Lovvik (our Javascript wizard). Jeff Noyes, Acquia's UX designer, is going to participate as well, so we'll have a world-class team at work. We also hope that others will join us as partners in realizing these improvements, because alongside MBD and a few Acquia engineers, the more people from the Drupal community that collaborate and contribute to the effort, the better Drupal 7 will be for us all.

Now that we have Mark and Leisa, leaders from the Drupal usability group, and Acquia on board, we're finally ready to publicly announce this initiative and to proceed in an open and transparent way, involving everyone in the Drupal community. Mark and Leisa bring a lot of Drupal expertise to the table; they are armed with use data and test driven methodologies; they have a track record of working well with our community, so I think we're set up for success. This is an opportunity to get the community fired up about usability, and to bring more outside design and usability expertise into the project. And with your help, this should be a pretty awesome move for Drupal 7! :-)

Drupal.org redesign code sprints: update 1

Last week, we met at DrupalCamp Köln in Germany to start planning the Drupal.org redesign work. The intent of the meeting was to get a better handle on the work ahead of us, and to make preliminary design decisions. Further, we're starting to establish how we'll work together, and ultimately, how we scale out the work in the future.

We all went home from Germany with additional work to do:

  • Olav Schettler is researching OpenID servers and will share his findings in the drupal.org redesign group.
  • Gábor Hojtsy took on the responsibility of dissecting Mark's design, mapping features onto modules, and helping to create a continuous integration environment to test the upgrade.
  • Robert Douglass agreed to do research on our search requirements, and will develop a comparison and discussion plan.
  • We formed a group of theme designers under the guidance of Mike O'Connor and Morten (King of Denmark) that will investigate our theme options and how to best translate Mark Boulton's designs to a working theme. If you want to help, contact them using their personal contact pages to join their temporary new group on groups.drupal.org. The drupal.org style guide is published at http://infrastructure.drupal.org/drupal.org-style-guide.
  • Fago agreed to research friend and buddy lists. Drupal.org is as much (if not more) a social site than a content site and Mark's design promotes the social aspect even further.
  • Gerhard Killesreiter and Damien Tournoud are working on getting a test and development server set up so we can do continuous testing.
  • I agreed to continue my focus on coordination, communication, fundraising, financials, and more -- hence this blog post.

As the next step, about 10 of us are heading to Boston next week to begin work on the Drupal 5 to Drupal 6 upgrade of drupal.org. The list of people include: Gábor Hojtsy, Derek Wright (project module), Chad Phillips (project module), Dave Reid, Damien Tournoud, Neil Drumm, Susan MacPhee, Jeremy Andrews, Narayan Newton, David Strauss and myself.

So far, the fundraising is going well. In addition to the many individual contributors who have donated raw dollars in the Chip-in widget, various companies have stepped up to donate human resources. Kudos go to One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), AF83, Four Kitchens, DrupalTherapy, OpenBand, Looforyoo, NowPublic, Tag1 Consulting and Acquia.

However, if we want to make it to Paris to continue the work, we need more money and more attendees! If you're available to attend the sprint in Paris, and if you can help us upgrade modules or write new modules, please let me know. If you can support the sprints through a financial contribution via the ChipIn widget, we appreciate your support.

If you can't make it to either Boston or Paris, the best way to help is to review the overview at http://drupal.org/node/362117, the list of issues at http://drupal.org/project/issues-term/346, and help us tackle them one by one. These URLs reflect a live and accurate view of our progress so everyone can help -- bookmark these pages and start participating today! We hope that many people will help us remotely as we work on this list of issues. Thanks!

DrupalCamp Köln wrapup

Last weekend, I attended DrupalCamp Köln in Germany. It was great to put my feelers out in the German Drupal community and to talk with so many Drupal users and developers. Executive summary: the German Drupal community is going strong. Thanks for your hospitality!
Welcome note

The welcome note with Thomas Narres (<a href="http://www.narres.com">Narres Open Web Solutions</a>), <a href="http://robshouse.net">Robert Douglass</a> (<a href="http://acquia.com">Acquia</a>) and the main sponsor Mr. Hecker (<a href="http://www.gfu.net/">GFU</a>).

Fundraise

We raised a good amount of money for the <a href="http://buytaert.net/drupal-org-redesign-code-sprints">Drupal.org redesign sprints</a>. Thank you Germany!

Robert on Apache Solr

<a href="http://robshouse.net">Robert Douglass</a> talking about Apache Solr and <a href="http://buytaert.net/a-hosted-search-service-for-drupal">Acquia's upcoming hosted search offering</a>. The room was packed!

Drupal birthday cake

Because Drupal turned 8 years old last week, I got the Acquia team a special birthday cake. Pictures have since emerged so I'm sharing a couple of them here. Yum, yum!
Happy eighth birthday drupal
Happy eighth birthday drupal
Happy eighth birthday drupal

Jeff makes sure that I get a taste too.

Drupal.org redesign code sprints

As promised, we're organizing a series of sprints to help push the drupal.org redesign closer to completion. The drupal.org redesign is a massive project, and, when implemented, will be an important milestone for our community.

The Drupal.org website was originally launched in 2001 and last redesigned in 2005; over time we've simply outgrown it. The community has made it clear that new features were needed, and the Drupal Association has made the Drupal.org redesign one of its top priorities. By improving the navigation, the design and the organization of the site, we hope to further expand Drupal's reach and to provide us better tools to communicate and collaborate.

Most of you are likely familiar with the open redesign process that has occurred in the redesign group with the help from Mark Boulton, Leisa Reichelt and many other people in our community. Now it is time for us, the community, to take these designs and to implement them.

To that end, we're organizing a number of redesign-specific sprints over the next two months, each concentrating on a specific area of the process. Even though we won't be able to completely upgrade the entire site during these sprints, we will make valuable progress and form plans that will allow us to move forward to completion. Many Drupal contributors have already agreed to participate, and a number of companies and individuals have come forward to donate time, resources and money. I've included a Chip-in widget on this page, and I encourage you to contribute as well.

  • Köln Hackathon, January 17 -18 -- While in Germany to attend DrupalCamp Köln, Gerhard, Robert, and I are going to sit down and prepare for the upgrade, hash out the modules to be used, plan the details of the new search feature, and make some other important design decisions. Anyone at DrupalCamp Köln is welcome to join us as we make these preliminary plans.
  • Boston, Cambrigde, January 26 - 30 -- The Boston sprint is dedicated to upgrading drupal.org's Drupal 5 platform to Drupal 6, in preparation for the redesign. During this week-long sprint at the OLPC offices, we plan to get a working upgrade path for the existing drupal.org databases, port the project infrastructure to Drupal 6, and implement Views, among other issues. The redesign infrastructure team group contains many posts detailing the current status of the upgrade process. Gábor Hojtsy, Derek Wright, Chad Phillips, Damien Tournoud, Neil Drumm, Dave Reid, Kevin Hankens, Susan MacPhee and myself have all committed to attend, and many others are available contingent on funding.
  • Paris, February 9 - 13 -- At the Paris sprint, we'll start implementing Mark Boulton's redesign on D6. Though it will take longer than this week to do, we plan to be well on our way by week's end. Gábor Hojtsy, Gerhard Killesreiter, Damien Tournoud, Neil Drumm, Joeri Poesen, Robert Douglass and myself have committed to attend, and many others are considering it. I also called up Mark Boulton, and he is tentatively scheduled to attend the code sprint in Paris.
  • Washington DC, March 4 - 7 -- While at DrupalCon DC 2009, we plan to continue to work on the upgrade. When, where and what will be worked on is still to be defined.

Though our meet-up in Köln will be essentially free, the week-long sprints in Boston and Paris are not. We need to raise around $15,000 USD to fund the sprints. The money will be used to cover flight, food and hotel costs for the sprinters. All sprinters are generously donating their time to make this happen. Any excess money will be used to add more people, or will be donated to the Drupal Association.

While the Drupal Association may be able to provide some funds, we'll only reach our goal through your generous contribution. A number of organizations, including Acquia, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), AF83, Four Kitchens, DrupalTherapy, OpenBand and Looforyoo have already come forward with donations of money and resources to help make these sprints be successful.

We'll make sure to highlight companies and individuals that make a significant donation. But more than anything else, we need people that are willing to step up and help. If you're available to attend these sprints, and if you have the time and dedication to work on the drupal.org redesign before, during and after the code sprints, join the redesign infrastructure team, let me know in the comments and we'll figure out how and when you can best participate. We certainly welcome more people, especially those who can pay (most of) their own way.

Please consider making a donation using the ChipIn widget or help us raise funds by spreading the word. Drupal.org is our home on the web, and it needs your help. Thanks!

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