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In a couple of weeks, I'll participate in a panel discussion on The Future of Open Source in Business. In preparation for that discussion, I figured I'd write down my current thoughts and solicit some feedback. I'll talk about two important trends relevant for the future of Open Source, but there are certainly more.
First, Open Source adoption in the enterprise is trending at an incredible rate -- Drupal adoption has grown a lot in 2009 but we saw by far the biggest relative growth in the enterprise. Fueling this movement is the notion that Open Source options present an innovative, economically friendly and more secure alternative to their costly proprietary counterparts. Second, Cloud Computing is a transformational movement in that it enables continual innovation and updating - not to mention a highly expandable infrastructure that will reduce the burden on your IT team.
Two years ago, when starting Acquia, we predicted this would happen so it is no surprise that Acquia's strategy is closely aligned with those two trends: Drupal Gardens, Acquia Hosting and Acquia Search are all built on Open Source tools and delivered as Software as a Service in the cloud. Combining Open Source tools and Cloud Computing makes for the perfect storm for success. It provides real value to end-users and it enables companies to monetize Open Source. It creates a win-win situation.
At the same time, I think we have an opportunity to go beyond that, and to redefine the Software as a Service model based on Open Source values, almost exactly like we started doing 10+ years ago with off-the-shelf software. Almost all Software as a Service providers employ a proprietary model -- they might allow you to export your data, but they usually don't allow you to export their underlying code. While a lot of these services might be built on Open Source components, they have a lot more in common with proprietary software vendors than Open Source projects or companies.
There is room for Open Source companies to disrupt this model, and it is probably not something that can be done without the help of Open Source companies. Drupal Gardens provides a good example of this model.
For example, users of Drupal Gardens can help improve Drupal Gardens, simply by contributing to Drupal. By staying close to the Open Source project, everyone can help shape the service. Along the same lines, we want people to be able to export their Drupal Gardens site -- the code, the theme and data -- and move of the platform to any Drupal hosting environment. By doing so, we provide people an easy on-ramp but we allow them to grow beyond the capabilities of Drupal Gardens without locking them in.
It is "Open SaaS" or Software as a Service done right -- it will offer enterprises a much more secure and low-cost alternative to proprietary counterparts and provides many Open Source projects the opportunity to have a much bigger reach. It creates a triple win scenario -- for the customer, for the Open Source project and the Open Source company -- in a way that wasn't really apparent five years ago. At least not to me.
Have you taken the 2010 Future of Open Source Survey yet? If not, please take a few moments to share your thoughts on where you think Open Source is headed.
Like last year, I'll be attending the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) next month, on March 17-18 in San Francisco. Also like last year, I will participate in a panel discussion led by Michael Skok (Partner at North Bridge, Acquia Board Member and personal friend). This year, I'll be in a panel with Larry Augustin (CEO of SugarCRM, VA Linux, SourceForge), Jim Whitehurst (CEO of RedHat) and Tim Yeaton (CEO of Black Duck Software) to discuss the future of Open Source businesses. The panel discussion will draw on the 2010 Future of Open Source survey so make sure to weigh in and provide your perspective on a number of important Open Source business questions. Take the Future of Open Source Survey 2010. As a reference, here are the 2009 and 2008 results.
We've also built a Drupal Gardens site to promote the survey, share articles on the Future of Open Source and facilitate ongoing discussion on the topic: http://futureofopensource.drupalgardens.com. There is also a Future of Open Source Survey twitter account that you can follow for updates.
OSBC 2009 panel discussion. From left to right: me, Ron Hovsepian (President and CEO of Novell), John Lilly (CEO of Mozilla), Marten Mickos (CEO of MySQL). For more information about OSBC 2009, <a href="http://buytaert.net/osbc-wrapup-2009">read my wrap-up blog post</a>.
You might remember that a while ago, Drupal was promoted to the 'Visionaries' category in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace. For someone unfamiliar with all the social software vendors and projects, the choice can be overwhelming and Gartner's reports can carry a lot of weight in the decision making process. Drupal's promotion to the 'Visionaries' category was a big win for all of us.
The social software market is evolving fast, and in response Gartner is working on a presentation that compares all of the different social software players in the enterprise market, including open-source projects like Drupal. As part of that process, Acquia was invited to review the presentation and provide comments about the social software landscape and Drupal's success stories. These success stories are important to help Gartner position Drupal against its many competitors. We will also be having a followup meeting with Gartner for further discussion.
Gartner considers three different use cases for social software: (i) team collaboration software, (ii) community software and (iii) networking software. Each of these scenarios have different requirements and emphasize different features of social software. User profiles and group support seems to carry a lot of weight in their evaluations. In addition, for each of these use cases, Gartner considers two different deployment scenarios: (a) sites inside the workplace and (b) externally facing websites. This effectively creates a 3x2 matrix or grid.
To help prepare for our meeting with Gartner, and to help further Drupal's competitive positioning in the enterprise we're looking for good examples in each of those categories. Good suggestions? Post them in the comments of this blog post. Remember that Gartner is focused on the enterprise, so we're looking for examples in the enterprise that carry a lot of weight. Thanks for your help!
I have a pretty big update for you: we just launched Drupal Gardens into private beta. Since the first public Drupal Gardens demo at DrupalCon Paris, a lot of progress has been made. Today, we sent private beta invites to the first people that signed up to be beta testers, and if things go well, we'll send out a couple thousand more invitations over the next few weeks.
For those who received an invite, building Drupal sites just got easier. Drupal Gardens is a hosted version of Drupal so you don't have to worry about installation, hosting or upgrading. Think of it as Wordpress.com or Ning, except that it comes with the power of Drupal. Equipped with multi-user blogging, commenting, forums, custom content types, and advanced user management, Drupal Gardens should be a great tool for organizations that want to build social sites. For those of you who would like to also test drive Drupal Gardens, you can sign up to request a beta on drupalgardens.com and we'll be releasing more registration codes during the next few months of beta testing. We'll run in private beta for a bit and then open up to a public beta as we get closer to a final launch in early spring.
At Acquia, one of our goals has always been to help spread the adoption of Drupal. Hence, we have decided to make Drupal Gardens available for free until the end of 2010. By the end of 2010 we hope to have built all of the important features that will enable organizations to create feature-rich, social microsites. Our current thinking is that after 2010, there will continue to be a free tier for smaller sites but that there will also be paid tiers for larger websites or those who want access to premium features. There is a lot of work ahead of us and we need your help in the Gardens deciding what to plant, what to water and what to weed. We (at Acquia) can't wait to hear what you've got to say!
From a technical point of view, I'd like to point out this is a "real" beta launch. Drupal Gardens is a gem in the rough, built on the Drupal 7 core - currently in an alpha release - extended with functionality such as a WYSIWYG editor (CKeditor), media management, a theme builder, and basic "query builder" (i.e. simpleviews) capability. We're working with the various module maintainers, and contributing back almost all of our development efforts to the Drupal community.
Architecturally, Drupal Gardens is built on the ideas of an open social web; we markup data with RDFa, we implemented single-sign on using OpenID as our identity layer, we integrate with third-party services, and we allow people to export the code, the theme and data that makes up their site. We'll be sharing more technical details as we make progress, but we like to believe it will be a hosted service "done right".
I'd like to thank our alpha testers who have provided us some great feedback so far, the team at Acquia for working hard to get to private beta, and for the community for all the work on Drupal 7. I look forward to more people having the chance to test out Drupal Gardens and seeing what grows!