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Acquia retrospective 2013

As is now a tradition, here is my annual Acquia retrospective. Time to look back at 2013. In your life, you only get an opportunity to do so many things, so you have to focus on doing things that matter. I'm fortunate that Drupal and Acquia are remarkable stories. I take time to write these retrospectives for you and for me. I write them for you, because you might benefit from my experiences or from analyzing the information provided. But I also write them for myself so I don't forget this incredible journey. If you want, you can read previous retrospectives: 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

For Acquia, 2013 was another excellent year. It was our fifth full year in business (i.e. revenue-generating year), and we finished the year with 19 consecutive quarters of revenue growth. In short, 2013 was a year of continued momentum, record bookings and great customer success. With five-year sales growth of more than 84,100 percent, Acquia was identified as the second fastest-growing company on Deloitte's Technology Fast 500 in North America. Acquia was also listed among North America's fastest growing software companies in 2013's Inc. 500. We're all very proud of that.

We hired 208 people this year and ended the year with 412 employees, up from 280 employees at the end of last year. 337 employees are based in the US, with 197 in Burlington, 27 in Portland, and 113 remote employees. We employ 75 people outside of the US, 53 of which are based in our office in Reading, UK. In 2013, we almost doubled our headcount in the Reading and Portland offices. Additionally, we hired 31 interns in 2013.

Acquia grew its customer base to more than 4,000 organizations. Some of the brands we've added as customers include Intel Corporation, Polycom, News Corp Australia, Timex, the National Association of Realtors, the X PRIZE Foundation, Columbia University, McGraw Hill Financial, Bart.gov and the Red Cross.

In 2013, Acquia continued to be focused on providing Drupal support to our customers. We reached the milestone of 100,000 support requests received and resolved during our company lifespan. In 2013 alone, we resolved almost 32,000 customer service requests, up 30 percent from 2012. We invested a lot in scaling our support team and on improving overall customer satisfaction and responsiveness. For example, we created a dedicated customer onboarding team. The result is that we spent more time with our customers to better understand their needs and help solve their Drupal questions. In 2014, we'll continue to keep customer success front and center. It's something we are very passionate about.

With regards to Acquia's software products, it was certainly our busiest year. Not only did we continue to invest heavily in Acquia Cloud and Acquia Network, we also launched some new products. Acquia Commerce Cloud was unveiled last quarter, providing a platform for creating content-rich, socially enabled shopping experiences. Acquia Cloud Site Factory was also released, providing a platform for launching and managing hundreds of websites. We unveiled Drupal Commons 3.0, our Drupal-based community platform, that was identified a Social Platform leader by Forrester Research. And we delivered the general availability release of the Mollom Content Moderation Platform, a content moderation platform built for the enterprise.

The cloud continues to prove to be a great way for organizations to save money, manage websites more efficiently and bring them to market faster. And Drupal is no exception to this trend -- in 2013, many organizations decided to standardize on Drupal in a big way, moving away from the variety of different systems -- exactly the vision we laid out in 2010.

And the proof is in the numbers: Acquia Cloud grew from 4,300 AWS instances at the end of 2012 to 7,300 AWS instances at the end of 2013. In aggregate, we're now serving more than 22 billion hits a month or 319 TB of bandwidth. I believe that makes Acquia the largest Drupal infrastructure provider in the world. Some of the Acquia Cloud achievements I'm most proud of include hosting the Grammy Awards (462 million visits) and hosting Red Nose Day during their largest fundraising event ever (£75 million/$113 million raised in one night).

Drupal community and Acquia

In 2013, we continued our long track record of giving back to the larger Drupal community.

  • We sponsored 77 Drupal events in 2013, helping thousands of Drupal developers connect and collaborate together.
  • Our product teams sponsored work on numerous important community modules, such as Media, Organic Groups, and more …
  • The authoring experience work for Drupal 8 that we started last year landed in core this year, including WYSIWYG and in-place editing. We also sponsored work on redesigned content creation page and an improved blocks UI for Drupal 8.
  • Also on Drupal 8, we sponsored work on the Web Services and Migrate in Core initiatives, donating the Migrate module authors' time.
  • We helped set up numerous process improvements to help streamline Drupal 8 core development, including various "hard problems" discussions at DrupalCons to work through complex issues, releasing monthly alpha releases for user and developer feedback, and laying out the criteria for beta 1. We've also helped establish communication channels to help promote what is happening in Drupal 8: the This Week In Core series, and the Drupal 8.0 landing page.
  • We helped the Drupal Association to establish Drupal.org Working Groups to provide better leadership and transparency to the Drupal website. Some of our team also helped assist on Drupal.org upgrade and security issues.

I'm particularly proud of Acquia's contributions to Drupal. It's part of our philosophy to give back, and we work hard to do our part by contributing to the Drupal community -- the reason why we exist. I'm proud of this because it is not trivial to give back as much as we do.

Conclusion

What I'm most proud of is that we have accomplished all of this "the open source way". Since Acquia's interests are so aligned with Drupal's, we try to raise the tide for the Drupal community at large.

At the end of the day, we're not selling Drupal or cloud hosting. We're selling what can be done with Drupal. The belief in the limitless. No matter what you dream, you can do it, and Drupal will get you there -- and Acquia is here to help you succeed. Thank you for 2013, and we're looking forward to working with more customers that are changing the world.

How Acquia plans to give back to Drupal 8 in Q4

People wonder what we do at Acquia's Office of the CTO (OCTO). In order to provide some more transparency, I wanted to share how we plan to give back between today and the end of the year.

Drupal 8 beta 1

Now that we're forgoing an upgrade path for a migration path, we need to redefine the release criteria for 'beta 1'. We also need to track the issues that block beta in order to help escalate the most critical of the critical issues. We will work with the Drupal 8 core maintainers to define and communicate these criteria, and help with timely patch reviews and issue management for beta-blocking issues.

Migrate module in core

As a co-author of the Migrate module, Moshe will be assisting the core development team on the goal to get Migrate module functionality into core and support a Drupal 6 to Drupal 8, as well as the Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 migration path.

Improve the Drupal 8 developer experience

We want developers to be productive and enjoy writing Drupal 8 modules, so we will be fleshing out the D8DX battleplan based on discussions at DrupalCon Prague, and working with others in the Drupal community to ensure that we fix the most important developer experience problems in preparation of Drupal 8's release.

Develop learning resources

We will be working on a central resource on Drupal.org for developers to find the information they need in order to port their modules to Drupal 8, including documentation, tools, and other resources.

Evaluate semantic versioning

There was a lot of talk at DrupalCon Prague about lessons learned in Drupal 7 and 8 and how to do better in the future. One such area of improvement is a release strategy that allows for iterative innovation in Drupal core every few months. We plan to work with other community leaders and the Drupal security team in order to come up with a strategy around this. A component of this strategy may be to adopt semantic versioning.

Improve Drupal 8 performance

We will also dedicate the OCTO team's time to help the Drupal core community identify and fix some major performance issues in Drupal core.

Authoring experience improvements

Major development efforts on the UX features the Spark team helped get into Drupal 8 core—WYSIWYG, in-place editing, mobile-friendly toolbar —are winding down. We still have work to do on fixing up some loose ends, and are committed to see this through. We will also backport the major Spark modules to Drupal 7.

Communicate Drupal 8 progress

We aim to continue the weekly D8 progress reports that you can find at This Week In Core, and are actively seeking other core developers to help get these important posts out.

A drop in an ocean

We're a handful of contributors in the OCTO and can only do so much. We will continue doing these things within a community of hundreds of other contributors and supporting their work in other ways. We're looking forward to much Drupal 8 progress in the next 3 months!

Announcing Acquia Cloud Free

I'm excited to announce that Acquia is launching Acquia Cloud Free, a no-cost development sandbox for Drupal development. While Acquia has always had a freemium offer for development purposes, it had an expiration date, and it required a credit card. We've changed that with Acquia Cloud Free. Acquia Cloud Free comes packed with great tools including, but not limited to:

  1. A free development sandbox on Acquia Cloud with development and staging environments, Drush integration, Git repository and more. (The sandbox can't be used to run production sites.)
  2. Drupal development workflow tools that allow you to deploy code between dev and staging environments, replicate files, make backups and more.
  3. Acquia Insight which will scan your site for security problems, performance improvements and general Drupal best practices. Every day, we run thousands of tests on your site. Our team keeps adding new tests based on what they learn every day.
  4. Acquia Search which supercharges your site's search capabilities with more accurate search results, faceted navigation, search analytics and more.

We've put a lot of thought and effort into creating the Acquia Cloud platform and continue to invest it in heavily. As a result, we have seen tremendous adoption. I believe that giving everyone access to a free Acquia Cloud development sandbox is one way we can give back and help grow Drupal. Give it a try if you want!

Three important start-up lessons I learned

The blog post below was a guest article I wrote for Inc Magazine and was published in September 2013. It has been a while since I shared a startup lesson on my personal blog so I'm cross-posting my article here.

When I started working on Drupal in my college dormitory 12 years ago, I had no idea that one day it would be used by 2 percent of the world's websites. What is even more exciting is the open source community that has grown up around Drupal.

I co-founded Acquia six years ago to support the growing number of organizations that rely on Drupal, and also co-founded Mollom to solve the spam moderation challenges for website owners. Six years later, Mollom was acquired, and Acquia has almost 400 employees. As I've encountered challenges every step of the way. Here are three lessons learned.

1. Think big

So often I meet entrepreneurs who are working on a startup concept. They have a great idea and a business plan to bring it to market, but they're thinking too small about what they're trying to do.

I believe companies are most successful when they have a mission to change the world. When you set ambitious goals, you'll better position yourself for success. You become what you believe.

Being shortsighted can be a big barrier to success, because you can easily miss the window to capitalize on an opportunity. It's why I founded Acquia in the United States; I immediately had access to a larger market. We moved quickly to be a global company to maximize our opportunity, and it's made all the difference.

2. Fail fast

"Fail fast, succeed faster" is a philosophy that's been adopted across the company at Acquia. It's perhaps counter intuitive, but the idea is that in building a startup, you're going to fail. There will be problems, and the faster you run into them, the faster you can learn, adjust, and grow.

Implied in the fail-fast philosophy is that you'll be open to failure, and that can be hard for entrepreneurs who are so focused on success. People don't like to fail, so they're not inclined to celebrate their failures and embrace the lessons learned. Yet doing so means you'll more quickly make the needed – and often painful – adjustments to get on the right path faster.

In the initial business plan for Acquia, we expected to support a specific distribution of Drupal that we'd closely manage. Early prospects told us repeatedly it was a great strategy, yet when we took our offer to market, the buyers weren't there. We realized very fast that our business plan needed a big change, that we needed to support Drupal in whole. It was a terrifying proposition at that stage of our business, but we realized that was what the market needed most. We made the change, and it quickly put us on a successful course.

3. Passion makes the difference

I think some people get inspired to launch a startup because of its potential rewards, but launching a successful business starts with having a passion to solve a problem. I was passionate about building websites; it was my biggest hobby before it was ever a business opportunity.

When we started Acquia, our lead investor told me the key to a successful startup isn't in a good idea, but rather is in having a good team. A good team will figure out how to make something great happen. They'll pivot, they'll change, and they'll claw their way to success. Find talented people who share your passion, and together you'll find your way toward building a great business.

Acquia Cloud Site Factory

Many organizations have long had the need to maintain multiple websites as part of their digital marketing and enablement efforts. But when the number of sites tallied across different products and services, geographic regions, departments, and clients for just a single organization grows into the hundreds or thousands, it's easy to see why managing all of these sites with agility, velocity and freedom has long been elusive.

Last week, Acquia announced the availability of the "Acquia Cloud Site Factory". I wanted to give a bit more background on this new product and possibly discuss it in the comments.

The Acquia Cloud Site Factory is a platform that provides users with a feature rich Drupal site-building environment and powerful multisite management tools on top of the Acquia Cloud platform. It was built to help corporations, agencies, educational institutions and government agencies to build, deploy and manage hundreds or thousands of Drupal websites at scale.

Acquia Cloud Site Factory is the result what we learned from delivering Drupal Gardens as a solution to large enterprises. Many of our customers benefit from Drupal Gardens as a multisite management platform. However, other customers ran into limitations with Drupal Gardens, namely the inability for developers to add modules, and could not experience the full freedom of Drupal. Based on our customers’ guidance and our own experiences, we built the new Acquia Cloud Site Factory to give organizations access to the full capabilities of Drupal, including custom modules.

Cloud Site Factory is available in three flavors so customers can choose the level of service that best meets their needs:

  • Pure Software as a Service (SaaS): This is an out-of-the-box Drupal experience for customers who don’t want to manage anything other than their site content. Acquia manages and maintains the Drupal and Site Factory tools, and guarantees the service level agreement, or SLA, for all sites delivered through the platform.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): With the Platform-as-a-Service tier, customers gain the ability to customize the Site Factory Drupal codebase with any contrib or custom module and manage the deployment of their codebase through a multisite oriented continuous integration workflow. This approach is perfect for those users needing the flexibility and freedom to truly customize their Drupal experience through self-service tools. Acquia maintains the starting codebase, the Site Factory tools and the Acquia Cloud hosting platform so customers can focus on building their code and their sites.
  • SaaS+: For customers seeking the best of both worlds, we offer a hybrid service tier allowing Acquia Professional Services to certify contrib or custom modules on your behalf for deployment to your Site Factory codebase. Once modules are certified, they are available to you through the SaaS experience.

Acquia Cloud Site Factory has been architected to manage tens, hundreds, and even thousands of sites. For example, it currently is managing updates for tens of thousands of sites on DrupalGardens.com.

Growth of Acquia Cloud

It's been a while since I wrote about Acquia Cloud so I wanted to give you a quick update. Acquia Cloud has experienced incredible growth so far in 2013. We recently crossed a milestone that I'm proud to share; we’re now running over 6,000 cloud instances on behalf of our customers in six Amazon regions stretching across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. These instances are used to run a wide variety of Drupal sites; from e-commerce to collaboration to marketing sites, and more.

All that capacity served over 18 billion requests in May, with many more requests served via our CDN partnerships. Compared to last year, Acquia Cloud's traffic is up 200%. We also served over 232 terabytes of data in May. This astounding growth solidifies the scalability of Acquia Cloud. And it's only going to grow faster as Acquia is signing up larger websites.

Acquia cloud may

The Red Press of Drupal

A couple of weeks ago Acquia, the Red Hat of Drupal, reached out to fellow CMS founder, Matt Mullenweg of WordPress, to see if he would consider switching to Drupal. As luck would have it, this was enticing to Matt. He has long understood the value of the Drupal community and has been looking for ways to leverage our community to make WordPress even better. When Acquia suggested switching to Drupal, it dawned on Matt that this was certainly the easiest way to integrate with Drupal without irritating his webmaster.

"I have always wanted to be part of the Drupal community, where technical expertise is sought after to create some of the most advanced websites. This move demonstrates the synergy between WordPress and Drupal without the possibility of function name conflicts." - Matt Mullenweg

We, at Acquia, couldn't be more excited to have Matt and the Automattic team on board, because some things are just better together ... like e-mail and spam filters.

Several months ago I started working with some of our top developers to try to come up with a practical integration strategy between Drupal and WordPress. We had been struggling with this for some time when webchick said jokingly: "It would be a lot easier if they would just use Drupal instead".

To be honest, I felt a bit silly even talking to Matt about using Drupal, but I didn't know at the time that he had been struggling with exactly the same goal and the same problems. webchick's inadvertent idea has ushered in new possibilities for innovation and frankly this is such a fundamental change for us I can't even imagine the world as it was before.

I am very excited about this collaboration. WordPress and Drupal form a killer combination that can't be beat in today's CMS market. I can hardly wait for the WordPress developers to get their drupal.org accounts set up, so we can work together in ways that were never possible before. I also suggested xjm to setup extra "WordPress tables" at the DrupalCon Portland code sprint.

A new Drupal module has been created to ease the transition. The "WordPress_iframe" module will be available on drupal.org soon. It facilitates a rapid integration of existing WordPress sites into their Drupal counterparts. We are excited about the debut of this new module because it embodies the Drupal community's open acceptance of this partnership while it allows us to roll out literally millions of these new Drupal/WordPress sites over the coming weeks.

As part of the agreement, Matt didn't want to completely move away from the WordPress branding, so we have incorporated it into Acquia's logo. Phonetically Acquia is pronounced ah-kwee-uh, so we've swapped out our Q for the well-known WordPress "W". The name is still pronounced "ah-kwee-uh" but will now be spelled "Acwuia". This visually puts WordPress right in the center of our logo - exactly where it belongs. This is WordPress, powered by Drupal.

Red press of drupal logo

We are very proud of this partnership and look forward to serving many more customers as a result. You can expect many more great things from Acwuia coming soon.

Matt, your Red Press of Drupal t-shirt is on the way. Let's stand together as brothers, united in Drupal!

Red press of drupal tshirt

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