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Drupal Gardens launches in private beta

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!

NVidia using Drupal

NVidia recently launched their new Tegra developer community on Drupal. See http://developer.nvidia.com/tegra. The announcement of the latest Tegra 2 chipset was one of the major news items at CES earlier this month. The Tegra 2 chipset incorporates 8 independent processors to handle web browsing, HD video encoding/decoding as well as mobile gaming, all with very low power consumption. It is perfect for tablets ...

NVidia came to Acquia to help them get the site built. Development was done by Chapter Three (an Acquia partner) and Wiredcraft, while Acquia hosts the site on the Acquia Hosting platform and provides 24x7 monitoring and support. They are also using Mollom to protect their site against spammers.

Nvidia tegra

OpenSource.com launches on Drupal

Red Hat just launched OpenSource.com on Drupal. The site will focus on exploring what happens when the open source way is applied to the world, beyond technology. The site has 5 main channels: business, education, government, law, and life. In each channel, they'll explore how open source is having an impact on each of those areas. The content is meant to be very conversational and participatory, making Drupal a natural choice. Needless to say, it is great to see Drupal being used to promote Open Source way beyond technology. It is also rewarding to see Red Hat, the mother of all Open Source companies, using Drupal.

Red Hat came to Acquia to help them get the site built. Development was done by our friends at Palantir (an Acquia partner), while Acquia provides support and hosting.

Redhat opensource com

Acquia retrospective 2009

Yesterday I shared my 2009 retrospective on Drupal along with some predictions for 2010. Today, I want to reflect on Acquia's 2009, as for obvious reasons, Acquia has been a big part of my life in 2009.

At the end of 2007, we had convinced ourselves -- and our investors -- that there was a market for Drupal support and Drupal-related products. In 2008, we built a great team and grew from two employees early in the year to thirty people by the end of 2008. After nine months, in October 2008, we finally opened our doors for business and we wrapped up the year with a couple dozen customers. 2009 was really Acquia's first year in business (i.e. revenue-bearing year), making it a very important year for us as a company. Other than delivering great support, we had to demonstrate that there was a market for Drupal support, and prove our business model by discovering many of the unknowns and validating our assumptions (e.g., average sales cycle, conversion rates, operational costs, etc). 2009 was also the year that we had to build a sales and marketing process that is both scalable and efficient.

We kicked of 2009 with a big but important change. When we opened for business at the end of 2008, customers could purchase commercial support for all the modules in Acquia Drupal, our free distribution of Drupal. We learned relatively fast that people wanted support for more than just Acquia Drupal. So, only a couple of months later, in the first week of January 2009, we announced our support for all things Drupal 6, including all modules and themes available on drupal.org as well as custom code.

Next, at a two-day management meeting early in the year, we established some very ambitious goals and shared the details publicly in our 2009 roadmap. With all these new projects, we needed additional management bandwidth in the company so Jay and I hired Tom Erickson as Acquia's new CEO. This has been one of our best decisions to date, as Tom has proven to be phenomenal at his job.

To deliver on the vision outlined in our roadmap, we had to raise more money -- no small thing given the downturn in the economy. Instead of reserving cash, Tom and I went out and raised an additional $8 million dollars in Series B funding, bringing our total funding to date to $15 million USD.

A Series B financing typically happens when the company has proven its core value proposition, has demonstrated its ability to find customers, and has proven its business model. In the first six months of 2009, we grew our customer base to 250 paying customers -- demonstrating the market for Drupal support, validating our business model, and allowing us to raise that Series B funding.

We used part of the new funding to accelerate our support business and grew it to more than 400 customers by the end of 2009. We handled thousands of support requests last year. The size and type of business also grew throughout 2009 -- 2009 was definitely a turning point for enterprise Drupal adoption.

The rest of the new funding was used to build the new products outlined in our 2009 roadmap, including Acquia Hosting, Acquia Search, various Acquia Stack Installers and Drupal Gardens (currently in private alpha). We helped get the Acquia Stack Installers included in Ubuntu, Solaris, and on Microsoft's Web Gallery. Our Windows version was one of the top downloads on the Microsoft Web Gallery.

We also helped Whitehouse.gov to move to Drupal -- an important turning point for Drupal within the government sector.

As a company, we contributed back to the Drupal community by funding much of the usability work carried out by Mark Boulton, by helping with developing the Field API for core, by providing manpower and funding for some of the drupal.org redesign work, by helping with the drupal.org test infrastructure, by contributing to Drupal's Apache Solr integration, by sponsoring local and global Drupal events, by giving away free hosting, and much much more. In short, we tried to help where (I believe) Drupal needed help the most.

For a small company of our size, we had a lot of balls in the air, but we learned to juggle well. Most companies don't share their roadmaps but we did, we stuck with it, and we delivered. I'm proud of Acquia for what we did in 2009 -- it has been a great year.

As for 2010? The launch of Drupal Gardens will be a big blip on our 2010 radar. Later in January, we have another two-day management meeting to finalize our roadmap for 2010. Keep an eye on acquia.com or on my blog if you want to learn more about our plans. A lot of what we'll do will resolve around extending and improving our existing products in support of our customers, but we'll probably launch a few surprises as well. Stay tuned!

Update: Tom posted his perspective on 2009 on the Acquia blog. Good that we're on the same page. :-)

Open Government Directive and Drupal

On his very first day in office, President Obama directed all federal agencies to break down barriers to transparency, participation, and collaboration between the federal government and the people it is to serve. Last week, the Obama administration published the Open Government Directive (OGD). The directive, sent to the head of every US federal department and agency, instructs the agencies to take specific actions to open their operations to the public. The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration are at the heart of this directive. It could be big for Drupal, and Open Source.

The directive imposes concrete milestones and specific requirements on the federal agencies. In 120 days, each agency needs to publish a detailed Open Government Plan of their own; within 45 days each federal agency must publish at least three new high-value data sets and register those data sets via Data.gov; and within 60 days, each department must set up a page or website at agency.gov/open. The /open-website needs to outline how the agency is going to open its data, but also tools with which the public can comment on it.

Personally, I think /open makes for a brilliant convention -- I hope it will be adopted by governments and organizations all around the world.

While the path to an open government will be a long journey with many challenges beyond just picking a website technology, this could be a great opportunity for Drupal. Within 60 days, every federal agency will need to have an interactive website setup at agency.gov/open. Drupal has all the features required to implement agency.gov/open (e.g. commenting, blogging, forums, aggregation, data mashups, micro-blogging, voting, etc). Drupal is perfect to get these /open-websites up and running quickly, and makes for a great foundation to extend its functionality in the future. Plus, by using an Open Source technology, agencies can share and collaborate on both best practices and code. It is a no-brainer.

At Acquia, we'll continue to build out our government offerings and ecosystem. Although we will be announcing the full set of details of our government offering in January, highlights will include a "starter kit" for government agencies to quickly achieve their /open requirement. In addition, we have already launched a webinar series -- we kicked it off last week with a webinar that included Andrew Hoppin (CIO of the New York State Senate) and how they are using Drupal to achieve their OGD requirements. In January 2010, we will be launching our first webinar with the General Services Administration, and we will be presenting at the OGD workshop that the Department of Transportation is organizing.

The Acquia partner ecosystem will also play a key part in our efforts, from our system integration partners who will help deliver the strategy and implementation, to our technology partners, such as Alfresco, who can deliver critical components related to the OGD such as document and records management.

And while agencies hash things out, Vivek Kundra (US Chief Information Officer) and Aneesh Chopra (US Chief Technology Officer) committed that within 60 days, they will create an Open Government Dashboard on http://www.whitehouse.gov/open. (Remind that Whitehouse.gov is a Drupal site.) This dashboard will publish each agency’s Open Government Plan, together with aggregate statistics and visualizations to track the agencies' progress toward meeting the deadlines for action outlined in the OGD.

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