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Using the Akiban database with Drupal

For four years now I've been an advisor for Akiban, a Boston start-up building a new class of NewSQL/NoSQL database. I'm excited that after 4 years of hard work, Akiban launched their first Drupal customer solution in the Acquia Cloud. A great opportunity to talk a bit more about what Akiban is doing, and why I'm excited to help their team.

The early phase strategy for Akiban is to augment existing deployments (for example MySQL) to enhance query performance among other capabilities. Our mutual customer was facing performance, concurrency and availability challenges with some custom Drupal report code. The report was built in Drupal as a module, and involved a series of complex joins making performance unpredictable, frequently resulting in slow query performance and periodically crashing the whole site. Using Akiban's database, the customer is realizing 66x performance improvement over their existing implementation, without any significant change to the Drupal application.

One of the core benefits of Akiban is query acceleration. The Akiban database can run along side of MySQL server in "augmentation mode" comparable to master-slave configuration. Akiban implemented a simple Drupal patch which allows the reporting queries to be redirected to the Akiban server. While Akiban’s solution requires data duplication, it also means that there is virtually no intrusion on the day-to-day running of the site.

The report module remains as originally designed but now the problem queries are redirected to the Akiban server. Akiban’s core technology is called Table Grouping. Table Grouping enables for the physical grouping of tables while preserving a logical layer allowing developers to continue to use SQL. This grouping eliminates complex traditional joins while preserving the use of ANSI SQL. In addition, Akiban can create cross-table indexes thus accelerating formerly slow queries. As a result, with the reporting queries now directed to Akiban server, the report performs 66x faster.

The Akiban team refers to Akiban server as a new class of database that accelerates SQL and NoSQL data by 10-100x, while allowing developers to access data in both traditional SQL and RESTful environments (SOAs). Compared to other database technologies, Table Grouping provides an innovative way to store and query structured and semi-structured data.

Akiban's Padraig O'Sullivan is working on a module for Drupal 7, and while there is still some work to be done to test and optimize it, he has already enabled Akiban to run as the source database for Drupal 8 in development. Something to keep an eye on. If you want to test out Akiban yourself, head over to akiban.com and download it.

Acquia raises $30 million series E

Today, we announced that Acquia raised $30 million, our single largest financing we have done to date. The investors include Investor Growth Capital, Goldman Sachs, Accolade Partners and our existing investors; North Bridge Venture Partners, Sigma Partners and Tenaya Capital. The new funding will bring Acquia’s total fund-raising to $68.5 million.

It's a lot of money but we're on a big mission. We believe that Drupal is uniquely positioned to provide a single, unified platform for content, community and commerce applications. We believe an Open Source platform like Drupal is the best way to keep up with the evolving web. We believe we can take on a large variety of proprietary competitors across different industries. We know it is true because we've seen Drupal invade enterprises and overturn their established web technologies. We believe Acquia is breaking new ground with our combination of cloud products and business models.

We've made good strides towards this mission. Drupal continues to grow faster than proprietary competitors. And as Acquia, we have grown to 250 employees and are well on our way to posting around $44 million in annual revenue this year on $60 million in bookings. Specifically, Acquia's revenue has grown at 250% CAGR over the past 3 years, making us the fastest growing software company in the US according to Inc. We added more than 100 employees in the past 12 months. We've seen some incredible growth across the board.

But we also believe we are just getting started. We are in the middle of a big technological and economic shift in how large organizations build and maintain web sites. We believe that Drupal and Acquia are poised to come out as the dominant player.

We'll use the additional funding to continue to go after our mission. We're set out to build a successful, high-margin, highly defensible software company. Expect to see us use the money to accelerate our sales and marketing efforts, to continue our international expansion across Europe and Asia Pacific, to grow each of our product teams, and even to build more products. Part of our funding is also to make Drupal more relevant and easier to use by digital marketers and site builders - and things like Project Spark are a critical element of this. As Acquia builds products, we're committed to contributing to the Drupal project - to drive adoption of Drupal and make it more competitive with proprietary CMS players.

Press coverage:

Acquia hiring at BADCamp

I love attending events like BADCamp. Being here gives me a chance to connect with many people I've known for a long time, but I also get to meet new people that share our passion for Drupal.

A lot of friendships are made at these events. In the Drupal community, we have a saying: “Come for the Code, Stay for the Community”. It's intriguing to see these friendships develop. Often times we end up working together; either commercially through Acquia, or as volunteers on Drupal itself. This happens for everyone, and it happens often, which is why a lot of Drupal companies use these events to try and hire people.

We're also hiring at Acquia, and we're hiring people all around the world. Hiring remains one of our biggest challenges at Acquia. We've seen phenomenal growth as a company, the fastest growing software company in the US in fact, and are continually looking for talented Drupalists looking to make a difference in our customer's lives. Hence, we're setting up a booth at the job fair at BADCamp.

If you are interested in working on some of the most challenging Drupal projects along side some crazy talented Drupal people, stop by our booth. You can work from our headquarters in Boston, our new office in the Old Town in Portland (a great location right on the light rail), from our office in Australia or the UK. There are even opportunities to relocate cloud operations specialists to places like Australia. Or if you want, we have many positions that where you can work from anywhere in the world.

For example, our technical client advisor organization is one of the fastest growing groups within Acquia. This team is on the front lines, working on some of the most challenging Drupal problems that our customers face. But most importantly, they are making a difference in our customers lives. Whether its ensuring that Egyptian publisher Al-Masry Al-Youm's website stayed up during the country's first democratic elections or working with our partners like Palantir.net and Alfresco to help the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change make thousands of archived digital assets available online, our client advisors spend their days working on Drupal AND making a difference in our customers' lives. Additionally, the technical client advisor role can be the entry point to other roles within Acquia's engineering organization, including the OCTO, engineering and cloud operations teams.

There are more than 30 Drupalists from Acquia here with me at BADCamp this year. We're here to participate with the core developer summit, the UI/UX summit, the product summit and much more. If you are interested, talk to me or any of my Acquia colleagues at BADCamp and ask them what it is like working at Acquia.

And even if Acquia isn't for you, you can help us find great people. We offer a $2,500 referral bonus to anyone who refers a friend to Acquia that gets hired. It doesn't have to be an existing Drupal developer. That bonus could pay for a ticket to DrupalCon Australia or it may help you fund some of your Drupal contributions.

How does it feel to sell your company?

I've acquired other companies, but the sale of Mollom to Acquia, was the first time I sold a company of my own. Being the seller felt quite different. It's a interesting mixture of satisfaction tinged with loss. During the negotiation phase you feel joy and excitement. Then you feel frustration as you go through the due diligence process. It's a lot of work. Eventually, the day you hand over the keys you feel like you sold your baby. At the same time, you feel a sense of achievement.

Selling Mollom was a life-changing moment. Not because it was a big financial transaction (it wasn't), but because it proves that I was able to bootstrap and grow a company, steer it to profitability, and successfully exit. It was a great experience, because I know that at some point, I'll have the desire to do that again.

Acquia fastest growing software company in US

Wow!

Today it was announced that Acquia is the eighth company on the Inc 500. This means we are the eight fastest growing private company in the United States. With nearly 7 million private companies in the US, being honored as number eight is an enormous accolade. In addition, we are the first software company on the list, making Acquia the fastest growing software company in the US. The current print edition of Inc Magazine also has a two page profile on Acquia.

This honor is attributed to each and every Acquian. I’m so proud to be part of such a hardworking and dedicated team! Go Acquia! Go Drupal!

Mollom acquired by Acquia

We're excited to announce that Mollom has been acquired by Acquia.

For the foreseeable future, Mollom will continue to be offered as it is today. I will continue my role as general manager of Mollom, Ben will continue to lead the development of our products and the Mollom team will remain unchanged. If you are a user or customer of either Mollom or Acquia, everything will remain exactly the same.

When Ben and I started Mollom almost 5 years ago, we wanted to do something important. While most people were trying to figure out the social web, we were paddling out ahead of the wave, knowing that many websites would soon have to deal with increasing amounts of spam and content moderation. In the past five years, we have helped tens of thousands of people fight spammers on their websites, including some of the world's leading organizations.

We have blocked almost a billion spam messages since we started. It has been very rewarding for us to see that we have helped make the web a slightly better place. At the same time, we also built a healthy business. We successfully bootstrapped Mollom, and organically grew a team of 6 people.

The social wave keeps on growing; we're helping more and more people and organizations every day. But now that social wave has grown so big, we can't rest on our laurels. There are more business opportunities to explore, some of which we have been working on for a while.

At the business level, it made a lot of sense to merge Mollom into Acquia. Ben and I were looking to raise capital for Mollom to help fund future product development and expand our operations. It was clear that it would require a long-term commitment of my time – just at the point when I wanted to focus more on promoting Drupal globally and driving Acquia's growth and expansion. By having Acquia acquire Mollom, I can still be a part of Mollom, and Mollom could receive the resources to accelerate our efforts and create an even more exciting future for Mollom. It also allows me to double down on Drupal and Acquia. In short, I'm really excited to have Mollom as part of the Acquia family.

Keep an eye on us!

Spark update: in-line editing in Drupal

The goal of the Spark distribution is to incubate authoring experience improvements in a Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. It was announced earlier this month, and since then we've been hard at work on initial research and design.

The Spark team's primary focus is on improving Drupal's content authoring and editing experience, and the first feature we're prioritizing is in-place editing: the ability to edit content, menus, etc. directly on the page, without the need to navigate to a separate edit form. Think of it as "true" WYSIWYG.

Members of Acquia's design team spent time analyzing how some of the most widely adopted Open Source as well as proprietary CMSs do in-place editing. We then prototyped some initial ideas, and performed usability testing on those prototypes to see what works and what doesn't. After a number of iterations, we're happy to report that the usability testing has validated Spark's general design direction. People loved the prototype. Now is a good time for us to share our initial prototype and to solicit further feedback from the community so we can shift gears into implementation.

The following 5-minute video walks through the HTML/JS prototype, and also provides a bit of background on the Spark project:

Our goal is to deliver this functionality in a contributed module for Drupal 7 first and foremost, which will live at the In-Place Editing project on drupal.org. This module will be bundled into the Spark distribution. Depending on how it is received, I hope we can also target this functionality for Drupal 8 core.

From a technical architecture standpoint, we are currently in the process of selecting the WYSIWYG editor to use in Spark for in-place editing of HTML content. For now, we plan to focus on supporting only the Filtered/Full HTML text formats in order to get us to something testable faster.

Later, we are hoping to branch out into other areas of authoring experience too, including helping with the content creation form improvements that the Drupal usability team has been spear-heading, as are well as the layouts UI work being actively discussed in the usability group. The Drupal usability team is doing an incredible job with these issues, and once fully staffed, I would like to see the Spark team help implement these improvements for Drupal 8 and backport them to Drupal 7 so we can ship it with the Spark distribution. (Did I mention that the Spark team is hiring? ;-))

As you can see, things are starting to move along quite nicely. Please join the discussion in the Spark issue queue if this functionality sounds exciting to you and you'd like to help!

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