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Movember 2011

It is that time of the year again: Movember!

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces around the world. With their Mo’s, these men raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men. One in two men will be diagnosed with cancer in his lifetime, and one out of six with prostate cancer.

Like last year, Acquia's "Mo Drupal" team wants your support as we put our faces to work for this great cause. The Acquia team mo'ed its facial hair on November 1st and for about a week now we have practiced the virtues of fine moustachery, immaculate grooming and growing a moustache for Movember.

For the entire duration of Movember, no hair shall be allowed to grow in the goatee zone - being any facial area below the bottom lip. The complete moustache region, including the entire upper lip and the handlebar zones, will also remain completely shaved. Rest assured, photos will follow!

By growing a moustache, we become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. We raise awareness by prompting private and public conversations about cancer. In addition, we raise funds by seeking out sponsorship.

If you'd like, you can join Acquia's "Mo Drupal" team or you can support me in this cause.

It’s hard to get men to talk about prostate and testicular cancer, yet many of us will be diagnosed with it in our lifetime. The brilliance of Movember lies in its appeal to some basic masculine qualities, such as playing on a team, and competing with others. As a man, it’s easier to show your support for such an important cause if you’re doing so with a group of other men, all wearing a silly moustache. Give these guys a break and make their efforts worthwhile by supporting us! Thanks!

Sitecore FUD

Recently Sitecore, a vendor of a proprietary CMS, published a white paper called "The Siren Song of Open Source CMS". It has some good old Open Source FUD.

"In Greek mythology, the Sirens were seductresses who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices, only to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. In the world of enterprise software, Open Source applications have an appeal that many companies find hard to resist, but if heeded, can lead to similarly disastrous results: runaway development costs, unpredictable delays, frustratingly slow responses to urgent support issues, and exponential growth in downstream upgrade and enhancement costs."

In this case they enrolled the CEO of a digital agency to say all the FUD, as if that would either lend additional credibility to the FUD, or behind which they could hide their own feelings:

"As it happened, after several successful experiences using WordPress (an open blogging platform) and Drupal (an Open Source CMS application) in small-scale deployments, agencyQ experimented with using Drupal for larger, enterprise-caliber sites. … We quickly discovered that Drupal's capabilities were a mile wide and an inch deep."

Attempting a complex implementation with any platform with only limited experience in simple sites really just reveals the inexperience of the implementer rather than the limits of Drupal. The whitehouse.gov site shows all by itself that Drupal can scale to high-profile, high-function, high-volume websites.

"Lack of support has a ripple effect across an Open Source CMS project", Breen says. "Because you are starting with a blank slate, in terms of your system's functionality, anything can happen. And when issues arise, the absence of responsive support means that deadlines slip. As a service-driven agency, that is simply not good for business. … It all comes down to accountability, about which Breen jokes, "In high tech there is an old saying that salespeople invoke when they want to be your sole-source provider: 'You want one throat to choke.' While that's pretty graphic, it gets to the point: When something's not working with software, I need one number to call, one person to speak to who's going to help me."

I take offense to the notion that there is no good support for an Open Source CMS. With Drupal, enterprises can look to Acquia for the "one throat to choke", or can tap into a community of 600,000 developers if they want breadth.

"After making a concerted effort to work with an Open Source CMS, non-existent support was the last straw with what Breen found to be Open Source's extremely expensive total cost of ownership (TCO). In website development projects, CMS software costs typically comprise 5% of the total implementation costs. "But by saving 5% in software costs by choosing an Open Source CMS, you drive up the 95% of the 'other' costs significantly. That's not a good value equation, by any measure", he says."

The numbers in their own white paper don't add up. They suggest that Sitecore licenses only represent 5% of the project's total implementation cost. We know from analyst firm Real Story Group that the Sitecore license component of a deal is $100,000 on average. That means that the average Sitecore project costs $2 million? That is much more than the average Drupal project.

Where have you seen this kind of FUD before? From any proprietary software vendor that is starting to feel competitive blows from an Open Source alternative. I see this white paper as a victory for Open Source and Drupal as they are being forced to call us out. Drupal is hurting them. Sitecore has reasons to be afraid.

Maybe the Siren that Sitecore is hearing is from the ambulance they've called for help? ;-)

PayPal developer community using Drupal

Drupal continues to rack up successes among large developer communities, with x.commerce joining Twitter, which made the move last month. X.commerce is a new division of PayPal that serves as an open, central meeting place for over 700,000 developers for eBay, PayPal, Magento, and other eBay properties.

X com

These communities join those of Brightcove, Symantec, DivX -- and, of course, Drupal. All told, that's millions of developers relying on Drupal-run sites for coding tips, product info, and idea exchange.

x.commerce's communities were formerly run on Jive, a proprietary package. Through Acquia, eBay engaged VML to create the site, with additional consulting by Cyrve (now part of Acquia) to migrate data. Acquia provided a Technical Account Manager (TAM), who helped coordinate resources to put the site into production and will be on call as it grows.

Like many developer sites, x.commerce centers around its documentation and its communities. The latter are a model of social networking at its best, in the service of a question-and-answer format. Developers help each other by responding directly to questions, either publicly or through private email; vote on questions (and answers) to highlight those of importance; promote conversations through other social sites such as Facebook; and bookmark discussions to form personal collections. The results are evident in the enormous level of activity within the forums (which, by the way, are built on Organic Groups).

This project is an excellent example of how open-source software drives innovation. Under Jive, eBay wasn't able to develop features that it needed. If eBay needed to do something that wasn't in Jive's roadmap, that was just too bad. Drupal, of course, allows them to create whatever they need, or developers outside the company to do it. That jibes well with x.commerce's ethos of open development, as is demonstrated by the extensive APIs it provides for eBay and PayPal, and the freedom the company allows its developers. I believe that their openness is a key factor to their success -- there are over 4,500 apps on Magento alone -- and that their move to Drupal will allow them to grow at the speed of their community.

Does Acquia suck up all the Drupal talent?

A number of concerns have been voiced from the community about the substantial growth Acquia has achieved since its inception, the number of key contributors who are now employed by Acquia, and the subsequent influence that this allows Acquia to have on the project.

While some of these concerns have validity, I also think there is also a fair share of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) being spread. So, let's clear up a few points.

In terms of growth, Acquia currently employs about 150 people. However, fewer than half of Acquia's employees work directly with Drupal; the majority of Acquians work in sales, marketing, hosting operations, finance, HR, etc. In a way, this makes us smaller than Phase2, Node One, Forum One, Propeople, Capgemini, and dozens of other shops in terms of Drupal staff. We have a different mix than most other Drupal shops.

In terms of influence, Acquia employs fewer than 10% of the contributors to Drupal core. Admittedly, on a "per Drupalist" basis, Acquia probably contributes significantly more code and magnitudes more dollars to the Drupal community than any other organization. We are investing in expanding the Drupal community through major learning initiatives. We sponsor more DrupalCamps, where new people are introduced to Drupal, than anyone. We sponsor more interns than perhaps the rest of the community combined, where high school and university students learn how to build a career in Drupal. Not to mention we contribute a lot of code.

I like to believe that is a great thing for Drupal and that not doing so would be a big loss for all of us.

It certainly helps to have venture capital money when making investments in the community, but it is not a magic bullet either. It is not free money. I've explicitly chosen to give up part of my equity in Acquia in exchange for money so that I can invest it back into the Drupal community to help Drupal advance.

I understand that my involvement with Acquia is tricky because its well-being is intertwined with Drupal's. But I help drive the decision-making process at Acquia, and I set those directions with the best interests of Drupal in mind at all times. Making Drupal successful and Drupal's well-being is my primary concern, regardless of the "hat" that I wear. We want Drupal to power as many sites as possible, both small and large. We want lots of Drupal entrepreneurs to thrive in a growing ecosystem. If you look at Acquia's actions, you'll see tons of contributions here. We sponsor DrupalCamps and DrupalCons, and pay employees to improve Drupal modules and themes.

Recently, our acquisitions of Cyrve and GVS have been a topic of debate. I'd like to point out that acquisitions are a two-way street: they don't happen unless both parties are really excited about it. Contributors come to Acquia for different reasons. Sometimes they would rather hand things like business development, sales, and support off to someone more set up for that, so they can stay focused on doing things they really enjoy. Others thrive more in a larger team of smart people working on interesting things, rather than toiling away on their own. Still others have put in huge amounts of their own personal time over a sustained period to help improve Drupal, often at great personal sacrifice, and are looking for an arrangement that makes this commitment to the project more sustainable. Painting these contributors as "bad guys", or the company who allows them to pursue a career that they love as "bad guys", is not healthy for our community, or the individuals involved.

The clear solution to the influence concern is to grow our community, particularly our contributor community. If more individuals and Drupal shops are contributing in a bigger way, this mitigates the risks of any organization, Acquia or otherwise, from exerting too much influence on the overall project.

So as a community, we need to re-frame this question. We need to be asking ourselves: (1) What can we do to grow the community? (2) Why aren't more people who depend on Drupal contributing to it? and (3) How can we encourage Drupal shops to contribute back?

Why Acquia acquired Cyrve and GVS

As followers of this blog, you might have read that Acquia acquired two Drupal companies; security specialist Growing Venture Solutions and migration expert Cyrve. We wanted to do these acquisitions because they create a win-win-win situation; it is beneficial for the Drupal community, our partners and our customers. I personally championed and led those acquisitions so I want to take a moment to explain why.

How do these acquisitions affect Drupal?

I believe these acquisitions benefit Drupal by expanding its reach. Migration from legacy systems (like Vignette, RedDot and Interwoven) and from expensive enterprise solutions (like Jive Software, Adobe CQ5 and Sitecore) represents some of Drupal's biggest opportunities -- if not the biggest. My hope is that by acquiring and expanding Cyrve, we'll be able to bring more projects into Drupal. That leads to more site building work, more contributed module patches, and more people talking about their Drupal successes.

Similarly, Acquia's involvement in GVS gives it the resources it needs to pursue new security initiatives that will make Drupal more attractive to everybody. As always, we'll continue to return many developments to the community.

How do these acquisitions affect Acquia's customers?

Acquia's customer base has been growing rapidly, both in number and size. We plan to use these acquisitions to provide our customers with more product options and more experts. We will:

  • Offer automated, self-service security tools as part of the Acquia Network.
  • Integrate the services of both companies into our Professional Services group. We'll be expanding our security and migration teams, both by training existing consultants and by bringing new employees into the fold.
  • Incorporate their curricula into our existing materials so we can help train many more experts on Drupal security and Drupal migrations.

All of these are good for Acquia's customers. But they're also good for the Drupal community at large: we need more migrations and security experts in the community.

How do these acquisitions affect Acquia's partners?

Many of our partners build Drupal websites, but few have in-house security or migration expertise. With Cyrve and GVS, we can all approach joint customers with more-complete offerings. This enables our partners to go after bigger projects.

In short, I believe these acquisitions are beneficial for Drupal, our partners and our customers. However, some people have expressed concerns that, with these acquisitions, Acquia is sucking up a lot of the Drupal talent. Because that concern is not limited to these acquisitions, I've decided to address that in a separate blog post: Does Acquia suck up all the Drupal talent?.

Acquia raises $15 million series D

I'm thrilled to announce that Acquia has received $15 million in its fourth round of funding -- that is about twice as much as any of our earlier rounds (series A, series B, series C). Our previous investors affirmed their confidence by participating in this round; they were joined by Tenaya Capital, which has roots in both the San Francisco Bay Area and our home turf of Boston. Tenaya brings more than money: Tenaya's Brian Paul will join our Board of Directors as well.

This is an incredibly exciting time to be at Acquia. Since the series C last November, our staff size has almost doubled, from 70 to 130. We're bursting out of our office space and will be moving to a bigger, 35,000 square feet office soon. We needed all those people to service our thousand-plus enterprise customers, and to plan for the future with new initiatives, such as Dev Cloud and the newly revised Acquia Network. We broke revenue records in Q1 and Q2 this year, following an extremely successful 2010.

Fundraising rounds usually occur either when a company is doing very well, or when it's doing very badly. When it's doing well, investors want to get in on the action to score big. When it's doing badly, current investors hope to turn it around to avoid losing everything they'd already put into it. By all measures, Acquia is doing very well, and this round of funding only confirms that. This is what is called a "growth round", with the money directed toward two objectives:

  • Increase sales and marketing, particularly outside the U.S.. It's clear that there are tremendous opportunities for enterprise Drupal outside of the U.S., as our partners prove every day. We'll start by focusing on Western Europe, but are already planning expansion into Asia.
  • Acquire talent and products that complement Acquia's own. These "acquia-sitions" (as we jokingly call them) will continue to beef up our staff, expand our product offerings, and respond to requests we've gotten over our three and a half years in business.

Acquia's growth is a testament to the growth of Drupal; we'll continue to give back to the Drupal community in everything what we do. Acquia wouldn't have made it this far without our customers, our partners, our employees and our friends. Thank you!

Rebirthing Acquia.com

If you're a regular visitor to the Acquia website, you were probably surprised at what you saw the last time you stopped by. Aside from our new company logo, the whole site has a very different look, navigation, and main message points from a few days ago. This is the result of a project that has kept our marketing teams busy for the last few months.

Although this design represents the most profound website changes in the company's history, it's not the first time we've done this. Here is what our initial website looked like in 2008:

Acquia.com in March 2008

Acquia.com in March 2008

... and in 2009:

Acquia.com in July 2009

Acquia.com in July 2009

... and until this week:

Acquia com june

Finally, here it is today:

Acquia com july

Aside from obvious visual changes, we've tried to explain Acquia's products and services better. The experiences of the last three and a half years have shown us what people want from us, what we do well, and how to best match the two. I don't think we could have made our site so clear a year ago, and can only imagine what refinements future revisions will bring.

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