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Open source is the best way to build and distribute software. There are few things about which I'm more convinced. In some, but not all cases, Open Source also offers a viable business model. When it does, it's great because it allows you to do well and do good at the same time. I'm convinced that Open Source is the future for all software needs, but niche applications. I believe in this so sincerely that I've spent over ten years of my life building Open Source software, and I haven't once faltered on my resolve. In fact, I've become more convinced over the years.
The second factor about which I'm convinced is that traditional hosting as we know it today will be for bespoke applications. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) will become the de-facto standard for building and hosting web applications, especially in combination with Open Source web applications. I believe in this so much that I've been betting Acquia on it since its inception three and a half years ago. Now it seems the markets are aligning with that vision: the hosting industry, after years of being dormant, is going through a new innovation cycle driven by "cloud computing".
With both Open Source, PaaS and SaaS, the question is not if it will happen, but when. The transition is inevitable; it might take ten, twenty or thirty years, but it's just a matter of time. The terms PaaS and SaaS might die along the way, but their concepts will certainly remain and change the hosting industry.
I'm willing to bet that in the future, every Open Source web project that wants to reach a certain level of adoption, will have to provide a PaaS and SaaS offering in order to be truly relevant. I think that's exciting because it creates new business models for Open Source projects which will help fuel the Open Source movement. In fact, I hope that Acquia can become a role model for other Open Source projects and Open Source companies. It's going the take plenty of hard work, but the passion and the conviction is certainly there.
We just re-launched the Acquia Network with a new look and feel, powerful new services and a new developer-focused subscription. Peter Guagenti, who has championed the effort within Acquia, has all the details in his announcement blog post. The Acquia Network is near and dear to my heart as it has been the core of our offerings since the founding of the company and is a key element for Acquia's product vision.
We're living in an interesting time; the web is becoming more and more complex, and on top of that, people's expectations of your website are also increasing. Think about it. Five years ago, it was as simple as adding a blog feature to your site to leap-frog your competition, but today that is just not good enough. You likely need a mobile version of your site, blazing fast response times, carefully tuned content, and much more. It is more subtle, more difficult and more work than it ever was before. Going at it alone can be tough.
The idea behind the Acquia Network has always been to give developers and site owners the best possible tools to help them keep up with the growing complexity of building a great web experience. The new and rebooted Acquia Network makes that promise even stronger as we added three new tools to help build better web experiences: New Relic (performance monitoring), Mobify (mobile) and Visual Website Optimizer (A/B testing). There is more that can be done, so expect the Acquia Network to evolve and grow quite a bit in the weeks ahead. More details in Peter's announcement blog post.
The following blog post was published as a guest blog post on Forbes.com. I wrote it after Al Jazeera successfully moved some of their Drupal sites from their traditional hosting company to Acquia Hosting (now called Acquia Managed Cloud) to help them survive a 2,000% traffic increase as a result of the crises in the Middle East. The blog post provides real proof of how the Cloud helped one of the largest news organizations in the world survive one of the largest political events in the world. A fascinating story for Drupal!
Over the past decade, the Web has completely transformed how people create and consume information. We have all witnessed firsthand how the free flow of information is impacting the way individuals and companies communicate and how the rules of governance are changing for entire nations. Now, we’re all participating and reporting on events as they happen, and from where they happen.
There is no better example of that than the most recent events in the Middle East. And one organization, Al Jazeera, the world’s largest news organization solely focused on the Middle East, was right in the middle of the incredible broadcast and social media storm that instantly developed. Throughout the ordeal, Al Jazeera effectively leveraged the power of the cloud to stay on the air and scale its reach and performance. If events of the past few months are any indication, there are lessons here for other content-driven companies to consider for their own online operations.
Al Jazeera’s English operations broadcasts news and current affairs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with more than 1,000 staff members from more than 50 nations. Quite literally, Al Jazeera provides the world with a front seat on the Middle East stage. It broadcasts from centers in Doha, the capital city of the state of Qatar, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington.
Al Jazeera’s live blog site is powered by Drupal, a free, open source social publishing platform that enables content-driven organizations to publish content and build communities quickly and easily. Drupal is used by many of the world’s most prominent organizations including the White House, the World Economic Forum, Intel, The Economist and Turner Broadcasting.
Al Jazeera’s English live blog site was a vital source for breaking news in Egypt. Bloggers were posting updates from the epicenter of the crisis and social media was often the only means of communication both inside and outside of the country. During the crisis, traffic to the Al Jazeera web site increased 1,000% and traffic to the live blog spiked 2,000%. This dilemma, normally a good one for news organizations, caused unpredictable performance and excessive page load times for site visitors.
From an infrastructure standpoint, Al Jazeera had historically hosted its blog with a traditional provider but had increasingly suffered a variety of scalability issues brought on by surging demand – unacceptable for Al Jazeera or any similar content business. What might have been just a typical technical nuisance on a mundane news day quickly became unsustainable when Egypt erupted.
Al Jazeera faced a mission-critical problem that needed a real-time solution. Where could it find performance hosting and support immediately and within a reasonable cost? Would it be secure and private? What about reliable? The answer: The cloud, the various data access, storage and hosting services available remotely over the Internet. Much discussed but often not fully appreciated by the business community, cloud services enable custom sites to perform well under varying, and sometimes severe, traffic conditions. Moving to a Drupal-supported cloud option allowed Al Jazeera to scale up quickly, dynamically render their content faster, and achieve a higher level of site reliability – issues that previously overwhelmed its physical hardware environments.
By leveraging Drupal and turning to the cloud, the Al Jazeera technical team demonstrated how to rapidly turn a seemingly disastrous situation into a net positive business decision going forward. Fast forward a few weeks, and the demands on Al Jazeera’s Web infrastructure have only increased with new crises across the region. The difference is the organization is now able to better handle these unforeseen demands and focus on the core business, reporting the news as it happens.
It has been only 18 months since we launched Acquia Hosting. Today, Acquia Hosting is serving 2.2 billion page views a month for several hundred customers and growing rapidly. In those 18 months, we also built a lot of tools to help organizations manage their entire Drupal workflow process from development to staging and production. The combined result is that we've built one of the world's best managed cloud environments for Drupal, and have proven that we can scale any Drupal site to meet the needs of the largest enterprises.
During this time, we received a lot of demand for a lower-priced single-server version of Acquia Hosting that developers could use to build sites that didn’t require multi-server high-availability. We held off offering a single-server version of our offering so we could focus on solving the largest Drupal scalability issues for the most demanding enterprises. We're proud to announce that we're ready, and that we will offer a developer-focused solution in the next few weeks. We're ready to show you at DrupalCon Chicago and will launch it shortly thereafter.
Like Acquia Hosting, the new single-server offering will come with an optimized stack for Drupal, including Varnish, Nginx, APC and Memcache, as well as all the tools to manage the lifecycle of your website. This new hosting offering will be called Acquia Dev Cloud. It will be great for people that want to build Drupal sites without the need for high-availability or help from Acquia to help scale and maintain their site. In many ways, Dev Cloud is the logical next step for Acquia Hosting, and helps us close the chasm between Drupal Gardens and Acquia Hosting.
One of the key features of Dev Cloud is the ability to run multiple separate sites on a single server. This has been the most common request from our partners since we launched Acquia Hosting. Because many of the sites our partners build are small, it’s more cost effective to run multiple sites on a single server and partners wanted this option on our hosting platform.
It was also clear that 'Acquia Hosting' was no longer the best name -- or maybe it never was. The more features we added, the more we grew to dislike it as the less it reflected what we had build. The amount of developer tools and the level of service and support we provide to help customers scale their Drupal sites is unheard of. None of that is reflected in the name 'Acquia Hosting'. Too many people had preconceived notions of what 'hosting' meant, and what we offer goes well beyond traditional hosting. It is really Platform-as-a-Service (or PaaS). Hence, we decided to rename 'Acquia Hosting' to 'Acquia Managed Cloud' to better reflect that fact.
Acquia Managed Cloud is for business-critical sites that require a fully redundant, highly available environment that is managed 24x7 by Acquia staff. Acquia Dev Cloud is for developers that want all the great features of Acquia Managed Cloud, without the support and guarantees provided by our team of Drupal experts.
We're very excited about these changes as they get us a step closer to completing our vision for Acquia. It will be easy to migrate from Drupal Gardens to Dev Cloud, or from Dev Cloud to Managed Cloud.
Dev Cloud will be available for purchase as part of an Acquia Network subscription. We are introducing a new Developer Subscription package that includes access to Dev Cloud, self-service support tools, our new Acquia Library knowledge base and Acquia Network services including Acquia Search, Mobify, and New Relic. This will start at a developer friendly price of less than $200 / month including a Dev Cloud server. If you are looking for support ticket access to Acquia’s support team, you can also use Dev Cloud with our Professional Subscription.
A small teaser of the new user interface we're launching for Acquia Dev Cloud and Acquia Managed Cloud.
I'm happy to share another gigantic win for Drupal; the World Economic Forum (the Forum) has launched their internal collaboration platform on Drupal. The Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders. It is best known for its annual meeting in Davos. Their World Economic Leaders Community (WELCOM) is where they will engage online to address the most pressing business and global challenges.
This means that the world's leaders are now using Drupal! They have just met at Davos where they first took their new collaboration platform to the test.
The Forum turned to Drupal since their existing closed-source solution, developed on top of last generation technologies, was not flexible enough. They wanted to add new features quickly, and their previous system just was not able to do so at their pace. Additionally The Forum's previous platform was a collection of different technologies, while good on their own, resulted in very poor performance for their site. So they turned to the advantages of open source technology, and Drupal, for solutions.
They decided to use Drupal Commons, a pre-configured Drupal distribution for social websites, as the technology platform for their community. Drupal Commons is social business software similar to Jive Software, that integrates groups, discussion forums, blogs, wikis, and events into a single pre-packaged solution. This allowed the Forum to quickly spin up a social collaboration community based off Drupal with the features they needed.
Their previous solution took several years to build, while the Drupal Commons solution was deployed in just several months.
Many organizations, including Nvidia, Symantec, Turner Broadcasting, and many others already use Drupal to power their community sites. Drupal Commons makes this process easier by packaging together key modules, content types and theme snippets into an installation profile that is ready to go out of the box. Because it's Drupal, organizations still have the flexibility to modify Commons to extend its capabilities, to turn features on/off and tap into the wealth of Drupal community resources.
So this is just the first step for the World Economic Forum – and we look forward to seeing what our world leaders will do next with Drupal.
Tesla Moters is using Drupal for their website: http://www.teslamotors.com. Really beautiful design.
Tesla went public last year; it is the first American automaker to go public since Ford Motor's IPO more than 50 years ago.
Last month, Acquia employees (including myself) got to ride a Tesla Roadster Sport. It is a 100% electric sports car that boasts 288 horse power. The car goes from 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h) in 3.7 seconds. Not bad for a battery-powered car.
Impressive car, impressive company and impressive website. :)
As some of you may know from my recent tweets and blog posts, I'm currently on a tour down under in Australia. After attending Drupal Downunder in Brisbane, I spent two days in Melbourne. Although my schedule was packed, I was able to meet with several Acquia partners based in Melbourne. I also met with various Drupal users such as the Australian Conservation Foundation (AFC), Monash University, Lonely Planet, Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC), Victoria University, Red Cross, State Library of Victoria and others. In the evenings, we organized a Drupal meet-up at the Belgian Beer Cafe in which I met about forty Drupal developers. Good times!
In talking to these people, I noticed a common pattern, other than the fact that everyone was excited about Drupal 7. In Australia, Drupal had a reputation of being a system for those who couldn't afford a "real CMS". Over the past year, though, that has changed. And now Drupal is considered in competitive evaluations and often wins. Interest in Drupal is growing rapidly and, like everywhere else in the world, the big challenge is to find enough Drupal talent, both for the Drupal shops as well as the large organizations that are looking to build internal teams.
We need to train more good Drupal people. We can do this through more and better documentation, mentoring, evangelizing, organizing code sprints, meet-ups and conferences. Whatever it takes, we have to figure out how to keep up with the demand -- not just in Australia, but everywhere in the world. If only PHP were more sexy, it would be much easier to attract more talent. Most good engineers don't realize how much better Drupal is compared to raw PHP, and that building a big, scalable Drupal site involves much more than PHP.
The next 36 hours I'm in Sydney to meet with more partners, users and developers. Should be fun and productive.