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!
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!
At DrupalCon Denver, I announced the need for a strong focus on Drupal's authoring experience in my State of Drupal presentation. During my core conversation later in the week, I announced the creation of a Drupal 7 distribution named "Spark" (formerly code-named "Phoenix"). The goal of Spark is to act as an incubator for Drupal 8 authoring experience improvements that can be tested in the field.
I hope for Spark to provide a "safe space" to prototype cutting-edge interface design and to build excellent content tools that are comparable with the experience of proprietary alternatives. While not a final list, some initial thinking around the features we want to experiment with is:
- Inline editing and drag-and-drop content layout tools ("true" WYSIWYG)
- Enhanced content creation: auto-save, save as draft and more
- Useful dashboards for content creators
- Mobile content authoring and administration support
The vision behind the Spark distribution is to be "the Pressflow of Drupal authoring experience". Pressflow provided a "spoon" of Drupal 6 with various performance enhancements that made their way into Drupal 7 core while it was in development. The same improvements were made available to Drupal 6 users so they could easily be tested in the field. With Spark, we want to test authoring experience improvements in Drupal 7 on real sites with real users and real content. We also want to target the best improvements for inclusion into Drupal 8 core.
I'm excited to announce that Acquia will fund the Spark distribution. Core developers Gábor Hojtsy and Wim Leers will work on Spark full-time starting in late May. They will work along side Angie Byron (webhchick), Alex Bronstein (effulgentsia), myself and other members at Acquia. While we have some promising candidates so far, Acquia is still seeking applicants to join the Spark team (with a strong preference to candidates located in or willing to move to the Boston area):
- Drupal UX Interaction Designer, who can conceptualize and prototype cutting-edge interface design.
The Spark team will collaborate with the Drupal usability and the core development teams.
Acquia works with many large enterprises that bet on Drupal. These organizations are doing amazing things with Drupal and innovating by breaking through prior limitations. However, in talking to our customers, we noticed that there is limited knowledge sharing and discussion happening among the heaviest Drupal users. Similar problems are often solved multiple times independently, and in incompatible ways. And since few of these large companies are vocal and active in the community, the expertise gained from solving these problems isn't making its way back into the software that all Drupal users rely on.
To help solve these issues, I'm announcing a new program called "Large Scale Drupal" as part of my group at Acquia's Office of the CTO.
Large Scale Drupal is a group of large enterprise Drupal users who meet regularly to discuss and collaborate on common problems. We provide a forum for enterprise users, listen to their needs, prioritize them as a group, and then figure out a proper way to address those needs through knowledge sharing, white papers, training and development. The intent is not to keep the outcome of these meetings just within the group. We want to share what we learn in the Large Scale Drupal group with the specific intent of it becoming a contributed project to Drupal. Once contributed, anyone is welcome to discuss and assist to the project.
So what are these projects? These are common needs for large enterprises that are considered large and complicated Drupal problems. Through a consensus-driven process our first project is working on creating a better content staging system geared toward supporting a publishing workflow. We've already started having detailed discussions and working on some of the basic architecture. We are connecting Large Scale Drupal program participants with members of the community to help advance projects like Workbench, and build new contributions like a site preview system. This program will add to those systems by helping define the needs of the users, funding some of the work, and contributing patches to the code.
The goal of these projects is to foster knowledge sharing and collaboration among members of the group and the community. The Large Scale Drupal members get the benefits of sharing their development costs with other members. The community benefits by gaining new contributions to Drupal, and an influx of expert talent into the Drupal contributor pool. Both the contributions of these companies, and the expertise that they bring to the table will help Drupal remain a long-term viable project.
I'm excited to work with the Large Scale Drupal program members to get them more involved in Drupal and become active contributors to the community. I have a big vision for Large Scale Drupal; something I hope to write more about later. For now, I wanted to announce and bring awareness to the program.
While 2011 was only Acquia's third full year in business (i.e. revenue-bearing year), 2011 was absolutely jam-packed. Starting with executing on our product strategy and vision, to a trip to the Caribbean for the entire company, to being selected by Forbes magazine as one of America's 100 most promising companies, 2011 was full of amazing successes, both for Drupal and for Acquia.
In this post, I'll provide some more detail on what Acquia accomplished in 2011; I'll discuss our business as a whole, our products, our relation with the Drupal community and my role within the company. I have a separate blog post to reflect on how Drupal fared in 2011.
Acquia business retrospective
In 2011 we saw record bookings and continued momentum. We finished the year with 11 consecutive quarters of revenue growth and beating our plan.
Acquia, along with our partners, had more and more engagements with big and well-known organizations, like Paypal, Twitter, Al Jazeera, World Economic Forum, the U.S. House of Representatives, and many more.
Most importantly, customer satisfaction and renewals continued to climb, and are best in class compared to other companies in our industry. Rapid customer growth has resulted in surging ticket counts, now numbering in thousands each month. Sustaining high levels of satisfaction and servicing these tickets has proven to be challenging at times. As a result, we significantly evolved our customer on-boarding process, customer communication, and account management, and we've continued to invest in hiring many great people.
Because things went so well, we decided to accelerate sales and marketing and raised more money mid-2011. We raised $15 million in a fourth round of funding. Our previous investors affirmed their confidence by participating in this round, and they were joined by Tenaya Capital.
In January 2011, we also launched Acquia Europe and overachieved our goals there. We now have about 20 people in Europe.
We ended up growing the company from 80 full-time employees to 175, and growing our bookings by 230%. Mid-way through 2011, our existing office space simply couldn't contain us any longer, so we burst out at the end of August and moved to a bigger 35,000 square feet (3,250 square meter) office where we have had a lot of fun.
Despite our success in growing our staff, the availability of quality candidates continues to be the number one challenge for our continued growth. We're trying to help change that. Together with our partners, we delivered 200 training classes worldwide and we've launched an internal training program called Acquia U, to provide immersive training to a select group of new entry level employees (recent college graduates and career changers).
We've also grown Acquia through the acquisition of companies started by talented people within the Drupal community. This year, 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 for the Drupal community, our partners, and our customers.
Acquia product retrospective
On the product side, Acquia achieved everything in line with the product strategy and vision that I outlined in early 2011. If you're not already familiar with Acquia's products, it's worth reading that post first for context.
We rebooted the Acquia Network. We added two of our own services to the Acquia Network with the new Insight and SEO Grader tools, which provides active site testing for security, performance, and search engine optimization best practices for all of your sites.
In addition to adding our own services, we also added complimentary services and tools from our partners, including New Relic (performance monitoring), Drupalize.me (over 200 hours of Drupal video training from Lullabot), Blitz.io (load testing), Utest (crowd sourced manual testing), and Mobify (mobile delivery of Drupal sites). Lastly we re-built the Acquia Library, our knowledge base on everything Drupal and Acquia. Everything combined, we made massive improvements to the Acquia Network.
We also launched Dev Cloud, a single-server version of Managed Cloud. We now deliver over 4 billion page views a month and 70 terrabytes of data from our Drupal-tuned cloud platform. Our operations team now manages over 2,500 servers through Amazon EC2, up from 500 servers in 2011 and 100 at the end of 2010.
A major low-light was the famous Amazon outage in April 2011. Even though only two enterprise customers were affected, out of a couple hundred at that time, we made fairly significant changes to our roadmap to limit future outages. We've since added features to Acquia Cloud like multi-datacenter failover (both multi-region and multi-availability zone across continents) to increase the service level agreement (SLA) we provide to levels beyond what Amazon provides directly.
2011 was also the year that we commercially launched Drupal Gardens at DrupalCon Chicago after spending considerable design and engineering time on the new Views 3 user interface. Since then, Drupal Gardens has added many requested features and now is hosting over 75,000 Drupal 7 sites including some really large enterprise customers, though we can't talk about them quite yet.
We also did a lot of other things; from relaunching Acquia.com on Drupal 7, to adding support for Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 to Acquia Dev Desktop, to improving both Acquia Commons and COD.
All in all, 2011 was a very productive year for our engineers and product managers.
Community and Acquia
In everything we do, we try to raise the tide for the Drupal community at large. In 2011, we continued our long track record of giving back to the larger Drupal community.
Roughly 30% of our engineering time flows back to the Drupal community and resulted in numerous improvements, including core bug fixes, contributed module porting, and usability improvements to modules such as Date, Media, and Views. We participated in the University of Minnesota usability testing, in addition to performing more than 20 internal usability tests on Drupal and Drupal Gardens whose results have been fed into the community.
In total, Acquia sponsored over 58 community events in the last 3 months of 2011 alone, and covered travel and accommodation costs for dozens of Acquians to contribute in person to the success of these events around the world. We also took the lead in organizing and running several of them.
Our marketing team contributed great sales and marketing collateral to the Drupal Association (creative commons-licensed), to help others in the community to promote and grow Drupal.
In addition, we also had some struggles …
Acquia is obviously interested in helping to make Drupal the best it can possibly be and we're proud of major contributions we make to the Drupal project. For example, due to concerns about the lack of Drupal marketing, we launched the Drupal Showcase site as a resource to enable the community to help market Drupal. And since the adoption and growth of Drupal is vitally important, I, supported by the rest of the Acquia leadership team, made a decision to fund a major usability initiative during Drupal 7's development.
However, some of these community investment decisions have backfired on us, and caused community backlash and criticism. Sometimes over smaller things that are easily corrected, as in the case of the Drupal Showcase (moving it from an acquia.com sub-domain and adding a field for attribution), and other times because of questions and concerns about Acquia's influence, as in the case of Drupal 7 usability.
Acquia is in a position where not only can we give back, we want to give back. And furthermore, I feel that corporate sponsorship (not just from Acquia) is important to Drupal's continued growth and success. But when major investments into Drupal like these backfire, it definitely gives us pause in continuing to make these kinds of large investments. Nevertheless, I'd love to contribute more and bigger changes to Drupal, particularly Drupal core, in a constructive and healthy way. As Acquia, we'll continue to refine how we work with the community to find the right balance. As a community, we need to figure out how to better embrace corporate sponsorship. Something to brainstorm about together in this new year.
On a more personal note ...
As Acquia and the Drupal community have grown, so have the demands on my time. Acquia's growing at a phenomenal rate; we're creating a product portfolio with multiple product lines; the Drupal Association is undergoing major changes; Drupal 8 development is underway; I'm traveling around the world evangelizing Drupal 7; and more. To meet all of these demands, I needed to create more time. To do so, I created Acquia's Office of the CTO (OCTO).
I made some amazing hires to be part of OCTO. It is kind of a dream team to work with on a daily basis. Together, we've been very focused on accelerating Drupal growth (enabling distributions on drupal.org, streamlining the contribution process), Drupal 8 (launching initiatives) and Acquia (driving the acquisition of GVS and Cyrve, creating recommendations on Drupal and mobile, researching new product ideas, and working with some of the largest Drupal users in the world).
This was definitely a highlight for me, as it has allowed much more velocity around these important aspects of what I do. We hope to extend OCTO in 2012 with additional people.
In summary …
In general, I'm very optimistic about Acquia's future in 2012. The decisions we've made early in the company's life, despite skepticism by some, have proven to be correct. Enterprises want commercial-grade support and cloud computing. Open Source, Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Services (PaaS) continues to be on the rise. More than ever, I'm convinced that 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. The question is not if it will happen, but when and how fast. When it happens, Acquia will be in a great spot.
We've always been very transparent about our goals and roadmap (Acquia 2009 roadmap, Acquia 2011 product strategy), so in the next month or two, I'll provide more information on Acquia's goals for 2012 and beyond.
Of course, none of this success would be possible without the support of our customers, partners, the Drupal community, and our many friends. Special thanks to all those who helped organize my many visits to India, Brazil, Australia, France, etc. Thank you for your support in 2011, and I look forward to working with you to find out what 2012 will bring!