Want to try Drupal (news, site) but don't want to deal with setting up servers, dealing with dependencies, and all of the stuff under the hood? Now you can, and you can even take your experiment into production with the first (non-beta) release of Drupal Gardens (news, site).
What is Drupal Gardens?
The WordPress (news, site) community has benefited greatly from WordPress.com, a hosted environment where people can configure and launch blogs or blog-based sites. Even though many outgrow the limited options that WordPress.com offers, they can export their sites to install on their own installations of WordPress.
In the Drupal community, many realized that, for Drupal to continue its growth and reach out to less-technical people, they needed something similar. Two projects were born from this idea: Drupal Gardens from Acquia (news, site) and Buzzr (news, site) from Lullabot (news, site). Both are SaaS offerings with Drupal under the hood. Drupal Gardens is the first to make it out of beta.
In the spirit of open source and openness in general, both companies followed WordPress.com's lead. Anything you build on their SaaS platforms can be exported and moved onto your own servers, minus the custom code they created just for their services. They also both offer various tiers of pricing plans, with Drupal Gardens' new pricing structure starting at free and going up in allocated bandwidth, storage, number of site members and Webform responses with each tier.
What's New in Drupal Gardens 1.0?
Aside from the pricing structure, the major new feature for Drupal Gardens 1.0 is its Views functionality. While Views itself is a free Drupal module, it's not the easiest tool for non-coders to understand (I speak from experience), which is a shame because it's a powerful method of breaking pages out into chunks with different types of content, layouts, navigation and more. Chris Brookins, Vice President of Engineering and Product Management for Acquia, states that, "While Views has always been one of the most powerful Drupal modules, we wanted to make it more accessible for site builders. Our team collaborated with the Drupal community, including Views creator Earl Miles, to develop a more intuitive Views user interface."
This release, timed to coincide with DrupalCon 2011, comes on the heels of the beta reaching over 40,000 sites as people kick the tires to see what Drupal Gardens can do. With two strong contenders for the Drupal SaaS market, the competition is sure to spur innovation and keep either company from getting complacent. And because both companies are also big contributors to the Drupal project itself, some of the advances fold back into Drupal core and Drupal's popular modules. Ultimately, everybody wins.