Acquia Drupal Web CMS Framework
After much waiting and anticipation from the open source content management world, Acquia has officially released Acquia Drupal, a free and commercially supported distribution of the Drupal Web CMS platform that marks the company's first major move since its inception. Unfortunately, in the process, Acquia might end up confusing the new and existing Drupalers more than intended. The Drupal community might consider this as a negative move -- as Acquia, a commercial entity, has associated itself with Drupal, an open source project, a fair bit too much. CMSWire talked with Bryan House, Acquia's product marketing director, to get more insight into this release.With growth to 27 full-time employees and contractors, Acquia has quickly become an important part of the Drupal community for reasons that many people still don't understand. At first, feelings were mixed on how Acquia's beta release of Carbon would affect the Drupal project and community, but things have been relatively quiet since then. But now, Acquia has completed its first major project that is expected to be beneficial to anyone and everyone involved with Drupal and Acquia. Bryan House pointed out how these are truly exciting times for the Drupal community and for Acquia. "We are completing the Drupal experience," House said. To understand the meaning of that statement, one must understand the differences and similarities between Drupal and Acquia Drupal. But that is the root of the problem.

The Differences Between Drupal and Acquia Drupal

Users of Drupal will be quite familiar with Acquia Drupal; with a few exceptions in mind, it practically is Drupal. Now, that in itself is challenging to explain to someone new to Drupal and/or Acquia, and this is why Acquia's naming decision was questionable. There is practically no distinction now. There are differences, but we must make it clear that this is Acquia Drupal and not Drupal.

A Better Beginning

The first big difference with Acquia Drupal is the inclusion of additional community modules that extend the CMS's out-of-the-box capabilities. Building a blog or a wiki can now be accomplished faster than ever before. House told CMSWire that the company had initially considered around 20 - 30 modules to include into Acquia Drupal, and they all represent some of the best that the Drupal community has to offer. The reasoning behind the inclusion of more modules is to allow a site developer to have a better starting point from which to build a site -- no more hunting around for the basic modules to get things like custom content types created. Truth be told, there are quite a few modules that many experienced Drupal users typically install by default (e.g. CCK), and this change simply adds those frequently used modules. In addition, Acquia also licensed a few fresh themes to be available to users from the get-go. Now, all that is great, but let's get to the real reason why someone would be interested in Acquia Drupal.

Commercial Support with the Acquia Network

The quintessential difference between Drupal and Acquia Drupal is the Acquia Network. Its purpose is to help users and organizations in situations where support is required. Acquia would tell us that it is a significant part of "completing the Drupal experience." The Acquia Network is the culmination of community support, ticket-based support, email and telephone support, up-time monitoring, spam blocking and documentation all packaged into one tightly knit interface that allows users to stay on top of their Acquia Drupal sites. However, it doesn't end there. The Acquia Network also acts as an "operations portal" that allows users to manage Acquia Drupal sites and connect with support. Think of it as the cPanel of Acquia Drupal site management and support. It is a way to get a glimpse of a user's Acquia Drupal sites.
Acquia Network Management Interface

The Acquia Network Management Interface

Now, all this comes with a price. As it stands, there are five separate packages that offer different support options -- as one would expect, the more a user pays, the more support outlets become available. House told CMSWire that Acquia wanted to make the product available to customers of various types and budgets. The company is hoping that the pricing scheme will work in their favor, but we will touch on the issue of pricing in a little while.

Spam Be Gone

Another time consuming part of content management is dealing with those pesky spammers, but Acquia decided to solve that issue as well. Acquia Drupal includes Mollom, a spam protection service developed by Dries Buytaert, by default. There are two options -- limited and full -- for spam blocking service, but each package offers the spam protection service. Unfortunately, it's not yet known if it is more effective than other solutions like Akismet, but perhaps its ties with Dries and Drupal will make it a more reliable option in the long run. Check out our previous coverage about Mollom to learn more.

Acquia Partner Program

Finally, House wanted to make it clear that Acquia does not want to build sites for customers: "It is not our business model, we are not going to build sites. We don't want to compete with Drupal ecosystem." House was likely referring to the companies, developers and users who benefit from creating and developing solutions while utilizing the Drupal framework -- the so-called "Drupal ecosystem." Smart move -- it wouldn't be a wise idea to upset the organizations and developers who already provide these services and, in some cases, make a living doing that. So, Acquia opted to go with a partner program that will benefit both Acquia and its partners while keeping business fair.
Acquia Drupal Partner Program

The Acquia Partner Program

The creation of this partner program will allow Acquia's partners to better provide solutions for customers while ensuring a mutual and beneficial relationship to all parties involved. Services like marketing, presentations, white papers and more will be handled by Acquia, depending on the partnership program selected. There are four different packages offered for the partner program: * Silver: Two basic developer subscriptions, round robin lead referral system, 7 day lead exclusivity and community sales training included. * Gold: Two standard developer subscriptions, targeted referral system, 60 day lead exclusivity and community sales training included. * Platinum: Four professional developer subscriptions, targeted referral system, 90 day lead exclusivity, joint marketing programs and private sales training included. * Diamond: Eight professional developer subscriptions, targeted referral system, unlimited lead exclusivity, joint marketing programs and private sales training included. More information about Acquia's partner program can be found here.

Acquia Network Pricing and Availability

Acquia doesn't stand to gain anything through selling Drupal Acquia. The money comes from support, and that is what Acquia is selling. Businesses and developers need support -- getting information from a community forum or IRC chat might be worthwhile for some projects, but for time-critical projects, it is hardly reliable or efficient. Acquia Network subscriptions come in a variety of flavors with as many users and developers in mind as possible. Here is the breakdown of each package:

Community

* Introductory Price: Free * Starting Price: US$ 150 * Support Access: Forums

Standard

* Introductory Price: US$ 500 * Starting Price: US$ 800 * Support Access: Forums and ticket system

Professional

* Introductory Price: US$ 1,900 * Starting Price: US$ 2,500 * Support Access: Forums, ticket system and email

Enterprise

* Introductory Price: US$ 4,300 * Starting Price: US$ 5,000 * Support Access: forums, ticket system, email, chat and telephone

Elite

* Introductory Price: Negotiable * Starting Price: Negotiable * Support Access: Forums, ticket system, email, chat and telephone
Acquia Drupal Network Pricing Chart Web CMS

The Acquia Network Packages

Acquia Drupal can be downloaded for free -- all included software is licensed under the GNU Public License. Furthermore, all beneficial contributions will be rolled back into the Drupal open source project. The Acquia team is taking advantage of the complexity that Drupal users have become accustomed to. Drupal is certainly not the easiest Web CMS to adjust to, and that is why many people shy away from it.

Acquia Benefits, Drupal Suffers?

Changing the name from Carbon to Acquia Drupal makes it appear that Acquia decided to take on the project itself, and while that probably isn't the desired result, it is what it appears to be. "Automattic WordPress" doesn't have a good sound to it either, right? Acquia has to be sure to approach this matter delicately. The name should have remained Acquia Carbon to let users know that there is a distinction between two projects. It might have been a great move for Acquia's bottom line, but the community must question the company's intentions with the naming. This news might not only harm Drupal's growth, but also confuse new users. Who wants an open source project to be so closely associated with a commercial organization? Perhaps, it would be best to give Acquia an earnest chance at generating money for themselves. WordPress generates money for Automattic, and things seem to be going just fine. Acquia just made a poor naming decision.

There Is Still Hope

"I am consistently blown away by the way Drupal community members passionately innovate, cooperate, and contribute value in their own way for the benefit of all,” stated Dries Buytaert, Acquia co-founder and Drupal creator and project lead. “Consistent with that pattern, today Acquia is stepping up as a community member to collaborate in Drupal code development, increase the industry profile for Drupal, and introduce convenient packaging, support and remote network services that will make Drupal even easier to adopt and use.” We here at CMSWire realize that support is the future of open source monetization. As open source grows in popularity, support is going to be needed for these systems that generally have limited support options. It is the perfect business opportunity that will ultimately benefit Drupal and Acquia, and the community should be thrilled about that opportunity. However, the open source community needs to let Acquia know that the projects need to have a distinction. Anyways, the Acquia site is now fully open for business. Any users interested in starting a project with Acquia should take advantage of the special pricing through the end of this year. Hopefully, Acquia and Drupal will benefit from these developments, and the community will learn that this news can be beneficial for them and their projects. The only question left remaining is what will Acquia do next?