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Drupal Goes Commercial?

Drupal open source web content management system


“When I examine the landscape of open source projects that have had a big impact on the technology industry, Iíve concluded that projects which have had the biggest impact (usually) have a well-capitalized company behind them.”

- Dries Buytaert, November 2007

According to CMSWatch, big piles of venture capital are being thrown at a Drupal-oriented startup called Acquia. Maybe you're happy for Dries and company or maybe you don't care.

But, as you might well have heard, there's more to this story than meets the eye. Drupal founder Dries Buytaert (who owns the Drupal trademark) is one half of the team behind the startup, along with Jay Batson. The move will see PhD student (and new father - Congratulations!) Buytaert finally cashing in on his popular Web CMS invention.

Good luck to him. Let's hope he makes a few dollars out of it.

But in the meantime, the question on everyone's lips is: What does this all mean for Drupal? Could Acquia, God forbid, herald the end of Drupal as we know it?

The man himself goes into great detail at Acquia.com regarding the future of Drupal and his latest venture. Even to the casual observer, the piece makes interesting reading.

According to Dries: the developers are great, the community is great, the Drupal Association is great, and even the consultants are great. But there's something missing: a company which will support the canny Belgian in providing leadership to the Drupal community, and “a company which is to Drupal what Ubuntu or Red Hat are to Linux”.

If Drupal is to grow to its full potential, then “keeping Drupal a hobby project, and taking a regular job at a big Belgian bank is clearly not going to cut it”.

Never Fear - No 'Forking'!

No worries: “Acquia is not going to fork or close-source Drupal”, according to Dries. “Acquia's success is directly tied to [the] overall success of the Drupal project - and to how widely-used it becomes. We understand better than anyone else that Acquia will never succeed on its own; we will only succeed if we are part of the larger Drupal community”.

Buytaert further confirms that a portion of his time will still be spent on developing Drupal, and making the platform ever bigger and better.

So What Will Acquia Actually Do?

This, apparently:
“[Acquia's business] will include a number of Drupal distributions — for community networks, digital media properties, corporate websites, and others. In addition to providing Drupal distributions, Acquia will build the Drupal-tuned analogue of the RedHat Network, over which we can deliver a wide variety of electronic services intended to be useful to people developing and operating Drupal websites. An example such service is an automated upgrade/update service, an uptime and performance monitoring / reporting service, a configuration management service, etc.”

Where's the Money Coming From?

According to this, one early investor in Acquia is a company called North Bridge Venture Partners (NBVP), a Boston venture capital firm.

Paul Santinelli, open source entrepeneur and general industry bon viveur, is a member of the NBVP team. Santinelli has served as a director of Red Hat Network and was also founder and CEO of NOCPulse Inc., a Silicon Valley startup which concentrated on next-gen enterprise systems management products, which was procured by Red Hat in 2002.

Meanwhile, Buytaert's co-founder and primary executive partner in Acquia is a certain Jay Batson who will have the formal role of CEO. Batson is the business brains behind the operation, and is the founder of Pingtel, recently acquired by Bluesocket.
Pingtel was an open source IP PBX addressing the large enterprise market, so Jay can claim to have some experience with building an open source company.

Batson also runs Plum Canary (… of the 'Chirp' project management tool) in his spare time, and has worked in the past as an analyst for Forrester, and as VP of Engineering at ON Technology Corp [correction: Jay got in touch with us, and told us that he is no longer associated with ON or Forrester, as claimed in the original post… and will be focusing fully on Acquia. Apologies, Jay!]..

Men and Women of the Drupalium industry: are you biting off your fingernails with worry, or are you looking forward to seeing what innovations Acquia bring to the Drupal product? Tell us in the comments below.

Looking for a guide to using Drupal for the uniniated? We covered a great free guide last week: details here.

 
 
 
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