Acquia: Counting Down to Commercially Supported Drupal

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 08, 2008

The folks from Acquia were in San Francisco for the LinuxWorld conference this week. Acquia, as we've covered before, has been working away on an array of support offerings and services for the powerful open source Drupal content management system (CMS). OStatic is based on Drupal, as are sites such as Fast Company and The Onion. Acquia's goal is to apply a Red Hat-like approach to support and services for Drupal, and it will deliver these offerings later this year. I caught up with Barry Jaspan, security lead and principal engineer at Acquia, to find out what's cooking.

Acquia shored up $7 million in funding last December, and Acquia's co-founder Dries Buytaert also founded Drupal. (Disclosure: Acquia is a sponsor of OStatic.) Given the ubiquity and complexity of Drupal, along with the dearth of support for it, the small company may have a good strategy. When I spoke with Barry Jaspan, he was quick to conjure up comparisons between Acquia and Red Hat's business model. As we've reported before, Red Hat charges corporate customers annual subscription fees alongside its Linux distribution, and gets its real gravy from paid support, along with some training and consulting.

"We're going to offer a commercially supported version of Drupal, which, in terms of code will be identical to what is found on," Jaspan said. The code name for the offering is Carbon. "We're going to offer subscription-based support and service contracts for it."

Jaspan confirmed that there will be tiered subscriptions for businesses of varying sizes, including enterprises. "We'll offer a trial version including services, and there will be no support with that," he said. "Then there will be subscriptions for support and electronic services. The services will be focused on uptime and heartbet monitoring, identifying incompatible modules, and adding value to Drupal. We'll contact you if your site goes down. We'll support pre-built sites working on building social media, and more." Acquia will also offer automatic updates.

"Drupal offers a lot of different ways to change the way content is displayed," Jaspan said, "so we'll support people who, say, have database-driven sites and may want to display data in tables, maps, and in other ways. We'll be able to help when people say they don't understand the API documentation." He confirmed that Acquia may pitch in in some cases with actual coding, but the company's professional services won't be focused on that.

Jaspan confirmed that Acquia will launch its support and services between now and the end of the year. In the meantime, Lullabot offers substantial training and help online for Drupal--though not support and services--and much of it is free.

While Drupal doesn't roll off of people's tongues as frequently as some proprietary content management systems, it is very powerful, very flexible and in some ways, complex. People who get very involved with Drupal-driven sites get into tasks such as porting modules and studying Drupal's APIs. Many companies who need support for Drupal turn to independent contractors (in fact we've had some of them write for OStatic). If Acquia prices what it's offering right, offering centralized support and tracking the issues people are having with Drupal, I'm betting its strategy will pay off.