Acquia Delivers Commercially Supported Drupal

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 30, 2008

We've reported before on Acquia's effort to deliver a commercially supported version of the popular Drupal content management system (CMS). As of Tuesday morning, Acquia Drupal--the commercially supported version--and Acquia Network--which offers subscription-based access to technical support and remote network services--are live. Acquia has also announced that entry-level subscriptions to the Acquia Network will be free of charge through the end of the year, so that people can try the services. Here are details, and some comments we got from Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal and co-founder of Acquia, pictured below (picture attribution: Wikinews).

Acquia Drupal is a packaged collection of the many social publishing and content creation tools and modules found in Drupal itself. It is free to download as of Tuesday morning, and offered under the GNU public license. Acquia's business model is similar to Red Hat's and other companies that offer open source software for free, and get revenues from support and services. As we've reported before, OStatic is based on Drupal, as are many sites such as Fast Company and The Onion.

Here's how the Acquia Network works, according to the company:

"All subscribers to the Acquia Network gain access to the Acquia Network's subscriber forums, remote network services such as software update notifications, uptime monitoring, Mollom spam blocking, and Acquia Drupal documentation. Premium subscriptions provide Web-based ticket management, as well as email and telephone support. The Acquia Network functions as an operations portal for managing Acquia Drupal sites and connecting to Acquia support channels."

Acquia will be charging tiered subscription fees based on the amount of support that sites need. However, an annual single-server subscription to the Acquia Network lists for $200, and trial versions of this level of support are free to anyone through the end of the year. Introductory versions of the more robust subscriptions are also discounted through the end of the year, "up to 37 percent," according to Acquia. There are more details about the support and services here.

Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal and co-founder of Acquia, pointed out to us in a conversation today that he "didn't start Drupal intentionally." It was originally a messaging and bulletin board system for students at his university, and he had no further intentions for it.

He still works on Drupal several hours a day, and said, in a self-effacing manner, that he decided to open source it because "I'm lazy." He also told us that he is overwhelmed by the success of it, and especially remembers an early Drupal conference from 2005 attracting over 40 people. "I could not believe there would be 40 people interested to fly in from all over the world--to Belgium--to attend the conference," he said. (Conferences and seminars about Drupal now go on all over the world.)

Dries also gave us some stats on Drupal. There have been over two million downloads accounted for, and many more unaccounted for. There are 700 core contributors, which he describes as on the "same scale as the Linux kernel." There are also over 2,000 modules for Drupal. Dries emphasized that Acquia Network will offer "update services, real-time updates, uptime monitoring, support," and more.

When we asked him what advice he would give to leaders of other open source projects, he cited these points:

"Get people excited."

"Give every contributor some sense of ownership."

"Put the community in charge."

"Keep the entry barriers low."

Acquia's business will stand or fall based on how well its pricing, support and services compare to those set by the many independent Drupal developers all over the world. Many of these developers are highly skilled at supporting Drupal-based efforts (and some have even written for OStatic). It would be wise for Acquia to offer as many free trials and discounts as possible to begin with, and then find a competitive comfort zone. Real-time monitoring and possibly disaster recovery offerings for large Drupal-based sites could also be key differentiators from the competition. Acquia does have solid venture capital backing.

For more on Drupal and its latest features and enhancements, see our interview with John Van Dyk, author of the book Pro Drupal Development, where you'll also find a copy of the first chapter of his book, and the Table of Contents. John also weighs in in the interview about his opinions about Acquia and Drupal.

Disclosure: Acquia is a sponsor of OStatic. Acquia competitor, Automattic is a company backed by True Ventures, where GigaOM founder Om Malik is a venture partner. True Ventures is also an investor in GigaOmniMedia, the company behind OStatic and GigaOM.