Drupal may well be the unsung success story of the open source movement. The content management platform has been downloaded over 2 million times, as often as mySQL and more than Redhat. So says Jeff Whatcott, the voice of Acquia, the company created to put a commercial wrapper around Drupal in order to extend the content management system’s reach into enterprise accounts.
At Drupalcon this morning, Acquia laid out its plans for a commercially-supported Drupal. The company will ship “Carbon,” the Drupal 6 core release and a set of “essential” extensions wrapped up with documentation and a set of support services. The code will be licensed under the GPL v2 license and Acquia will earn its revenues on maintenance and support subscriptions that let businesses “harness the full open source power of Drupal without sacrificing the accountability and support of commercial software.”
The first subscription offering is “Spokes,” an update notification service that provides “specific, actionable information” about Drupal updates that are fully-tested and supported by Acquia.
Both Carbon and Spokes are due out within the next 6 months.
By Whatcott’s count, more than 900 developers have code in the version six release of Drupal. More than 1800 modules have been created for the community. But “there’s never been a company behind” Drupal to make the open source software palatable to large businesses. “It’s 98% of the way there. Acquia takes it the rest of the way,” Whatcott says.
The question is whether a commercial effort around Drupal will be palatable to the developer community that has so embraced the software.
“We’re very clear: Aquia is not Drupal and Drupal is not Aquia,” Whatcott says, and points to all the ways Acquia supports and works well with the Drupal community.
First and foremost, perhaps, is that Drupal creator Dries Buytaert co-founded the company with Jay Batson. When the company was founded and funded last fall, Buytaert’s primary responsibility was delivering Drupal 6. His job and his schedule, Whatcott claims, are structured so that he has the “flexibility to do for the community.”
In the press release announcing the roadmap, Buytaert is quoted:
“Having a commercially supported distribution like Carbon is an essential step in the maturation of the Drupal project. I am personally committed to ensuring that this distribution works to the benefit of the entire Drupal community.”
To engage the community with the company, Acquia has established Acquia Projects, a collaboration space where the Drupal community can comment on and participate in setting the direction for forthcoming Acquia products and services. And, of course, the company promises that it will merge all new features and patches back into the open source Drupal project.
But perhaps the best thing that Acquia will do for the Drupal community is to grow the user base of the product. “We want to grow adoption by 10x by making Drupal dramatically easier to adopt,” Whatcott says. Presumable, that means 10 times the consulting gigs, 10 times the developer seats, 10 times the available market for Drupal goods and services for all members of the Drupal community.
Acquia has the dry powder to blog the enterprise market open. The company has taken in a $7M Series A lead by North Bridge Venture Partners, and including Sigma Partners and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures.