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Open Source Software Up the Stack

Dennis Byron

Drupal Open Source CMS goes commerical, but not too commercial says its "Communicator in Chief"

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Early in March I posted about hearing the founder of Drupal, Dries Buytaert, speak in Boston as part of an adjunct to the AiiM Show called DrupalCon. Part of that Drupal event was the first public explanation of the strategy behind Dries’ new venture called Acquia. Acquia is a commercial company to service and support Drupal as the popular open source social publishing platform tries to move to the next level in the market. For comparison, Acquia is Red Hat to Drupal’s Fedora, except the commercial/non-commerical organizations were set up in the opposite order.

So after the show I caught up with Jeff Whatcott, whom I had last met when he was running Flex and related product marketing at Macromedia (before it was bought by Adobe but after Macromedia bought Allaire). When he became part of Adobe, he picked up responsibility for a lot of LiveCycle products as well. A January 2008 press release says Jeff is Acquia’s VP of Marketing; the Acquia web site says he’s “Communicator in Chief.? Other executive titles at Acquia in addition to Communicator in Chief include code gardener, head Zymurgist—not a clue?—and propellerhead. So we’re still not talking the change of IBM guys from blue suits and wing tips to blue blazers and Gucci loafers here.

And maybe my Red Hat analogy doesn’t quite hold water. Although Acquia is a for-profit company, the founder (Acquia’s Benevolent Dictator naturally) wants it done “in a responsible OSS? way.

Jeff illustrates a lot of what I have been saying about the almost now complete amalgamation of open source movement into mainstream software development and marketing. Or is it vice versa? Although one does not immediately think of Adobe as an open source company, at Adobe Jeff was very involved in open sourcing first the Flex SDK and later Flex itself.

As Jeff sees it, based on his three-month involvement with Acquia at this point, the real strength of Drupal is the number of addons and extensions and the ease of their integration into a Drupal instance. There are over 1800 add-ons already with everything from a shopping cart, a tie-in to Google analytics, and so forth. Each is PhP code that manipulates the core framework and that Drupal developers package into a directory, zip up into a manifest, and post. Other users simply reverse the process and install into their Drupal directory. From an open source software (OSS) community perspective, every add-on is its only little OSS project.

One thing that Acquia will do as a commericial venture is market Carbon, a package of the core and most popular modules as a supported distro. Of course Acquia will also provide the Drupal community much needed infrastructure and similar support as well.

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Dennis Byron’s blog on open source software: A longtime market research analyst follows what “the movement? means to business integration—in applications, infrastructure, as services, as architecture and as functionality.

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