Acquia keeps going 2.0: Commons in place

acquia logoI learned about Acquia in early 2008, at the Open Source Think Tank, sipping some wine and talking about how to appropriate returns from the commons with its co-founder, Jay Batson. At that time Acquia’s business strategy was still in its infancy,  and it is interesting to look at how it has evolved with time.

To learn more about their business strategy when Acquia launched their social business software Commons 2.0 I posed few questions to Bryan House, VP marketing at Acquia.

Bryan, what makes Commons different from other platforms (e.g. ning)?

Lower TCO: We offer the same features/functions as Jive/proprietary at a much lower cost, just pay for support & maintenance, no $45k license for adding modules like Idea sharing, video.

Innovation: Far more capacity to innovate and create new social business processes: 10k modules from thousands of contributors, 55 for Facebook alone! Social web moves very fast, for example if a new video sharing platform emerges it can be plugged in easily at no cost using community created plugins, if not create yourself.

Branding: Flexibility in look and feel of user interface (by separating theming from content because we are based on a full CMS), we can build something that looks like Quora or Yammer.

Scalability and Security – we make open source enterprise ready by providing a managed cloud environment (Amazon) with 24/7 support and pro-active maintenance, our team tells you before a problem occurs e.g. Acquia supports high profile clients –, Al Jazeera etc.

Acquia can count on an impressive amount of external contributors, especially when it comes to modules. As a judge for the Open Source CMS Awards 2009, I have been looking at Drupal using on the first release of SOS Open Source, comparing it with 4 other finalists [1]. While Drupal has a relatively small number of committers development team working on the core, actually is supported by a very large team of contributors work on the core, modules, themes and translations.

Customers putting their data in the Commons’ risk a SaaS lock-in?

With Commons in the cloud, you own the code, you own the data, you own the design you can take it all with you if you choose to leave (even to Azure!) Our PaaS and SaaS environments are different that typical SaaS – we won’t limit you to a data dump.

It sounds strange from a business perspective. Don’t you feel your business at risk?

Our cloud platform is optimized specifically for Drupal. We aren’t in the business of hosting everything, so we have the benefit of technical focus a drupal-optimized runtime environment, drupal-optimized developer workflow tools, integration with Drupal command line tools. Plus Drupal application support – all at one number to call. no more fingerpointing between a hosting provider and the web development team.

Things that the average customer might not to understand, though. Can you clarify your selling point with an example?

Typical example: a site whitescreens – the site owner calls the hosting company – they say the boxes are running “its an application problem, support ends at the web server” so the site owner calls the web dev team (internal or external) and they say – our code runs fine in the test environment, must be the production system. The site owner is stuck
We offer Drupal expertise from the application all the way down to the OS – with monitoring, support, operations assistance, etc.

Thank you Bryan, you made Acquia business strategy really clear. Acquia is definitely on the right path to make its business grow and grow, let’s see how your SaaS offering will evolve with time.

Finalists list included Drupal, Joomla!, MODx, Typolight and WordPress. For the record Drupal scored as the second best choice, WordPress actually scored higher marks in some project’s strategy marks (actually WordPress modifiability and WordPress roadmap.