Drupal and the enterprise

Dries Buytaert wants Drupal to become mass market enterprise software. Trouble is, unless your name is Microsoft, those goals are contradictory.

Dries Buytaert wants his Drupal Community Management Service (CMS) to become mass market enterprise software.

Trouble is, unless your name is Microsoft, those goals are contradictory.

Oracle and IBM are enterprise players. They have scaled support for big corporate clients. Unfortunately as we found out in the case of Whitehouse.gov Drupal doesn't have that.

Apple is a mass market player. Their stuff is insanely simple to use. Drupal is trying to get easier with Drupal 7, but it's not there yet.

This leaves Drupal and Acquia, the company Buytaert founded to offer Drupal support, caught between the Moon and New York City. Wordpress is hammering it in the mass market, among people who just want to build blog sites, and Acquia's enterprise footprint remains minimal.

As an open source project that didn't gain ambitions toward commerce until well after its founding, Drupal doesn't even control its own support market.

This is something I'm reminded of whenever I write about Acquia, of which Buytaert is CTO, as being "the" Drupal support company. Because there are others, like Drupal Connect. And Four Kitchens. Or IT-Patrol, which is among those offering Drupal hosting.

For the software to move forward shouldn't its commercial players be on the same page?

One reason for Acquia's enterprise problem may be a shortage of cash flow. Drupal Gardens, which I was invited to beta test, is supposed to be the answer to that. Through it Acquia hopes to become a major Web host, a player in the cloud, where enterprises are moving. The public beta was announced this week at OSCON.

But again, OSCON is about open source, not about the mass market for Web hosting. It's a comfortable spot for Buytaert, but it's also not where the enterprise buyers with the big checkbooks are hanging out. By announcing at OSCON Buytaert may have been seen as aiming at the mass market, not the class market.

Acquia's team is filled with open source veterans, and that's good. But if it's going to be a player in the enterprise space, as it wishes to be, shouldn't it be filled with people who know that market?

This post may come off as nitpicking, even cruel or mean-spirited. It's not meant that way. The fact is I'm a big Drupal fan. I once ran a Drupal site, I think Acquia can become a great company, and I've long predicted it will outshine Wordpress because a CMS scales and blogs aren't designed to do that.

But corporate growing pains are difficult. Each stage of a company's evolution provides new challenges. And the investors a venture company brings to the party should be able to help clear those hurdles.

Several of the companies Acquia's main venture partner, NorthBridge, invests in are clearly enterprise plays. So are some of the companies helped by Sigma Partners, its other main venture investor. Many of these companies are of a similar size to Acquia.

All I'm saying is I think someone needs to take a meeting.

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