Commercial support for open source Drupal on the way

Startup Acquia will release the first commercially supported distribution of the Drupal open-source Web site builder/content management system

A startup company will release the first commercially supported distribution of Drupal, an increasingly popular open-source Web site builder/content management system, in the second half of this year.

Acquia, cofounded by Dries Buytaert, Drupal creator and project leader, will initially release a distribution code-named "Carbon," consisting of the Drupal 6.x core, the top 30 Drupal modules among the roughly 1,800 now in existence; a packaged installer; and assorted documentation and site-building guidelines. The startup is also readying an intelligent update notification service for customers, which is code-named "Spokes."

lengthy FAQ on the Acquia Web site answers questions such as Buytaert's continued role in the development of Drupal.

"We do not claim to own or control Drupal in any way. ... The Drupal Association continues to operate the drupal.org domain, Dries continues to own the Drupal trademark, and the Drupal community continues to set the technical direction of the Drupal project," one passage states.

In addition, the FAQ says, "Acquia strongly believes that Dries must be able to effectively lead the Drupal project where the community wants it to go -- and not negatively affect the project due to our own needs."

Acquia provided data that Drupal has been downloaded 2 million times and that Drupal.org has more than 240,000 members. Companies including Forbes and The Onion have used it to build sites.

A commercial venture makes sense given such explosive growth, said Bryan House, product marketing director for Acquia.

Beyond the number of companies using the platform, Drupal implementations are becoming far more advanced, and as projects scale up, corporate users will want someone to call in case something breaks down, House said.

"There's a lot of people out there that love what Drupal's done," he said. "But as people build their businesses on it, there's a need for another level of support."

The company will likely never support every Drupal module; that task would simply be too sprawling, House suggested. "Each module is like a little open-source project in itself."

Acquia is rolling out its plans in a "managed, bite-sized way," House said.

Andrew Forbes, chief technology officer of WorthPoint, a networking and research site for collectors, is one Drupal user eagerly awaiting the supported distribution.

Drupal is "a little bit rough around the edges" but has "an amazing number" of features and possibilities, and it was initially cheap and easy to build out a site, he said.

But the platform is showing its limitations as WorthPoint's business grows, according to Forbes. "When you get into really interactive sites ... you run into the fact that Drupal wasn't really designed to scale well," he said. "It hasn't been wrung out by the large enterprises. ... I'm thrilled to be able to pay someone for a distribution they'll be able to stand behind."

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