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Exclusive : Interview with the founder of Drupal – Dries Buytaert

by Will Corry on March 8, 2012 in Business, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, Email Marketing, Events & Awards, Lead story, Mobile Marketing, Music, Research, Search Marketing, TV

  • Exclusive to theMarketingblog : Interview with Dries Buytaert
  • Why are major media brands turning to the benefits of open source over traditional web publishing platform

 

  • Dries Buytaert is the original creator and project lead for the Drupal open source web publishing and collaboration platform. Buytaert serves as president of the Drupal Association, a non-profit organization formed to help Drupal flourish. He is also co-founder and chief technology officer of Acquia, a venture-backed software company that offers products and services for Drupal.
  • Dries is also a co-founder of Mollom, a web service that helps you identify content quality and, more importantly, helps you stop website spam. A native of Belgium, Buytaert holds a PhD in computer science and engineering from Ghent University and a Licentiate Computer Science (MsC) from the University of Antwerp. In 2008, Buytaert was elected Young Entrepreneurs of Tech by BusinessWeek as well as MIT TR 35 Young Innovator. In 2011, Forbes elected Acquia as one of the Top 100 Most Promising Companies.
  • Dries’ blog can be found here: http://buytaert.net/
  • Drupal showcase here provides a number of examples of where the platform is used
  • Why are major media brands turning to the benefits of open source over traditional web publishing platform

When we speak with customers about why they select Drupal they often refer to its scalability, security, the flexibility that open source offers site developers, and of course that fact that is constantly being improved by hundreds of thousands of passionate Drupalists all over the world. There are literally thousands of contributed modules available to extend and customize Drupal functionality. For media and entertainment brands in particular a major limitation of traditional systems is their failure in being able to scale quickly in response to special events, breaking news, community participation on their site and spikes in traffic.

For example, one of our customers is the BRIT Awards and they rely on Acquia to manage significant spikes in site traffic around their nominations launch event and the awards ceremony. This year, because of successful digital and PR campaigns there was a greater buzz around the launch event which saw a nearly quadruple the level of visitors to the site by comparison with last year. Acquia were able to quickly bring an additional 12 servers online to address the capacity requirements and advise on disabling non-essential functions on the site in the live environment during peak traffic periods to free memory and ensure the smooth running of services, such as voting, for site visitors.

  • Please give me more in-depth detail about Drupal Gardens

Drupal Gardens is an easy-to-use service for creating and hosting powerful, social websites using Drupal. Drupal Gardens is unique in that it has no vendor lock-in and allows users to design their sites online. And because it’s open source, users can export their entire site at any time to take advantage of the more than 4,000 modules available on Drupal.org to customize and extend their site.

Drupal Gardens is great for people who want a quick, affordable way to build a microsite with a great design and lots of flexibility without the need for any programming or IT maintenance. For example, a number of companies in the music industry are using Drupal Gardens to create and clone sites quickly for individual artist.

  • Tell me how the Drupal phenomenon started. What inspired you to create the platform?

I started Drupal 11 years ago, whilst I was in college. Initially, it was just a message board and I spent my spare time a few days a week upgrading and maintaining it. Quickly this developed into a free tool for building websites both with ease and in a short space of time. This really took off, and by the time I finished my PhD hundreds of companies were using the platform to support themselves online. Developers soon gained interest due to the open source nature of the project, and today that community has developed the platform into the largest open source project on the planet.

The success of Drupal inspired me to co-found Acquia in 2007. Acquia’s aims to help enterprises use Drupal to build social publishing websites quickly, easily and with a lower total cost of ownership than alternative platforms. Acquia’s products aim to remove the complexity and risk of going online by simplifying the whole experience.

  • How is Drupal offering an alternative to Blogger, WordPress?

For the enterprise, the beauty of using Drupal is its modularity for easy assembly, and the fact that thousands of solutions created by the community of developers already exist. Many companies may start off by using WordPress for blogging, but soon run into its limitations and move over to the Drupal platform. If solutions don’t already exist in Drupal, the community often develops these quickly and easily around user’s needs. This approach is a completely new move forward compared to traditional proprietary content management systems.

  • What is the business background to Acquia, its market ambitions and its plans for growth across Europe?

Acquia started in the US where we enjoy a very strong market position and support from the investor community.  Now, we’re rapidly expanding across the globe as more organisations recognise the power of Drupal and engage with us for expertise training, support, professional services and managed cloud hosting. We recently set up our European operations in the UK, and are currently expanding into Benelux and France.

We’re using our recent Series D funding to fast-forward growth, expand our footprint, invest in spreading the word, driving adoption and supporting the efforts of the Drupal community which is already well-established across the continent. We’ve seen a huge rate of uptake across Europe within government organisations, media and entertainment industries, and the publishing sector.

  • Tell me about your challenge in getting talent to join Drupal?

Despite a tough economic climate, demand for Drupal talent has never been greater, and the biggest challenge we currently face is scaling. We are looking to hire over 100 new employees this year.

More than half of Acquia’s headcount increase will be in technical hires. As a result, in the US we have launched the “Acquia U” a program to employ and train recent and upcoming college graduates, as well as career changers, in Drupal. Exceptional candidates will be hired as Client Advisors, will participate in six week training program, and then become full time employees of Acquia or Acquia’s partners.

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