Drupal at Hostingcon, Chicago [Updated with Video]
by Kieran Lal
The Drupal community got together to help promote Drupal at Hostingcon, in Chicago last week. We learned some important lessons. One hosting company told us they were sponsoring their local Joomla group and had managed to grow it to over 300 users in less than a year. Wow! Hosting companies promoting open source projects. When you consider that hosting companies are paying anywhere from $5 to $200 per affiliate sale providing office space and snacks seems really cheap in comparison. That same company noted that Drupal sent a lot of business their way but they had not set up financial contributions back the Drupal projects.
Drupal is popular with hosting companies customers, but hosting companies haven't fully embraced it. Many of the smaller hosting companies were surprised to find Drupal running repeatedly on their servers but the hosting providers were not explicitly supporting it. Part of the reason we were at HostingCon was to help hosting providers see Drupal as a popular application for social publishing. Most of the time we had 4 volunteers at the booth and that allowed us to really show them what Drupal was capable of doing. In particular Kyle Else, Doug Vann, Dave Chakrabarti, and Max Veprinsky were tackling hosting providers who walked our aisle. It was really helpful to have a team of enthusiastic volunteers who got out in front and passionately sell people on Drupal.
We got to talk to some of the industry press. In particular, Kyle Else and I did a quick video interview with Anastasia Tubanos from Web Host Industry Review for WHIRtv. Drupal booth videos at 2:11 and 4:45.
We also talked Keith Duncan and Mindy Niezgodzki from PING! ZINE web hosting magazine who had already done a cover issue on Drupal last year. We are hoping to do some follow up interviews with Darren Tabor and Colleen Salmon from HostReview. It was great to have all the hosting industry press in one place and to get some press for Drupal.
One of the best outcomes was to talk directly with at least four of key application software providers. CPanel is the viral leader and default user interface for many hosting companies. We talked to David Koston, VP of Operations at cPanel about how to raise the quality of Drupal provisioning. We talk with the team from Parallels which makes Plesk and is the leading software provisioning and host management software by sales. A key insight was that they told us Drupal was the most downloaded application from their Plesk Application gallery. I also talked with Jake Jacobson from Microsoft about their new application gallery for Windows and we will be working together to ensure Drupal can be installed easily and works well in a windows environment. Last year Microsoft flew Gabor Hojsty, Matt Westgate, and John Van Dyke to Redmonk to provide insight on how to improve the Windows stack for PHP applications particularly Drupal. The result is that IIS 7 is now Drupal friendly. We also talked to a new company Simple Scripts which seemed like a promising replacement for Fantastico which currently breaks Drupal during upgrades.
I also got to shake hands with the business development or sales staff from a couple dozen hosting companies. It was good to build interest in supporting Drupal, and several of the hosting companies were excited to learn about Acquia. They bemoaned the lack of commercial support for some of the other applications they provide their customers.
A big thanks to the team at PrometHost particulary Anne Bustamante and office manager Laura who braved the show floor to help us out. Also thanks to Bob Snodgrass helped a lot at the booth.