Enterprise Drupal Gardens
by Tom Erickson
Early last year, shortly after I had officially joined Acquia as an employee, I was thinking about critical issues that enterprises face when confronting the interactive web. Acquia had heard from several corners of the market about their headaches with current technologies.
- The head of NBC digital had spoken at a conference in Boston, and talked about their number one issue: creating micro sites.
- We had some conversations with a large university, who has over 400 web sites. Each professor, every department, individual libraries, etc. all had their own sites. The vast majority of these were reasonably small, falling into the ‘micro site’ genre.
- A major branch of the federal government also had hundreds of sites, and over 30 different content management systems. A nightmare of branding and maintainability, not to mention security.
The stories repeated themselves over and over. Acquia heard about them because we support Drupal, and Drupal was being used at varying levels in all of these cases. The pain point was clear: It’s frickin’ hard to create, sustain and maintain micro sites.
I asked a friend of mine, who works for a large digital agency, for his thoughts. He had an interesting perspective, taken from his experience with consumer brands.
- The product manager is tasked with achieving awareness and market share goals for their product, and is given a budget to accomplish that. A creative boutique demonstrates a cool capability to the product manager, who decides he/she “has to have it”. The underlying technology is of no concern, and the product manager spends $X and Y weeks on the project.
- Other product managers in the organization do the same thing. Assume 30 product managers, and soon $30X is spent on 30 websites with 20 different technologies, some of them reliable and secure, others less so.
- The CMO looks over the properties, each perhaps with differences in look and feel and consequently in branding. The CMO wonders if there is a way to get consistent branding, spend $15X or less instead of $30X; do them each in substantially less time and leave the saved sums for other creative programs.
- One or more of the sites gets hacked, the CEO finds out, and barks at the CIO. The CIO maintains the primary websites in the company, but has little to do with these creative micro sites. The CIO also wonders if there’s a way to avoid having 20 different technologies, each with their own knowledge curve to maintain and sustain. But perhaps even more importantly, secure.
Alas, the dilemma plays out.
There are solutions for micro sites. Many of them are promising. But there have always been substantial barriers that remained difficult to overcome:
- Existing in house content management systems (CMS) are cumbersome and specialized, making the design to online time excruciating.
- Procuring machines to host micro sites internally is a painful and long process. Sometimes so much so, that the economics of the micro site are negated before it even is created
- Existing SaaS based CMS offerings, which overcome the previous issue, have limited functionality. This is due to different reasons for each system, yet the end result is the same.
Drupal has proven itself as a very capable system for micro sites. Sony Music, Intel, Proctor & Gamble and hundreds of others have used it. But it has a learning curve, and still needs to be hosted. What it lacks in ease, however, Drupal makes up for in flexibility and capability.
Our founder, Dries Buytaert, had always envisaged creating a Drupal SaaS platform, and now we had worked out the perfect use case for the product:
Enable organizations of all sizes to easily create, sustain and maintain tens, hundreds or even thousands of micro sites. By leveraging Drupal and building a robust SaaS platform for it, each of the personas in the example above could be satisfied:
1) The product manager has the creativity necessary to build unique, compelling web sites. A SaaS offering means a minimum of fuss in licensing and procurement.
2) The CMO can establish guidelines on branding, using templates and themes to enforce consistency. Using open source in a repeatable way also drives cost down dramatically.
3) Acquia ensures the security, reliability, sustainability, maintainability of the entire platform right up to the application, providing comfort to the CIO.
Drupal Gardens Today
We launched Drupal Gardens in private beta earlier this year. Today there are thousands of sites built on the product. Acquia added a theme builder to Drupal, dramatically reducing the learning curve without taking away the flexibility. We also created an export capability, so if your micro site grows up and becomes a macro site, you can easily move to a more custom hosting and development environment. We call this Open Source SaaS. Complete flexibility to work the way you want to work. After all it’s the open source way.
We plan to move Drupal Gardens to an open beta as Drupal 7, the version of Drupal it is based on, moves to beta and beyond. It is currently in alpha release. We’re adding capabilities to Drupal Gardens that will make it very easy for organizations to create and manage a plethora of sites. These features will be continuously introduced this year.
Acquia believes that Drupal Gardens will dramatically change the economics and capabilities of micro sites. To learn more, sign up to experience Drupal Gardens, or visit Acquia’s Enterprise Drupal Gardens home page. You can follow the product on Twitter. If you prefer to speak with a sales representative, call us on +1(888) 922-7842 or +1(978) 296-5250.