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The Future is OpenSaaS

This blog post is cross-posted from the 2011 Future of Open Source Forum website.

As I have for the past few years, I’ll be attending the Open Source Business Conference this May in San Francisco. What makes this year different is that I will participate in a panel discussion led by Michael Skok - partner at North Bridge Venture Partners, Acquia board member and friend.

Michael’s panel each year is a discussion on the future of open source - disruptive technologies, business models and trends impacting for open source software adoption. Its a discussion about “big ideas” impacting open source, based on his annual survey of open source technologists and users.

As Acquia’s business evolves, its clear that two trends are having a major impact on open source Drupal adoption. The first is the rapid pace of adoption for social technologies. Organizations are embracing the social web to attract new customers and deliver superior customer experiences. At the heart of this trend are content rich, community websites, where individuals can connect to share information, solve problems and build relationships.

Whether your organization is a media company or a government agency, your site visitors want to interact with you in patterns similar to how they interact with their friends and colleagues on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Open source social publishing platforms like Drupal provide organizations with the innovative capabilities to foster deep engagement - at half the price, or even less, of proprietary alternatives. And most surprisingly, organizations can deliver successful projects faster with Drupal because they can assemble sites quickly with the 7,000+ modules, rather than either coding everything from scratch or working on legacy, proprietary codebases.

The second trend is the cloud - specifically the meteoric rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings. PaaS was an interesting idea just a few years ago, now Salesforce.com is buying Heroku for $212M in cash - this market is maturing fast. At Acquia, we have both SaaS and PaaS platforms, Drupal Gardens and Acquia Hosting respectively, for customers seeking to take advantage of Drupal in the cloud. We’ve built a highly available, Drupal-optimized cloud-platform on AWS to support both - we take the guesswork out of scaling Drupal for sites of all sizes.

But what makes our cloud offerings unique is they hold true to the principles of open source - what we call OpenSaaS. With Drupal Gardens, you can launch a site in seconds, with no software to install and no servers to manage. But, more importantly, there’s no lock-in - when you want to leave, we provide an export feature that gives you a copy of your entire site - code, database, and design - everything. You can move your site into our managed cloud PaaS environment, where you can completely customize your site - add modules or custom code, integrate with enterprise systems. Alternatively you can move it to another hosting provider or your own premises if you prefer. Its software delivered as a service, with open source principles at its core.

OpenSaas is about freedom, libre, free as in speech. For Acquia, it means the option to leave has to be more valuable than actually leaving - our services have to deliver tangible value and exceed customer expectations. For business buyers, OpenSaaS means they can obtain the business value of the software delivered as a cloud service, while retaining the control that running software themselves provides, without investing in the hardware, resources and overhead that comes with managing a data center.

As happens in every industry, our customers are constantly questioning what business they are really in. Many understand that content rich web experiences are critical to their relationship with their customers. However, they ask themselves whether they need to be website operations experts in addition to their “day jobs” as entertainment companies, publishers, technology developers, or public servants. OpenSaaS enables organizations to focus on their core competencies, without sacrificing control over the web experiences that propel their business.

Please join me at OSBC this spring and learn how OpenSaaS fits into the future of open source software.

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