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Accelerating Drupal Adoption with Distributions

Drupal Commons, Acquia’s new Social Business Software distribution of Drupal, is no doubt getting everyone excited. We’re especially seeing interest in the enterprise and public sector. The community solution is important because its an open source alternative to (social business software products like) Jive and another way to accelerate adoption of Drupal in the marketplace. Drupal Commons evolved because of countless inquiries and interest from organizations who want to use Drupal to build community sites. Not surprisingly, many other Drupal distributions evolved for the same reasons. Dries has frequently discussed the importance of Drupal distributions on his blog. He explained in a post last May that “Drupal distributions allow us to compete with a wide range of turnkey solutions as well as invent new markets. The number of different distributions we could build is nearly unlimited.”

I’ve worked at Acquia for two years now and hear the same stories, needs, and requirements . Many people have similar goals on the web today. They want to build communities, grow traffic, engage users, and create more compelling web experiences. As you can imagine, a closer focus on distributions will help satisfy many of these goals faster. I’m sure you can imagine where I’m going with this. Enabling users to meet business needs immediately with out of the box functionality will be key to increase Drupal adoption outside of the Drupal community.

We’ve already launched our software publishing initiative and making significant progress with our OpenPublish and OpenScholar distribution partners; Phase2 Technology and Harvard University’s Institute of Quantitative Social Science. (We have an OpenScholar webinar demonstration coming up on Sept 2nd.) I’ve been known to get too excited here. So, let me get back to my original goal of explaining why distributions will play a significant role in accelerating Drupal adoption.

Combined with Acquia’s fully managed packaged solutions, the following five points outline the opportunity at hand for growing the Drupal community and increasing market penetration.

1. Start faster, deploy today.
For those unfamiliar to Drupal (who are key to reaching to cross the chasm) it is critical that we reduce hurdles to adoption. Solving specific business needs and being able to deploy them immediately will naturally make these packages solutions easier to adopt. New Dupal users will not need to install the application, optimize the LAMP stack, develop features, know how to scale the application or understand best practices. Acquia software publishing solutions are meant to mimic a SaaS model and provide everything needed to deploy today.

2. Vertical solutions to cross. OpenPublish, Drupal Commons, and OpenScholar are designed for the publishing, social business software / community, and education verticals. Not surprisingly, these demographics contribute to the majority of our customer profile. These distributions, and others, show that Drupal is more than just CMS. Drupal is an application framework for building and providing vertical solutions. As we see continued demand in other verticals, such as the public sector, we’ll see the development of other vertical distributions. By segmenting the marketplace, the Drupal community can build smaller bridges to cross the chasm - ultimately compounding to establish deep, overall market penetration.

3. Partner ecosystem growth and collaboration. Maintaining core philosophies of Drupal will always be important. We envision that partners will not only specialize in customizing specific distributions, but will also contribute back to extend functionality. By promoting distributions, we hope to increase web development demand to generate opportunities for partners. Packaged services and distributions make Drupal easier to adopt, but remember customization is important to many - an opportunity to provide partners with development leads. with In the future, we can also think of reseller opportunities to further bolster partner revenues.

4. Distribution creation process and best practices.
Creating distributions should become easier over time. Aggregating best practices and creating guidelines for developers can help further that goal. Just imagine if the Drupal community came out with distributions for the music industry, sports teams, or location based systems. What possibilities can you think of?

5. Distribution road maps. Users are usually more apt to adopt applications that have new features to look forward to. Luckily, Drupal is at the heart of distributions - meaning that you can utilize thousands of contributed modules for added functionality. However, we also aim to gather feedback and work with distribution creators to solidify road maps and select the most commonly request features. I’ve talked to many universities who are even interested in pooling resources to fund these features. Being able to distribute costs and satisfy common requirements are yet other reasons that make distributions an attractive way to accelerate Drupal in the market.

In the same paragraph from before, Dries emphasies that “We have a very unique opportunity in front of us -- distributions can be a game changer.”

I would love to hear your thoughts. Email me (alex@acquia.com) if you are interested in discussing our software publishing initiative or distributions.