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Don't Jive Me

The market for business oriented social software solutions is exploding, for good reason. Organizations are learning that their employees, customers and business partners collaborate more effectively in the web 2.0, interactive web world.

At the same time, I thought that enterprises had started to learn a lesson about large, risky, proprietary software purchases. It would have been hard to miss Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com at conferences or in the press over the past 11 years, attacking the conventional software vendors’ licensing practices. And the folks at Red Hat and Canonical have taken common sense in licensing models even further.

Yet, all the market needed was another innovation, in this case social media in the enterprise, and businesses are frantically spending millions to play in the game. And vendors seem to be happy to gloat about it (see Jive Software’s press release highlight “multiple customer contracts of over $1 million.”)

Yet, with a little bit of due diligence, the vast majority of these corporates could have virtually identical functionality for precisely $0 in license fees. Free. Yup. Free as in beer. Free as in speech.

How? Drupal already delivers this functionality to thousands of community sites for companies like Intel, Novell, Nike and more. Verizon runs a 30,000 person intranet on Drupal. The World Bank uses a Drupal distribution called Open Atrium from Development Seed for a large intranet application. They all paid the same price for their license fees. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

To be fair, Drupal is a flexible framework, and out of the box requires some work to make it look exactly like Jive or other social media systems for business. But it’s not a lot of work. It seems, though, for some companies, it’s too much work. We recently learned from a system integrator, that their client chose to spend some of those millions on a proprietary software solution, rather than wait the few weeks it would take to configure Drupal for the task, as they needed the solution immediately. Sounds to me like a classic “CEO wanted it by a certain date” so we spent like madmen to deliver.

So to help those companies who can’t wait, and can’t visualize the possibilities with Drupal, Acquia is putting together a Drupal distribution we have named Drupal Commons. We started development work on it a couple of weeks ago. We’re working with a couple of large organizations who want to build very large communities, yet not pay a poll tax each time a new user joins. We have a demo online here and expect to have a free, fully downloadable product available early this summer.

In the spirit of total cost of ownership analysis, I fully understand that the license fee is only one parameter of the equation. And cost advantages mean nothing if required functionality is not there. In Drupal’s case, as I mentioned above, it has proven functionality for community use cases. In fact, Drupal itself is one of the largest communities on the web, with more than 600,000 members of drupal.org.

So if overall capability is proven, and out of the box functionality is brought to a similar level, then the cost discussion becomes front and center. Acquia’s bad for not having amplified this more to date. We’re changing that as of today. To paraphrase my former boss in his recent press release, “it was never a question of if, but only when, and that time is now”.

To further facilitate the ease of adoption, Acquia will make a fully supported SaaS version available also in the summer time frame. It will be built on our highly scalable, fully redundant, cloud based hosting that already supports customers like Nvidia. It won’t be free, but without license fees, it will still be a fraction of other options.

If you’re interested in learning more, email us at drupalcommons@acquia.com or call +1 (978) 289-5250.