Jan
22
2021
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Drupal’s journey from dorm-room project to billion-dollar exit

Twenty years ago Drupal and Acquia founder Dries Buytaert was a college student at the University of Antwerp. He wanted to put his burgeoning programming skills to work by building a communications tool for his dorm. That simple idea evolved over time into the open-source Drupal web content management system, and eventually a commercial company called Acquia built on top of it.

Buytaert would later raise over $180 million and exit in 2019 when the company was acquired by Vista Equity Partners for $1 billion, but it took 18 years of hard work to reach that point.

When Drupal came along in the early 2000s, it wasn’t the only open-source option, but it was part of a major movement toward giving companies options by democratizing web content management.

Many startups are built on open source today, but back in the early 2000s, there were only a few trail blazers and none that had taken the path that Acquia took. Buytaert and his co-founders decided to reduce the complexity of configuring a Drupal installation by building a hosted cloud service.

That seems like a no-brainer now, but consider at the time in 2009, AWS was still a fledgling side project at Amazon, not the $45 billion behemoth it is today. In 2021, building a startup on top of an open-source project with a SaaS version is a proven and common strategy. Back then nobody else had done it. As it turned out, taking the path less traveled worked out well for Acquia.

Moving from dorm room to billion-dollar exit is the dream of every startup founder. Buytaert got there by being bold, working hard and thinking big. His story is compelling, but it also offers lessons for startup founders who also want to build something big.

Born in the proverbial dorm room

In the days before everyone had internet access and a phone in their pockets, Buytaert simply wanted to build a way for him and his friends to communicate in a centralized way. “I wanted to build kind of an internal message board really to communicate with the other people in the dorm, and it was literally talking about things like ‘Hey, let’s grab a drink at 8:00,’” Buytaert told me.

He also wanted to hone his programming skills. “At the same time I wanted to learn about PHP and MySQL, which at the time were emerging technologies, and so I figured I would spend a few evenings putting together a basic message board using PHP and MySQL, so that I could learn about these technologies, and then actually have something that we could use.”

The resulting product served its purpose well, but when graduation beckoned, Buytaert realized if he unplugged his PC and moved on, the community he had built would die. At that point, he decided to move the site to the public internet and named it drop.org, which was actually an accident. Originally, he meant to register dorp.org because “dorp” is Dutch for “village or small community,” but he mistakenly inverted the letters during registration.

Buytaert continued adding features to drop.org like diaries (a precursor to blogging) and RSS feeds. Eventually, he came up with the idea of open-sourcing the software that ran the site, calling it Drupal.

The birth of web content management

About the same time Buytaert was developing the basis of what would become Drupal, web content management (WCM) was a fresh market. Early websites had been fairly simple and straightforward, but they were growing more complex in the late 90s and a bunch of startups were trying to solve the problem of managing them. Buytaert likely didn’t know it, but there was an industry waiting for an open-source tool like Drupal.

Jul
14
2020
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New Acquia platform looks to bring together developers, marketers and data

Acquia, the commercial company built on top of the open source Drupal content management system has pushed to be more than a publishing platform in recent years, using several strategic acquisitions to move into managing customer experience, and today the company announced a new approach to developing and marketing on the Drupal Cloud.

This involves bringing together developers and marketers under the umbrella of the new Acquia Open DXP platform. This approach has two main components: “What we’ve been working on is deep integration across our suite and pulling together our new foundational Drupal Cloud offering, and our new foundational Marketing Cloud offering,” Kevin Cochrane, senior vice president of product marketing at Acquia said.

The offerings bring together a set of acquisitions the company made over the last year including Mautic for marketing automation in May 2019, Cohesion for low-code developing in September and AgileOne in December for a customer data platform (CDP).

Cochrane says that the company is leveraging these acquisitions along with tools they developed internally and the upcoming release of Drupal 9 to offer a platform approach for customers where they can build content on the Drupal Cloud side and leverage customer data on the Marketing Cloud side.

On the Drupal Cloud, the company is offering a set of tools that includes an integrated development environment (IDE) where developers can build services, while marketers get a low code offering, where they can drag and drop content and design components from a library of offerings that could come from internal sources or the open source community. It also includes other components like security and content management.

The Marketing Cloud is the data layer where companies collect and manage data about customers with the goal of offering a more personalized and meaningful experience in a digital context.

Marketing automation tooling has shifted in recent years with the goal of providing customers with a unique and meaningful experience using the vast amount of data available to build a more complete picture of the customer and give them what they need, when they need it in a digital context. This has involved building a digital experience platform (DXP) and a customer data platform (CDP).

By pulling together these different elements, Acquia is attempting to put itself in a position to compete directly with big players in this space like Adobe and Salesforce offering a similar unified approach.

Vista Equity Partners bought Acquia last September for $1 billion. At the time, company founder Dries Buytaert said one of the advantages of being part of Vista was to get the resources to compete with larger companies in this space, and today’s announcement could be seen in that light.

Sep
25
2019
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How founder and CTO Dries Buytaert sold Acquia for $1B

Acquia announced yesterday that Vista Equity Partners was going to buy a majority stake in the company worth a $1 billion. That would seem to be reason enough to sell the company. That’s a good amount a dough, but as co-founder and CTO Dries Buytaert told Extra Crunch, he’s also happy to be taking care of his early investors and his long-time, loyal employees who stuck by him all these years.

Vista is actually buying out early investors as part of the deal, while providing some liquidity for employee equity holders. “I feel proud that we are able to reward our employees, especially those that have been so loyal to the company and worked so hard for so many years. It makes me feel good that we can do that for our employees,” he said.

Image via TechCrunch

Sep
24
2019
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Vista Equity Partners buys Acquia for $1B

Vista Equity Partners, which likes to purchase undervalued tech companies and turn them around for a hefty profit, has purchased web content management and digital experience company Acquia in a deal valued at $1 billion.

Robert F. Smith, who is founder and chairman of Vista Equity Partners, says that increasingly brands understand that delivering a quality digital experience is essential to their success, and he sees Acquia as well-positioned in the market to help deliver that. “Acquia understands this and is leading the way in providing innovative solutions to its customers while, at the same time, giving back to the open source community,” Smith said in a statement.

Company co-founder Dries Buytaert, writing on his personal blog about the deal, reiterated that the company will continue to be a big open-source contributor after the deal goes through. “This investment should be great news for the Drupal and Mautic communities as we’ll have the right resources to compete against other solutions, and our deep commitment to Drupal, Mautic and Open Source will be unchanged. In fact, we will continue to increase our current level of investment in Open Source as we grow our business,” he wrote.

Scott Liewehr, principal analyst at Digital Clarity Group, says Vista tends to buy companies and then centralize operations so the companies can concentrate purely on growth. “Vista, as a PE firm, tends to make money on companies by standardizing their operations to cut costs. It runs the portfolio companies more like divisions of a larger company than independent entities,” Liewehr wrote in a tweet.

Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, a firm that keeps a close eye on the digital experience market, points to Marketo as a prime example of how this works. Vista acquired Marketo in May, 2016 for $1.8 billion in cash. It applied the centralization formula and sold the company to Adobe last year for $4.75 billion, a tidy little profit for holding the company for two years, but he cautions there is no guarantee this is how it will play out.

“For customers it depends on whether Vista is looking for mid-term income or pump-up-and-exit à la Marketo. For the former, it likely means some cost-cutting and potentially staff changes. For the latter, it means more acquisitions and heavy upselling of new services — likely as precursor to long-awaited IPO,” Byrne told TechCrunch. He added, “Tough to imagine any other software firm wanting to buy Acquia, though it’s always possible.”

It’s worth noting that Ping Identity, another firm Vista purchased in 2016, went public this week, so that pathway to IPO is a direction that Vista has also taken.

Acquia, which is the commercial arm for the open-source Drupal project, had raised $173.5 million, according to Crunchbase. The Drupal project was started by Buytaert in his dorm room at the University of Antwerp in 2000. Acquia launched as the project’s commercial arm in 2007.

Jun
25
2015
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Oracle license revenue and the MySQL ecosystem

Oracle was in the news recently with the story of its license revenue declining as much as 17% in the recent quarter. This is blamed on transitioning to the cloud in some publications, but others, such as Bloomberg and TechRepublic, look deeper, seeing open source software responsible for the bulk of it.

Things are especially interesting in the MySQL ecosystem, as Oracle both owns its traditional “Enterprise” Oracle database and MySQL – a more modern open source database.

At Percona we see the same story repeating among many of our enterprise customers:

  1. MySQL proves itself. This generally happens one of two ways. One is for the enterprise using traditional enterprise databases, such as Oracle or DB2, to acquire a company which has been built on MySQL. After the dust settles the CFO or CIO discovers that the acquired company has been successfully running business-critical operations with MySQL and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on database support instead of tens of millions. At this point it’s been shown that it can be done, so it should continue.

The other way is for MySQL to rise through the ranks in an organization. Typically it starts with some small MySQL use, such as running a bug tracking application in the IT department. Then it moves to MySQL being used with Drupal to power the main corporate website and an e-commerce function with Magento or something similar. Over time, MySQL proves itself and is trusted to handle more and more “core” enterprise databases that are absolutely critical for the business.

Interestingly enough, contrary to what some people have said, MySQL ownership by Oracle helps it to gain trust with many enterprise accounts. Enterprises may not like Oracle’s license and maintenance fees, but they like Oracle’s quality engineering, attention to security and predictable releases.

  1. New applications are built using MySQL. As the enterprise is ready to embrace MySQL it is added to the approved database list and now internal teams can use it to develop applications. In many cases the mandate goes even further with MySQL than with other open source technologies, as it is given preference, and teams need to really justify to management when they want to use Oracle or other proprietary database technologies. There are some cases when that may be warranted, but in most cases MySQL is good enough.

  1. Moving existing applications from Oracle to MySQL.  Depending on the organization and applications it can happen a couple of different ways. One is the equivalent applications are built from scratch on the new open source technology stack and the old application is retired. The other is only the database is migrated from Oracle to MySQL. Moving the database from Oracle to MySQL might be easy and might be close to a full application rewrite. For example, we see Java applications which often use the database as a simple data store through the ORM framework which can be moved to MySQL easily; on the other hand, applications built with extensive use of advanced stored procedures and Oracle-specific SQL extensions are much harder to move.

The wave of moving to open source database technologies will continue and we’re not alone in thinking that – Gartner believes that by 2018, 70% of new in-house applications will be built on open source database systems.

What are we currently seeing in the MySQL ecosystem? First, many customers tell us that they are looking at hefty price increases for MySQL support subscriptions. Some of the customers which had previously signed 5 year agreements with Sun (at the time it was acquired by Oracle) who are exploring renewing now, see price increases as much as 5x for a comparable environment. This is very understandable considering the pressures Oracle has on the market right now.

The issues, however, go deeper than the price. Many customers are not comfortable trusting Oracle to give them the best possible advice for moving from expensive Oracle to a much less expensive Oracle MySQL database. The conflicts are obvious when the highest financial reward comes to Oracle by proving applications can’t be moved to MySQL or any other open source database.

If you’re choosing MySQL, Oracle is financially interested in having you use the Enterprise Edition, which brings back many of the vendor lock-in issues enterprises are trying to avoid by moving to open source databases. Customers believe Oracle will ensure enterprise-only features are put in use in the applications, making it difficult to avoid renewing at escalating prices.

So what do our customers see in Percona which makes them prefer our support and other services to those of Oracle?

  • We are a great partner if you’re considering moving from the Oracle database to MySQL as we both have years of experience and no conflict of interest.
  • Percona Server, Percona XtraDB Cluster, Percona Xtrabackup and our other software for the MySQL ecosystem is 100% open source, which means we’re not trying to lock you into the “enterprise version” as we work together. Furthermore, many of the features which are only available in MySQL Enterprise Edition are available in the fully open source Percona Server, including audit, backup and authentication.
  • We are focused on solutions for your business, not pushing Percona-branded technology. If you choose to use Percona Server, great! If you are using MySQL, MariaDB, Amazon RDS, etc., that’s great too.

With the continuing trend of moving to open source database management systems the cost pressures on people running proprietary databases will continue to increase, and the only real solution is to accelerate moving to the open source stack. As you do that, you’re better off moving to completely open source technology, such as what is available from Percona, to avoid vendor lock-in. If you’re looking for the partner to help you to assess the migration strategy and execute the move successfully, check for conflicts of interests and ensure the interests of your and your provider are completely aligned.

The post Oracle license revenue and the MySQL ecosystem appeared first on MySQL Performance Blog.

Nov
04
2014
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Acquia Wants To Bring More Intelligent Personalization To Your Website

canstockphoto18761951 Acquia, the company which has always been the commercial face of the open source Drupal project, has gotten into Customer Experience Management in a big way, and today at the Acquia Engage conference it announced a new tool called Acquia Lift ContextDB, which is supposed to help understand customer behavior better to deliver more relevant content based on what you learn about them. The… Read More

Nov
11
2013
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Drupal and MySQL Performance: Register now for Nov. 13 webinar

Drupal and MySQLDrupal is one of the most popular open source CMS applications available – and it runs primarily on a MySQL backend.  Out of the box, the schema is well tuned and indexed.  However, there are some ways to tweak the default installation to get more out of the system right from start.  Similarly, there is a fair bit of hidden flexibility (especially in the latest version) in terms of database configuration.

In a free MySQL webinar on Wednesday, November 13th at 1pm EST, I’ll go over some of the improvements in Drupal 7 in terms of database connectivity and operation as well as profile the default installation from the database perspective.  I’ll also be covering some of the ways to optimize the default application and detailing some of the ways to benchmark your installation.

The title is “Drupal and MySQL Performance” and you can get more info and also register here. That same URL will also get you to the recording afterward.

As something to think about before the webinar, the first person to correctly answer the following question in the comments will win a free, collector’s edition Percona t-shirt:

What is the biggest difference in the database layer (in terms of code) when comparing Drupal 6 to the current release, Drupal 7?

Good luck and I hope to see you on Wednesday!

 

The post Drupal and MySQL Performance: Register now for Nov. 13 webinar appeared first on MySQL Performance Blog.

Aug
01
2013
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Percona celebrates its 7th anniversary by giving to open source ecosystem

Percona celebrates its 7th anniversaryToday we’re celebrating Percona’s 7th anniversary.  A lot has changed in these past 7 years – we have grown from a two-person outfit focused exclusively on consulting to a 100-person company with teammates in 22 different countries and 18 different states, now providing Support, Consulting, RemoteDBA, Server Development and Training services.

We also made our mark in open source software development, creating some of the most popular products for the MySQL ecosystem – Percona Toolkit, Percona Xtrabackup, Percona XtraDB Cluster, Percona Server and others. Additionally, we’re into our second year of hosting the Percona Live conference series for the MySQL community. We have grown to serve over 2,000 customers and I’m proud to say we could do it all in bootstrap mode without attracting outside investors and keeping the company owned by its employees.

So how are we celebrating our anniversary? We decided to celebrate by supporting the open source ecosystem, making donations to a number of open source initiatives that have helped us through all these years. We would not be here without you!

As such we’re supporting:

  • MariaDB Foundation for supporting MariaDB, one of the MySQL alternatives that we fully support at Percona.
  • Free Software Foundation as an organization instrumental to the success of the open source movement.
  • Linux Foundation for supporting Linux, by far the most popular platform among our customers.
  • Debian for creating a foundation for some of the most popular Linux distributions out there.
  • Jenkins for the Continuous Integration server we use for our development projects.
  • OpenSSH for software that helps us to access customer systems securely.
  • Drupal for powering our website as well as the websites of many of our customers.

We’re happy to enjoy the growth that’s allowing us to support other projects in our ecosystem. If you have the chance I encourage you do the same. There is a tremendous amount of work going into open source software, which is made free to use, but it is by far not free to create and maintain.

The post Percona celebrates its 7th anniversary by giving to open source ecosystem appeared first on MySQL Performance Blog.

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