Popular open-source content management system (CMS) Drupal is going commercial, with a supercharged version due to go on sale later this year.
Start-up firm Acquia, led by Drupal creator Dries Buytaert, will release a commercial version – code-named "Carbon" – that adds 30 top Drupal modules, a packaged installer, assorted documentation and site-building guidelines to the free Drupal 6.x core.
Acquia is also readying an intelligent update notification service for customers, code-named "Spokes".
The start-up's figures show that Drupal has been downloaded two million times and that the Drupal.org community has more than 240,000 members. Companies using it to build websites including Forbes and The Onion.
Such explosive growth alone makes a commercial venture eminently sensible, said Bryan House, product marketing director for Acquia. However, as Drupal spreads, its implementations are also becoming far more advanced. As projects scale up, corporate users will also want someone to call in case something breaks down, House added.
"There's a lot of people out there that love what Drupal's done," he said. "But as people build their businesses on it, there's a need for another level of support."
Andrew Forbes, chief technology officer of WorthPoint, a networking and research site for collectors, is one Drupal user eagerly awaiting the supported distribution.
Although he believes Drupal has "an amazing number" of features and possibilities, he concedes it's "a little bit rough around the edges".
While Drupal was initially a cheap and easy tool for building websites, Forbes adds that the platform is showing its limitations as WorthPoint's business grows. "When you get into really interactive sites ... you run into the fact that Drupal wasn't really designed to scale well," he said. "It hasn't been wrung out by the large enterprises. I'm thrilled to be able to pay someone for a distribution they'll be able to stand behind."
Back at Acquia, House said his company was rolling out its plans in a "managed, bite-sized way" and was unlikely to ever support every one of Drupal's 1800 modules. That task would simply be too sprawling. "Each module is like a little open-source project in itself," he said.
Meanwhile, a lengthy FAQ on the Acquia website addresses issues raised by Dries Buytaert's dual role in both the new start-up and the development of Drupal.
"We do not claim to own or control Drupal in any way," Acquia states. "The Drupal Association continues to operate the drupal.org domain, Dries continues to own the Drupal trademark, and the Drupal community continues to set the technical direction of the Drupal project.
"Acquia strongly believes that Dries must be able to effectively lead the Drupal project where the community wants it to go – and not negatively affect the project due to our own needs."