Dries Buytaert, creator of Drupal, confirms presence at Latinoware 2011

Dries Buytaert will come to Brasil for the first time in his life. The inventor of Drupal decided to turn his hobby into a free, open source business model and he will tell you all about it in Latinoware 2011. Here is a chat he had with our event coordinator, Cesar Brod, on the roots of Drupal and on making a living out of free software.

Cesar Brod: First of all, Dries, thanks for agreeing to participate in Latinoware 2011. I am sure all participants will be very happy to celebrate with you the tenth anniversary of Drupal. Everyone can search the web and find the story of Drupal and how it evolved from a sort of University dorm bulletin board into a full fledged open source Content Management System. Now, ten years ago, did you have a clear idea on how to actually make money with free and open source software?

Dries Buytaert: Drupal began as an internal message board that I used to manage my student activities. We just used it in my student dorm to communicate about dinner times, etc. After a year or so, I released the software behind my site as Drupal 1.0.0, and Drupal officially came to be on January 15, 2001.

I started Drupal as a hobby and I worked on Drupal in my spare time. For the first seven years, I didn’t make any money on Drupal as I looked at it purely as a hobby project. It wasn’t until 4 years ago, that I decided to turn my hobby into my full-time job and think hard about how to make money with Free and Open Source software.

To that extent, I started Acquia. Acquia provides a number of products and services around Drupal. Acquia currently employs 120 people; we make money from support and cloud services, including Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a Service. We’re one of the fastest growing start-ups in Boston.

CB: In your own vision, how does the competition work within free and open source software? We see kind of "soccer fans" rooting for Drupal, Wordpress, Joomla, everyone trying to get adepts for their side. As an insider, do you see this as a healthy behaviour?Open Source projects do benefit from other open source projects?

DB: I believe the competition between different Open Source CMSs is healthy competition. Healthy in the sense that it is focused on trying to learn from each other, rather than trying to destroy each other. Instead we share notes and best practices, and challenge each other to get better.

At the end of the day Open Source alternatives to Drupal are not the real competition. The real competition for Drupal are proprietary enterprise content management systems like SDL Tridion, Vignette, Sitecore and Polopoly.

CB: You have decided to move to the United States and start Acquia there. What are the reasons behind this decision? Also, please tell us how Acquia is doing and what are your plans for the future with Drupal Gardens and other of your projects.

DB: I moved to Boston because Acquia, my company, is based in Boston and I wanted to spend more person-to-person time there. While working remotely is okay, nothing beats face-to-face interaction, especially when you're a fast growing start-up.

Acquia is doing great. Our business grew by more than 400% since last year, and we have over 120 employees now. Drupal Gardens has more than 50,000 sites now, and our cloud hosting platform serves more than 2.5 billion page views per month.

We are investing heavily in all of our products: Acquia Cloud (e.g. friction-less release management and lifecycle management capabilities, etc); the Acquia Network (e.g. visual refresh, new services, marketplace for third-party services, etc); and Drupal Gardens (e.g. adding many more modules and features).

CB: We have been telling people coming to Latinoware that good business are possible while respecting the freedom of sharing knowledge. Based on your career and the success with Drupal, what are your recommendations for young entrepreneurs?

DB: I'm particularly proud of how Acquia contributes to Drupal. We organize many code sprints, dedicated several of our best developers to Drupal 7, organize 4 free Drupal Business Summits to help promote Drupal in the enterprise, help with the Drupal.org redesign work, helped with the Drupal 7 upgrade and UX improvements of several contributed modules, created an Open Source social business software solution (Drupal Commons), and much more. The list goes on and on. Since Acquia's interests are so aligned with Drupal's, in everything we do, we try to raise the bar for the Drupal community at large. I believe that creates an important win-win relationship that is very healthy for an Open Source project.

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