Acquia flies flag for Drupal downunder

Sydney office creates new opportunities for local Drupal shops, says Asia Pacific regional director, Chris Harrop

Acquia has set its sights on accelerating adoption of the open source Drupal content management system by large organisations. The company, which was founded by the CMS's creator, Dries Buytaert, opened a Sydney office last month and plans on expanding its sales and business development operations in Australia.

Australia is already home to elements of Acquia's tri-continental 24/7 support setup, and the company's Asia Pacific regional director, Chris Harrop, said he plans to boost the company's local headcount to about 15 over the next 12 months, bringing on board field sales and business development staff in Sydney.

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Harrop said that Acquia's support network can make switching to the open source more appealing for larger Australian organisations.

"If you're looking at large organisations, I think there's an awareness now that you need to have leading digital experiences, be that through Web or mobile; those organisations are then looking at either commercial products in order to solve that," Harrop said.

"So I might be looking at Adobe or Sitecore. If I look at that and then do a feature/functionality comparison, then I can go with Drupal — it does the same thing. So I guess the market here is wising up to the fact that, 'Well, it can't be a total cost of ownership reason I'm going with commercial software, because I'm spending that money on a licence'. It can't be the feature/functionality because [Drupal] does the same [things]. So maybe it comes down to risk and the perception of security around open source."

"That's where I think the growth of Acquia and Drupal have gone hand in hand," he said. Acquia "essentially removes the risk associated" with adopting an open source platform like Drupal, he said. "As awareness grows, people consider that Drupal is a viable option for them and they're aware that Acquia can remove that perceived risk associated with that decision. That's where the growth comes from so. My feeling is that it's a global phenomenon, but locally it's been replicated."

Internationally, Acquia has seen large operations, such as Warner Music Group, Al Jazeera and The Economist moving to Drupal, and that trend has been mirrored in Australia, with companies such as Suncorp and IAG embracing the CMS.

"[Opening an office] really was a chance for us to invest back into this market, where we'd seen potential... So business development is where we're saying 'the office is open', whereas the operation was here previously around the support side of things," Harrop said.

Two verticals where Drupal has found particular success are government and higher education, thanks to the absence of licence fees. "So if you said that [with] a project the licence component, if you're going to a commercial vendor, could represent 30 or 40 per cent of your total budget, if you remove that, total cost of ownership from an open source standpoint becomes more attractive."

Locally, Harrop has been surprised by the adoption of Drupal by finance and insurance organisations, given that "they tend to be more conservative in their approach to technologies". "Pretty much all of the insurance brands that you find online in Australia are now running Drupal," he said

Harrop said that opening a Sydney office will aid local Drupal shops, such as PreviousNext, Technocrat, CrossFunctional and Reality Loop, by giving them "the chance to elevate their solutions to larger enterprises". "If they're a local operation that provides good solutions and good builds and they have the backing of a global support network like Acquia it's much more attractive for larger organisations to embrace [Drupal]."

"Acquia doesn't do end-to-end project builds, so any business that we get coming to us in terms of attraction to Drupal we push that out to the partner community ... and potentially we take on the support of that application after go-live," Harrop said.

Rohan Pearce is the editor of Techworld Australia and Computerworld Australia. Contact him at rohan_pearce at idg.com.au.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

Tags open sourcedrupal

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