Saturday was the biggest event for Open Source CMS systems since 2005.
Back in February 2005 we had the launch of WordPress.com with super-easy installs and also WordPress 1.5 with changeable themes. Later in the year, Joomla split from Mambo.
On Saturday, Drupal started powering Whitehouse.gov. It’s such a big catch that it brings hugely increased credibility, not just for Drupal, but for our Open Source CMS industry in general. If you’re not bidding for your next project by saying “this kind of software powers the White House website”, you’re crazy.
Big Thinking From Drupal Companies
I’ll start off by saying that I only have public information to go on, but this is what I’ve been able to conclude:
It seems that this was the culmination of years of work by Drupal people in Washington D.C. and that they expressly targeted and studied how to get government contracts. The first ever large Drupal project was powering Howard Dean’s website in the 2004 election campaign and they’ve been learning, networking and seeking government projects ever since. When the new Democratic administration arrived, all that effort began to pay off. Drupal was used for http://recovery.gov and http://www.nysenate.gov and Dries says more are coming “including the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education”. Tim O’Reilly has a blog post on how big these guys are thinking and how professionally they’re doing business:
” … don’t underestimate the difficulty of doing business in Washington. Procurement is done through a complex ballet understood by few open source companies … a big IT deployment like this requires coordination between many companies, each providing a piece of the puzzle. According to techpresident.com, no fewer than five firms were involved in the switch: prime contractor General Dynamics Information Systems, Drupal specialists Phase 2 and Acquia, hosting provider Terremark, and CDN-supplier Akamai.” link
General Dynamics is a huge government contractor that also executed the Bush-era White House CMS contract. Imagine the amount of networking needed and the number of projects you need to prove yourself on before they seriously consider your bids.
The Next Step?
“Acquia according to Dries, “is to Drupal what Ubuntu or RedHat are to Linux.””
They’ve already raised at least $15 million in Venture Capital funding and those investors are probably feeling delighted this morning. With a project like this Drupal has comprehensively proven that its capable of high-level custom contracts. The White House project is a business card that is going to open a lot more boardroom doors.
One thing Drupal hasn’t proven is the ability to appeal to the ordinary end-user. I wonder if that is the goal any longer … how many ordinary end-users do you know working on Linux computers? Perhaps they’re happy to leave the mass-market to Joomla and WordPress and concentrate instead on such massive, high-margin projects.