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Drupal creator aims to be a disruptor in healthcare sector

Dries Buytaert, founder and CTO of Acquia

The free publishing and management system Drupal that now powers several high profile Web sites such as The Weather Channel and the Grammies was created almost by accident, according to its founder Dries Buytaert.

Buytaert made a stop in Toronto to bring more awareness to his company Acquia, a Burlington, Ma.-based vendor of unified platform for content, community and commerce.

Drupal in 2001 became one of the more noteworthy open source projects, but the Belgium-born Buytaert built a message board for friends. Little did he realize that all his late night work experimenting on the platform became Drupal, an open source content management framework with the reputation of never crashing.

In its seven year development journey Drupal got a big spike of interest after U.S. Democratic Presidential contender Howard Dean used the Drupal platform to build DeanSpace for the 2004 race to the White House.

“Dean picked Drupal to leverage the Internet to get his name out to voters along with speeding up the process up for attracting volunteers and raising money,” Buytaert said.

The success of DeanSpace made the investment community take notice of Drupal. At the same time TV music channel MTV switched to Drupal for its Web site.

This led to investor Jay Batson funding a start-up called Acquia to the tune of $7 million to develop commercialized products that could support the Drupal platform.

Fast forward to today and Acquia has 650 employees with more than $100 million in revenue. Besides the Weather Channel, Acquia runs the Web sites of Tesla, Johnson & Johnson and this year’s Super Bowl champs the New England Patriots.

“One out of every 40 Web sites are now powered by Drupal,” Buytaert said.

While Drupal has found success in media sites, the next step for Buytaert is to become a disruptive service to healthcare and education.

“Healthcare today is a pull model. You have to go to the doctor. With the Internet of Things it can be turned into a push model where the doctor may come to you to resolve what is wrong with the person,” he said.

Buytaert recently penned a blog about the rise of the push-based Web called “The Big Reverse of the Web.” You can read that here.

Acquia currently offers two products. The first is called Acquia Cloud, a platform-as-a-service run and Amazon Web Services that can handle 11 billion Web pages per month.

The second is Acquia Lift, which is an engagement service with real-time management in an omni-channel format.

The company does operate a sales force but also works with channel partners such as Wipro and Cognizant that are strong with business process and are developing a Drupal practice.

Another source of channel development are boutique local solution providers where Drupal may not be a core competency but are able to support the platform similar to the way Red Hat established is business model, said Mathieu Weber, Canadian director for Acquia.

Weber added that Acquia is interested in attracting more channel partners in Canada and the U.S.

The company is embarking on a city-by-city tour along with Webinars targeted at channel partners to create more awareness to Drupal and Acquia, Weber said.

Buytaert said that Acquia is also investing more dollars and resources in its existing partners and wants to push potential partners to bring the company more new opportunities.