Cloud computing has always been seen as a game-changer. If not today at-least a few years down the line Cloud is definitely gonna change the way we function. A developer, an entrepreneur, a end user and a common man will all have their own version of how the CLOUD changed their lives. But however, as the title suggests, my motivation for writing this article is completely different.
I was at the OSI days 2011 on behalf of Azri solutions, which was held at Nimhans convention center Bangalore. There were a good number of informative sessions and a few workshops which did help many attendees to get a hands on about the the technology being discussed. There we companies : big and small, developers : novice and pros, marketing teams : strategic and in your face types, students : studious and get-swags, opinions : pro and anti. But all in all, there was a lot of activity happening(business cards being exchanged ;) ) and the awareness about Open Source was raising. Everybody there had a reason and by the end it looked like most of them were happy with the outcome of the event.
But there was one thing that I could constantly observe behind all this hungama. The marriage of proprietary and open-source software(or their makers) and cloud was the match-maker. Be it the key-note by
Remember Gandhi's lines? First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. If we modify this quote for the current scenario it would be First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they accept you as in integral part and the world wins.
They = Proprietary and you = Open-source
First they ignore you : They did this for too long. They behaved as if open-source didn't exist. Reason? Open-source didn't eat into their pie yet, at that time.
then they laugh at you : Yes that is exactly what they did. They called it ridiculous. They asked "Why would somebody write code for free".
then they fight you : Yes they did fight too. But not directly. They said the features sets of open-source are not exhaustive. They questioned the credibility. They cautioned about business continuity taking a hit. "Lack of support has a ripple effect across an Open Source CMS project", a Sitecore white paper pointed out (You should check out the interesting debate between site-core and Dries here).
then they accept you as in integral part : Though I consider most of the points they point out(in the last paragraph) as not true concerns, that last one is something which I feel the open-source should handle well. And that is exactly the void that proprietary software based companies like microsoft, yahoo can fill. Support is something which is number intensive and big guys can do better. Other areas which have space for collaboration are 3rd party integrations, standard compliance and security measures. These are the ways in which the open-source can benefit from biggies like microsoft and yahoo. What about the reverse direction? The inertia of bigger companies generally prevent them from innovating quickly and the need for standard compliances prevent them from embracing the newer technologies. This is where open-source can be of great help to them.
Though the above mentioned factors have been pushing for the union of proprietary and open-source for quite a few years now, the pace has picked up only recently. The reason? You guessed it right, its cloud computing. Having realized the true business potential of cloud, all the companies are pushing the concept of cloud. (Did I tell you that microsoft was giving away blue tooth handsets for registering to Azure? at #osidays ?) Now the question still remianing. How does cloud computing motivate the union? The answer yet again is a simple one. The very concept of cloud has led people to imagine that most of the technologies are supported in the the cloud services that they choose. If the support for proprietary softwares are not provided, the cloud computing providers have a valid reason(the licencing fee), but they have no valid reason for not supporting a open-source CMS, CRM or any software for matter as they come free. And hence naturally the users expect the support for all the major open-source software for free and for sure ;) To provide support for these softwares they need at-least a small team who are well versed with these technologies as then need to provide at-least the basic support once they are providing it in their cloud stack. And the good thing is that it doesn't stop with the small team :)
Open source has more reasons to thank the cloud.
Dries lighting the lamp. Image : Vasudeesha
After an early morning flight from Bangalore to Delhi, and a ride in the Delhi Airport Metro Express (DAME) and the Delhi local metro, I was late for Drupal Camp Delhi. Unfortunately I missed the Dries' keynote speech. But however the Panel discussion was still in progress and the volunteers ushered me to the Panel Discussion Hall. Being a speaker at the camp did help after all.
The room boasted off CXO's of most popular small and medium scale Drupal houses from India. [For those of you those who don't know what CXO is, basically X can be replaced by a meaningful letter. So CTO, CEO, CFO, CLOs ... all fall under CXO]
These were the following points that caught my attention during the panel discussion.
Lack of Drupal Talent : This was one issue that every CXO in the room agreed to. Being a Drupal developer myself, I could not agree more. The number of calls I keep getting regarding the new opportunities to shift is just a testimony.
The response from Dries & Ron was that even Acquia faces the problem, and their solution was to start the drupal training by themselves and then create a in-house talent pool. The CXOs too felt that this is the only viable option that was available to them. But since training a talent pool in-house is not cheap either, most of them felt that a group of companies coming together to have a common training was something that they were willing to try out.
Specialization is the key : It was interesting to see the CXOs swear by their companies that they would not work on the projects that don't pay them well (read as 15$/hour projects). Looks like they have learnt their lessons the hard-way. The problem with the 15$/hour projects is that they don't give the companies enough scope to innovate but takes up the resources of the company. One of the CXO went ahead and said "I would rather have people on bench rather than working on one such project".
Irrespective of the companies and the regions, it is a know fact that Drupal houses in India work very cheap. Their per hour rates are abysmal. Not many India companies are in a position to charge more than 50$/ hour for the development. The key here is specialization. The companies can cross this border only if they have a niche and they can promote themselves as specialists. Specialization doesn't come cheap and companies have to invest their time and resources on them. But the results are worth the efforts. The other advantage of the specialization is that it gives the companies an easy exit from the projects. So the companies have a definite deadline. They know when their entry is and they can plan when their exit should be. "Don't be a slave of your own creations" somebody from the panel rightly quoted.
Scaling Drupal Companies : Drupal is good for a freelancer. It is good for the startups too. But what next. How can Drupal companies scale? This was the question. Partnerships, Mergers and Acquisitions was the answer. Most of the Companies have European and UK partners who bag the projects and these companies take care of the executions. There was a CXO in the room, whose company was recently acquired. (Rahul mentioned this after taking his permission.)
Few of the CXO's were of the opinion that Acquia should partner more with the India companies and give them the much needed credibility, which the bigger corporations expect. But Acquia was of the opinion that they can only partner with the companies in India if they have a particular niche. Acquia also made it clear that they were not partnering with any companies in India, as most of them were into the whole development cycles and didn't have a niche of their own.
Exit strategies : This was something which I had never thought of until I attended the panel discussion. The fact that these people are thinking about the exit strategies proves that these people are considering Drupal seriously as a money making instrument, which is good for Drupal in particular and open source in general. I was just wondering if Acquia also has an exit strategy and what would that be .
Lack of visibility : Visibility of the Indian Drupal houses to me seemed to be Abysmal as always. Drupal houses from India not even featuring in the top ten for searches like "Drupal Companies India" only makes the things much worse. One of them brought this to the notice of the panel saying that when he actually wanted to give out a project to a Indian Drupal team, he was not able to find the names of most of the companies in the panel room. Pity! . The only SME that everybody felt had a better visibility was Srijan.
At-least in this angle, Drupal India still has long way to go. I have just reserved a domain called www.drupalenterprise.in I am planning to make it like a portal where drupal companies can list themselves, their details and their projects, so that it will be easier for the clients to find them. If you have any ideas or want to contribute to this project, write to me nkgokul at gmail dot com