No sooner have Capgemini and Acquia announced their partnership to deliver a Drupal solution for the UK’s Royal Mail, than word is starting to emerge of a second major enterprise project from the same team.
Denis Lafont, a technical director at Capgemini, responded to news of the Royal Mail site with this comment on Rob Knight’s blog:
I am working within Capgemini Drupal Factory ( http://capgemini.drupal-factory.com/ ), and we are also working on a very high profile / high volume web site , similar to RMG [Royal Mail Group]. I can not make the reference public yet, like RMG was in the past quarters ;-)
(Editor’s note: Anyone want to send us any hints as to who the client might be on this one?)
Capgemini’s ‘Drupal factory’ has a team of 50 but is now recruiting for more on groups.drupal.org, and on various Indian jobsites for Drupal development posts in Bangalore. They’ve also built Capgemini’s internal Knowledge Management system in Drupal - so all 93,000 employees are familiar now with what Drupal can do.
Further details have also been revealed of the system that Capgemini have been assembling for their enterprise clients. Rob Knight has been contracting for Capgemini on their Drupal work, and says in his blog post:
What Capgemini is building is a fully-fledged framework of components for delivery of enterprise-scale web projects, with Drupal as a central component. This framework is called Immediate, and working on making this a great product, suitable for many customers, is where the main focus of my efforts are going. This means making use of great Drupal technologies such as Features, Drush (& make files) and CTools exportables to build a packageable system. It also means integrating with a wide variety of third-party providers for e-commerce, identity and authentication, CRM and more.
For such large-scale sites, performance is critical and we have great support from David Strauss and Four Kitchens. Pressflow, memcached, APC and a highly-tuned MySQL server all go into the mix, and Zeus provides an excellent reverse proxy and load balancing solution.
This is one of the world’s largest, most profitable, technology consultancies, and it’s taking Drupal very seriously indeed.
But what will this mean for the community? For a start - will Capgemini contribute any code back from these big projects? I asked Dries Buytaert, Drupal’s project lead, if he’d had any indication from them and he said:
I can reach out to Capgemini to see if they have any plans to contribute code back. My guess is that it is too early to tell.
I’ve asked Capgemini too, and will update this article when I hear back from them.
The Elephants Are Coming
In his blog post earlier this week, Dries referenced his Drupalcon ‘State of Drupal’ speech in which he said that this would be the year that the elephants would come to Drupal - meaning that large enterprises would start to use the CMS. That prediction is proving to be accurate.
Acquia already has IBM as well as Capgemini signed up as ‘Global System Integrator’ partners - and these firms don’t adopt a technology just for one project.
Word is also reaching me that other Drupal agencies are seeing sites put out to tender from large organisations, specifically requesting a Drupal solution.
Of course, we’ve had big projects use Drupal before - Lullabot did the Grammy awards website, helped Sony music do their artist websites, and more; Development Seed have done sites for the UN and World Bank; and Chapter Three, Phase2, and other well known agencies all have big clients under their belt.
But those clients were cool media companies, or worthwhile non-profits - companies with a passion or a cause bigger than money. Now, the big-money corporate world is coming - and that brings a bigger challenge.
Elephants and Tourists
One of my most interesting assignments as a journalist in the 90’s was to report from South Africa on the first anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s election victory. So much of that 3 week trip sticks in my mind - but one of the really compelling images that I can still picture so clearly is from a day when I visited the Kruger National Park.
My report that day was on tourism becoming a vital boost to the South African economy, with floods of visitors coming from the US, Japan and Europe. At the Kruger Park these tourists could drive round in their own cars to see wild animals in their natural habitat. But there, at the entrance to the park was a stark warning to be wary - a car, with the passenger compartment crushed to almost 30cm in height, was displayed on a plinth. It had been a car belonging to some tourists who - used to being able to go close to the elephants in the zoo - had decided to get too close to the elephants in the wild. One of the herd had been provoked, probably because the car got too close to their young - to stand on the car and crush it.
Even the largest Drupal companies are relatively small, and often made up of developers who just ended up running businesses. In the enterprise world we’re the tourists. When we enter their natural habitat we’re going to have to be careful.
Consider that this is also the week that the Drupal community started serious discussions on moving away from MySQL to use MariaDB. MySQL was once a growing and much-liked open source project like Drupal - which was then discovered by enterprise customers, and the big global consultancies. It wasn’t guided by an independent association like Drupal, and it ended up in commercial hands, changing owners until it became part of Oracle - who don’t seem so keen on its enduring success.
I’m not saying at all that Drupal’s adoption by enterprise clients is a bad thing. I genuinely think it’s fantastic, and to be celebrated - and we’ll be celebrating each new big project here on DrupalRadar.
But it is a challenge to us as a community. How do we ensure the project endures as a thriving open source project with a happy community? I believe Dries has made a lot of wise decisions in recent years to contribute to that, and the formation of the Drupal Association has been key. But we have a lot big issues to consider still.
What happens to the small Drupal shops and freelancers that have made Drupal what it is now? How can we ensure that they survive and thrive? Can we enable them to benefit from these big projects - or will they only ever be able to pick up the small projects? Will it become too difficult for them to recruit more developers and grow when enterprise customers start sucking the talent out of the market with large pay packets? How can we encourage large companies to engage with the community? Does it matter if they just take the software and ignore the community? If we want them to, how can we encourage them to allow their staff and consultants to contribute back to the community? And what else do we need to consider to make sure this coming opportunity benefits Drupal and its community long term?
These are the questions, over to you in the comments for some answers…