Monday, 29 February 2016 17:10

Acquia adapting to future needs as web trends change


The Boston-based open source firm Acquia is dabbling in several technologies to ensure that, down the road, it stays as big a player in the market as it is now.

Acquia uses the Drupal content management system to build websites for companies around the world and has produced and powered roughly 12 per cent of all Drupal implementations, according to Chris Stone, the head of engineering and chief product officer.

Stone (seen above), who is in Australia on a short visit, said that of the 4000 customers world-wide, many were in a cloud environment. Acquia is one of the largest customers of Amazon Web Services, with the latter also having invested in the company. Acquia manages about 14,000 serves on AWS, with each hosting anything from 10 to 100 websites.

Given this move to the cloud, the architecture had to change accordingly, Stone said. Many customers wanted to run additional applications on the sites and Acquia had to support these third-party applications.

He said a scalable environment was needed, one where customers would be billed according to the resources they used at any point in time. Since Acquia already manages the Super Bowl, the biggest event in terms of web traffic, it was able to plan the extent of hardware needed to support big events.

Planning was well advanced with NBC for the Rio Olympics, Stone said, adding that Acquia would also be involved in the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

The future for a company like Acquia would not lie in building websites alone, he said, as people were gradually moving over to other smaller devices for which native code would have to be created, tailored to a specific device.

"People in the US are still mostly web-oriented whereas in countries like China and India, people experience things mostly on mobiles," he said.

This called for more responsive design and also content of a much smaller size compared to huge web pages that are the fashion today. To this end, Acquia is working on front-end experiences with client-side frameworks like Ember.js, Angular and Backbone which could vary delivery.

Ultimately, the goal is to monetise the process. User data would be captured and used to tailor the experience to the individual. Ads would be served based on personal choices, and the end goal would be to convert people from just looking to buying, said Stone. Or maybe watching a video long enough to also take in an ad.

Acquia has also created a tool called Cloud Site Factory which can be used to manage multiple sites for the same entity. Stone said there were big companies like Nestle or Pfizer that had hundreds of sites, with different specifications. All the tweaking and management could be done with Site Factory.

In 2014, Acquia gained a big foothold in the Australian market by winning a contract to develop up to 450 websites for the federal government. The resulting CMS will be known as govCMS. For this, there are eight staff in Canberra dedicated to liaising with people there. Acquia also has a presence in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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