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In a nutshell, Drupal is an open source content management framework, as well as an extended community of developers, maintainers and business supporters. Acquia Inc. is a software-as-a-service firm that provides enterprise-grade hosting, support and services for Drupal.
Certainly, the Drupal vs. Acquia debate isn't just about differences -- there are notable synergies between the two. After all, content management icon Dries Buytaert spearheads both.
In January 2001, he released Drupal 1.0; in 2007, he co-founded Acquia. Drupal retains Buytaert as technical leader, and he's also chairman and CTO at Acquia. This overlap continues in other areas -- Acquia employs some key Drupal contributors and helps to launch major Drupal distributions in a variety of ways.
But the two organizations have different purposes for those weighing Drupal vs. Acquia.
Now in its eighth major release (Drupal 8.0), Drupal follows the design principles of an open source project. While the software itself is free, technical know-how is required to deploy it. A large ecosystem of website development firms, digital design agencies and other types of systems integrators have the Drupal expertise to produce websites and digital experiences for their clientele. Drupal developers are continually innovating and giving back to the community.
Using the operating system analogy, that makes Linux sort of like Drupal. Acquia, by comparison, is analogous to Red Hat in the Drupal vs. Acquia scenario.
Acquia has successfully become the go-to firm to deploy enterprise Drupal in the cloud. At last count, Acquia reported having more than 3,500 customers. Since its inception, the company has provided various cloud-based hosting, advisory, training and support services to all kinds of organizations, specializing in large-scale enterprises.
Acquia is also rolling out additional products for personalization, digital asset management and digital journey mapping for users of Drupal. The company seeks to help organizations build ambitious digital experiences using Drupal and other contemporary technologies of the digital age.