Drupal 8 will be the open-source project's "boldest release to date", according to Drupal's creator, Dries Buytaert. The new version of Drupal is due at the end of the year or "whenever it's ready" and includes significant behind-the-scenes changes, such as the incorporation of elements of the Symfony2 Web framework.
Buytaert, who is also the founder of Drupal services firm Acquia, has ambitious goals for Drupal, as it continues to shift away from purely a content management system towards a unified Web platform that organisations can standardise on to build Web-based services, for both internal and customer-focussed sites.
We're really ready to compete hard with the proprietary software vendors
These can range from delivering an organisation's key corporate websites to intranets, smaller-scale sites built for one-off events and other public and internal Web tools.
"Ten years ago, most organisations had one website or no websites," Buytaert told Computerworld Australia.
"But nowadays, most organisations have dozens of websites. We have some customers that have 800 Drupal sites, and then another one has thousands of Drupal sites. It's very common; even at a small company like Acquia we have probably 30 websites — intranet, our main website, some event websites that we do."
Buytaert said that organisations have frequently ended up using point solutions for different websites, ending up with multiple platforms to deliver a corporate website, an intranet, a blog and a community portal, for example.
"A lot of organisations that we talk to, they're in this giant mess where they have 12 platforms to run a hundred sites and they're different technology stacks — some are in Java, and .NET and PHP," Buytaert said.
"There's a real desire in the market right now to simplify that and standardise on newer systems."
Enter Drupal. Buytaert sees this as a real strength of the project: being able to use the same core platform to build multiple sites, sometimes wildly different in style and purpose, for an organisation. A particular strength in this regard is the growth of distributions of Drupal: re-packaged versions of Drupal that 'out of the box' are designed to fulfil the needs of particular sectors.
For example, aGov, a distribution of Drupal produced by development shop PreviousNext is designed to offer a complete Web solution for Australian government departments and other organisations.
It ensures that sites will comply with the Web Guide produced by the Australian Government Information Management Office, which sets out a series of mandatory requirements for the websites of federal agencies, addressing issues such as accessibility.
"We find more and more organisations say we're just going to standardise on Drupal," Buytaert said.
"It's more efficient because there's no licence fee, but also because instead of having all of these different engineers that have different skillsets, we can just make a Drupal team and they can maintain all of our websites."
Buytaert cited the example of multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which has standardised on Drupal as its Web platform.
Distributions are a key part of competing with companies that offer proprietary Web experience management products like Adobe. Buytaert said one of the issues faced by Drupal is that Adobe and Sitecore can offer complete, all-encompassing solutions out of the box.
"I think they sell solutions," Buytaert said. "Drupal is not a solution out of the box. It's a great platform to build things with, but where Adobe differs is that they have a solution. They've packaged up what they have to fix a specific problem and they speak the language of a business owner versus a developer."