MODX Cloud Interview with James Bohan-Pitt
1. James tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before joining the MODX team.
Prior to joining MODX I was with Fidelity Investments Group. I was part of the team that supported a number of technology businesses that they owned. My role was always a mixture of product management, business development and marketing. Specifically I managed a number of products from launch in the market all they way to becoming multi-million dollar revenue streams.
The companies I worked at included COLT in Europe for 5 years, KVH in Tokyo for 4 years and HR Access in London and Paris for 4 years. My lead into the web applicaton and open source space though came from a short stint with Thematic Networks in London just prior to me moving to the US with my American wife.
Thematic are the founding company behind Elgg, the popular open source social networking software company. They too were transitioning to a revenue based model to further support their software, so my migration to MODX did fit well. I have to admit though, I still had a lot to learn about the open source world when I started at MODX and have my team mates to thank for my education!
2. What do you hope to accomplish while working with MODX and what are you doing to meet these goals?
Our biggest goal is to make MODX Cloud a success. We believe that we have built a tool that is a real game changer for the MODX Community. Having come out of beta in January we are trying to build the awareness of MODX Cloud around the community, as well as listen to positive and negative feedback from users and trialists. In a part for instance, user feedback has contributed to the changes we have made to plans and pricing this month.
In terms of what we are doing to meet these goals, this week I have been reaching out to community leaders like yourself, community website owners and anyone connected with the MODX world to spread the word about MODX Cloud. We are growing our Twitter followers and have opened a Facebook page so we can start to communicate openly with our users.
The biggest activity though that we believe will help drive our subscription numbers is the introduction of our new free Laboratory account. We wanted people to learn how to use Cloud and MODX for that matter at their own pace. The Lab account sets them up with some limited resources so they can start seeing the benefits of snapshots, migrations, site launches and automatic backups without having to pay anything until they are ready for more resources or ready to launch a site into live. We believe it will be a powerful draw for MODX Cloud and will help drive its success.
3. How did you hear about MODX and what made you think it was a good project to get involved with?
It was actually through Ryan Thrash, one of the co-founders of the MODX Open Source Project. We met at an event called 'Digital Dallas'. The event is specifically for startup and creative professionals and is held once a month here in Dallas. Ryan was actually the first person I met and spent most of the night talking to him and we even ended up continuing over dinner. It became quickly apparent for both of us that there was a perfect connection.
He was looking for someone to help grow a commercial arm of MODX that would help in part to contribute to the sustaining of the project, and I was looking for an exciting young software company that I could take more of a leadership role with, helping them grow and become more successful. I have been within the group since June 2011 and am enjoying the day to day challenges of growing a business.
4. We know you have vast experience with Cloud and SaaS (Software as a Service) I guess you have a lot to do with MODX Cloud, care to share with us what your vision for MODX Cloud is?
During a meeting with a client, we found that the amount of work that the average site designer / developer had to do to get the MODX software up and running, let alone to replicate a website between servers or installs, was far more than they should have to do.
From this, MODX Cloud was born. The real goal though behind MODX Cloud was not to define specific processes that designers / developers had to follow, but to simplify the deeper technology issues that many have had to face in the past. We want you to use the tool in whatever way best suits the way you work. The biggest win though for users is time saving.
We are hearing feedback that in tasks such as upgrades they are reducing the time by 90%. What used to take hours now only takes minutes. Plus, there is no longer the risk of a live site going down as they are snapshotting live sites into development and upgrading those prior to upgrading the live site and injecting the changes. Our overall vision though is for the MODX community to support cloud. The more users we get, the more features we can introduce, and the more time and investment we can make into the CMS.
5. What does MODX Cloud offer it's users that conventional hosting companies do not or what is the true benefit of using MODX Cloud?
MODX Cloud is so much more than traditional hosting. It is a toolkit for developers to improve their web development process as well as a place to host a live site. From the simple launch of a MODX Revolution cloud in seconds through to the sharing of that cloud with another user, it is removing the technology and complexity that they may have in their processes today.
As mentioned above, the biggest win is the amount of time saved in completing certain processes. Other wins though are that MODX Cloud is fully optimised for the MODX Revolution CMS ensuring that you have wicked fast performance.
Also, now that the new plans include not only more production clouds to resell, but the addition of $9.99 additional clouds, the MODX community now has a cost effective and powerful solution for managing all their MODX sites. One interesting addition this week has been the Site Visits limit metric on the plans. We had feedback from the community and site owners that they did not know how large a site could be inside MODX Cloud. With this added clarity, we now have a set of plans that work well for many different profiles.
For the MODX beginner looking for an easy way to get going (the free Laboratory plan is ideal) to the freelance developer needing more resources and options to resell sites (the $49/month Professional plan fits well) to the company web site owner with 150,000 site visits a month ($99/month Business Plan is perfect), we now have a clear set of options for all.
6. How are you guys planning to help the MODX userbase grow besides MODX Cloud
The introduction of the Free Laboratory account has been designed in part to become a training ground for new MODX'rs. This will be promoted by Ryan Thrash and Jay Gilmore during their activites to continue to grow the number of MODX users out there.
The comunity team have recently introduced the MODX Ambassador program for instance, that has been designed to spread the message of both the MODX CMS and MODX Cloud to new and existing users all over the world. Recently Ryan announced 72 MODX Ambassadors who are supporting the team's goal of growing CMS and Cloud adoption this year. This level of engagement is new for us and it is exciting to see where it takes us!
7. Can users upgrade to a Full Account and keep all their data from the free Lab Account?
Absolutely. MODX Cloud users can move up and down the plans. When they move up, they simply get more resources added such as development and production clouds, and Vault storage, all data is retained.
When they downgrade their account though, they will need to ensure that the number of active development and production clouds are equal or less than the new reduced number available in the new plan, and the same with the Vault storage, reduce the amount in use.
8. Some users on Twitter have been asking why do you offer more development clouds instead of production ones?
We found in our research that many developers work on a number of projects at the same time, and often like to use both a development and a client staging site while they are completing a project. By having more development clouds than production, they have the option to work in this way, or simply reuse the allocation for another project, either client related or something else they may be working on.
9. How has MODX Cloud been received by the community?
So far we are having some great feedback. This morning Menno Pieterson posted on our Facebook page - "I have been using MODX Cloud since it launched and I LOVE it! Create dev sites with one click, move and update MODX on the fly and the daily backups are fantastic features. MODX Cloud greatly speeds my projects and the support is truly amazing."
Now saying this, we of course are getting some negative feedback and that is OK. We know that MODX Cloud will not be for everyone. But we are listening and always looking at the market place to see how others in our cloud space are delivering services to ensure we are offering a very competitive solution. The recent pricing changes for instance were in part prompted by feedback that users wanted to resell more production sites from inside their account to help fund the subscription as well as more cost effectively host many more sites.
However, we also looked at the Cloud market and decided that it would be a great idea to increase the number of resources all around improving the over all proposition of cloud considerably.
Our goal was to deliver something that is a great toolkit to helps users improve their web development processes. We know that there are MODX users who will prefer to work in their own way, but hopefully the great features we do offer, will attract more and more of the community. The fast we grow, the more awesomeness we can deliver back to the users!
10. Who is the team behind MODX Cloud?
- Kevin Marvin designed the overall architecture of MODX Cloud, along with the Agent system that runs the inner workings of the platform.
- Shaun McCormick created the API, integration, and Dashboard layers.
- Jason Coward created Siphon and Vapor, the technologies used to move sites between installs.
- Mike Schell manages our internal Cloud administration system and continues to develop features that help us manage client clouds and accounts efficiently.
- James Bohan-Pitt (me!) manages Sales, Marketing and Support for Cloud, and has a team of MODX Cloud Coaches that include Yee Jee Tso, Mark Hamstra and Garry Nutting, all long term MODX'rs and specialists in both Cloud and the MODX CMS. They, as we all do in part, support users in their journey to becoming MODX Cloud Professionals!
- Dustin Walker is the design guru behind our Cloud Dashboard (user interface (UI)). He works in conjunction with the rest of the team to deliver a great user experience, and also supports MODXCloud.com from a design and content perspective as well.
11. You’ve mentioned in your ‘MODX Cloud Update 2013’ article that you may launch a Marketplace. Can you tell us a little more about this?
We are hoping to provide inside the MODX Cloud Dashboard a ‘Marketplace’ or ‘Store’ for the sharing, selling and purchase of ‘Snapshots’. It will be similar to a theme store, however we think that rather than simply selling a template, that we have an opportunity for developers to share complete preconfigured snapshots that could not only come with a template, but preinstalled with add-ons too. We are in a concepting phase right now and hope to have something out mid to later this year.
12. What does the future hold for MODX Cloud, what new features do you guys have planned down the road?
I spoke a little about this in my recent blog post. We have some great new services being lined up for the next quarter this year. A Domain Name and Email Account Service, as well as being able to purchase SSL certificates will be our first new additions to the platform. We felt that if we could absorb some of the processes around these areas for our users, it would help them complete the tasks faster and have fewer providers to manage.
Further innovations that we have planned include a Marketplace to share, sell and purchase Snapshots with other Cloud users, deeper Cloud analytics for all your clouds and once we have hit certain subscription goals, we will roll out new Cloud Centers most likely in the UK, Germany and Asia Pacific. Further innovations are in plan as well, please check out the March update for more detail.
Its been great talking to you Benjamin. Thank you very much for giving me the time to talk about MODX Cloud.
For those of you who have not tried MODX Cloud I suggest you take advantage of the free MODX Cloud Laboratory Account so you can get familiar with it and use the Vapor tool to transfer your site into MODX Cloud so you can see how easy it is to get your site up and running in it.
Here are some screen samples of the MODX Cloud interface and if you want to see it in action without signing up then head over to their Quick Start video series to check out some cool instructional MODX Cloud videos by our friend Sepia River.