DrupalCon Vienna 2017: Driesnote & State of Drupal Address

Written by: , Oct. 5, 2017

Enterprise Content Management Scales to Over 1 Billion Page Views Per Month

DrupalCon Europe is an annual gathering for the Drupal open source development community with independent software vendors, web design companies, and representatives of the enterprise IT business ecosystem coming together at this year's event in Vienna, Austria over September 26-29th, 2017. Drupal founder and Acquia CTO Dries Buytaert gave the "State of Drupal" address to the assembly highlighting the main ways that the CMS, business ecosystem, and network of global interrelationships between community members is growing through changes as internet usage patterns evolve on new technology platforms through shifting social paradigms. Decoupled or Headless CMS usage is one of the biggest new trends in the current web development landscape with much of the latest technical work on Drupal 8 core dedicated to keeping the user interface (UX) of the software broadly competitive with the functionality offered by WordPress, Facebook, and other SaaS/PaaS companies "out of the box" for a better customer experience. Around 50% of the professional software developers using Drupal currently are also integrating Node.js and JavaScript frameworks like Angular into unique solutions to create custom web/mobile applications for clients. Buytaert is advocating for the adoption of the React JavaScript framework into Drupal 8.x core for an easier to navigate CMS in web publishing.

DrupalCon Vienna 2017 [Driesnote]: State of Drupal Address

One of the most interesting aspects of the 2017 Driesnote is that Acquia is for the first time stating that the Drupal CMS is not recommended for single blog sites, small business brochure sites, and artist/photography portfolio websites. Rather, casual users, independent publishers, and web designers maintaining these variety of websites are advised to be better off using a SaaS/PaaS software product like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Twitter, etc. for this work. Although the software is free and Drupal can easily be installed/configured in a few hours on a web server (i.e., using Softaculous/Fantastico) for the purposes of these small "low budget" websites, most of this market sector has likely transitioned and settled into the WordPress CMS community over the last few years due to ease of use, a larger variety of free themes & plugins, automatic security upgrades, etc. Making Drupal 8 more similar to WordPress by adding a layout builder like Panels in core and a WorkSpaces module sponsored by Pfizer for better content moderation were major project goals of the Acquia team over the last six months. The latest release of Drupal 8 also adds a media library similar to WordPress that allows for the storage of an archive of images that can be embedded in posts. Buytaert also spoke of the need for Drupal core to add better image uploading and multimedia management tools based on third-party JavaScript libraries with open source licensing in order to keep competitive with other software service providers in the sector. Overall, the complexity of the Drupal upgrade process and the basic incompatibility of many modules/themes between the Drupal 7 and 8 platform versions has led to the loss of considerable marketshare to WordPress since 2012, although in SME and enterprise usage Drupal has continued to enjoy sustained growth due to its flexibility as a foundation for building custom corporate solutions. More than half of the Drupal programming and web development companies polled by Acquia in 2017 reported that their business growth was expanding favorably with client contract work where a large segment of enterprise has committed to long term development on Drupal as a web platform standard.

 

DrupalCon Vienna 2017: Driesnote Address

Although it may be considered somewhat controversial in the grass-roots of the Drupal open source development community, the most widely repeated buzz phrase from the DrupalCon 2017 convention was that "Drupal is no longer for simple sites." In contrast, Drupal as a CMS is intended for providing ambitious web/mobile projects a platform to expand and grow to provide a greater sense of richness to the app experience rather than simply using a free open source PHP script with a theme. Drupal's object-oriented modularity has always encouraged developers to build unique combinations of third-party modules with custom themes and new code around the core distribution. Drupal 8 has an increasing number of installation profiles that can be used to speed up development around different website usage patterns such as newspaper or magazine publishing, ecommerce, and decoupled frameworks. Acquia has taken a very realistic business approach to Drupal when suggesting, for example, the bottom end range for a Drupal project would be a €50,000 SME project that combines booking, customer support, and ecommerce into a new application for a small tourism company. However, the other aspect of this statement is essentially to state that if a web project's goals and budget are under the €50k Euro threshold, there is no business in the market and hence no influence or concern, which holds the potential or risk of alienating the wider grass-roots of free software users in the budget web hosting world.

 

On the technical side, Buytaert reported that Drupal is growing, healthy, and changing with more engagement from contributors across the board in 2017. Drupal.org has added geo-targeted pages that help users find local community groups for development or political associations. There appears to be a sincere interest on behalf of many at Acquia and in the Drupal development community to address diversity and feminist issues in IT based on changing aspects of the social dynamic popularly. Acquia's main role as a company is to provide stewardship of the Drupal code base, synchronize core development changes in cycles, and help enterprise customers to build unique IT solutions at scale. Both J&J and Pfizer were highlighted at the Vienna 2017 DrupalCon for their contributions to the community, where both companies run thousands of independent Drupal sites which scale in total to billions of monthly page views. Some lag continues with Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 platform migration, with about 38% of vendor companies using Drupal 8 exclusively and 27% using both D7/8 together in production. Many of the main third-party contributed modules for Drupal have only been ported to Drupal 8 versions in the last 5 months contributing to the slowness of the transition process. Overall, user community contributions for Drupal span the globe from small independent companies to the largest corporations & government agencies in the world. This activity includes regular regional Drupal camps, code sprints, documentation drives, community events, and mentoring.

 

"The Drupal ecosystem majority are organizations with sites that require medium-to-high richness, which SaaS builders cannot support. However, they also don't need to scale at the level of enterprise companies. As the Drupal community continues to consider how we can best support this majority, a lot of smaller Drupal agencies and end-users have pointed out that they would benefit from the following two things:

  1. Powerful site building tools.
  2. Easier updates and maintenance.

The good news is that we have made progress in both improving site builder tools and simplifying updates and maintenance."

Dries Buytaert: State of Drupal presentation (September 2017):
+ https://dri.es/state-of-drupal-presentation-september-2017

 

The CMS market is growing at around 11% in enterprise spending for 2017 year over year, although Dries has suggested that decision-making on choice of CMS has become more sales & marketing driven in corporations with talent being hired around executive-level web platform choices made outside of IT departments. Nevertheless, headless or decoupled Drupal CMS usage has already grown over 500% in 2017. Third-party JavaScript libraries are the most popular with professional Drupal development teams for building new custom applications for clients. These include Node.js (53.6%), Angular (43.5%), Symfony (42.3%), React (33.9%), Laravel (17.2%), and Vue.js (9.6%). After the Vienna DrupalCon, Buytaert proposed that the Drupal community adopt the React framework for use with Headless CMS distributions as well as Drupal core. Since it has been well proven at this stage that Drupal can scale to manage the heaviest web publishing workloads at billions of page hits per month as well as manage data security effectively for institutions like the White House and Fortune 500 companies, independent web developers can take advantage of the rich Drupal platform module & theme ecosystem to build "ambitious digital experiences" for clients that extend what the web is capable of by integrating new custom code.

 

"One trend we are now seeing is that traditional MV* frameworks are giving way to component libraries; most people seem to want a way to compose interfaces and interactions with reusable components (e.g. libraries like React, Vue, Polymer, and Glimmer) rather than use a framework with a heavy focus on MV* workflows (e.g. frameworks like Angular and Ember). This means that my original recommendation of Ember needs to be revisited... Several years later, we still don't know what JavaScript framework will win, if any, and I'm willing to bet that waiting two more years won't give us any more clarity. JavaScript frameworks will continue to evolve and take new shapes. Picking a single one will always be difficult and to some degree "premature". That said, I see React having the most momentum today."

Dries Buytaert: Drupal looking to adopt React (2017)
+ https://dri.es/drupal-looking-to-adopt-react

 

Buytaert dealt directly with the perceived negative aspects about the Drupal CMS platform for web developers by rejecting some criticisms and accepting that other aspects need to change. For example, the fact that "Drupal is not for simple sites" and that it moves too fast based around object-oriented programming fundamentals - these are all considered "won't fix" features within the Acquia stewardship guiding principles. On the other hand, the fact that Drupal is hard to use with a outdated administration and difficult update process are all acknowledged structural issues by Acquia that the company is working with the core development team to fix through future upgrades and commits.  In the end, Acquia hopes to add powerful site building tools similar to WordPress to the "out of the box’ Drupal UX experience while also making security updates & website maintenance easier. Currently businesses are forced to commit valuable talent to maintaining Drupal sites with security upgrades -a process that is much simpler for users with WordPress. Adding more modern JavaScript libraries to the core administrative UX is considered one of the main ways to accomplish better image upload functionality and media management. Furthermore, there have been some architectural changes in D 8.4 core recently released to add additional resources over Twig for Drupal themes and increased rendering complexity for page output across multiple device usage in production.

 

DrupalCon Vienna 2017: Closing Ceremonies

For website owners who are still having difficulty with Drupal upgrades, third-party module security, and platform updates, there is increased uptake within the community for use of Composer with Git & Drush.

"Drupal's composer-built dependencies are not committed (via git) to Drupal core's repository. This is why you will not find a "vendor" directory in the core repository. Instead, composer.json and composer.lock are committed to Drupal core. These files act as a manifest for building dependencies."

Learn More About Using Composer to Manage Dependencies in Drupal 8:

 

Author:
Eliran Ouzan is the Co. Founder and designer of Host Advice and also owns Moonshot Marketing LTD, a leading web design & development firm and was a member at GreenPeace.

Widely known for his pixel-perfect and high conversion rate web designs. Over the course of his web experience he experimeneted with over 200 web hosting companies and have a superior knowledge on what defines a good hosting company.

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