Friday, January 21, 2011

Drupal On The Cloud, Beyond Content Management

This post is co-authored by Manish Garg and Chirag Mehta

Drupal is widely recognized as a great content management system, but we strongly believe that Drupal offers a lot more than that – a framework, a platform, and a set of technology – to build and run enterprise applications, specifically on the cloud. This post is an attempt to explore the benefits and potential of Drupal on the cloud.


One of the last things the customers should worry about their websites is the performance degradation due to sudden spike in the traffic. For years, the customers had to size their servers to meet the peak demand. They overpaid, and still failed to deliver on promise, at peak load. Cloud solves this elasticity problem really well, and if you are using Drupal, you automatically get the elasticity benefits, since Drupal’s modularized architecture - user management, web services, caching etc. - is designed for scale-up and scale-down on the cloud for elastic load.


If Heroku’s $212 million acquisition by is any indication, the future of PaaS is bright. Drupal, at its core, is a platform. The companies such as Acquia through Drupal Gardens are doing a great job delivering the power of Drupal by making it incredibly easy for the people to create, run, and maintain their websites. This is not a full-blown PaaS, but I don’t see why they cannot make it one. We also expect to see a lot more players jumping into this category. The PaaS players such as phpfog and djangy have started gaining popularity amongst web developers.

Time-to-market and time-to-value

Drupal has helped customers move from concept to design to a fully functional content-rich interactive website in relatively short period of time using built-in features and thousands of modules. Cloud further accelerates this process. Amazon and Rackspace have pre-defined high-performance Drupal images that the customers can use to get started. Another option is to leverage PaaS as we described above. The cloud not only accelerates time-to-market and time-to-value, but it also provides economic benefits during scale-up and scale-down situations.

Application Management

The cloud management tools experienced significant growth in the last two years and this category is expected to grown even more as the customers opt for simplifying and unifying their hybrid landscapes. With Drupal, the customers not only could leverage the cloud management tools but also augment their application-specific management capabilities with Drupal’s modules such as Quant for tracking usage, Admin for managing administrative tasks, and Google Analytics for integration with Google Analytics. There is still a disconnect between the native cloud management tools and Drupal-specific management tools, but we expect them to converge and provide a unified set of tools to manage the entire Drupal landscape on the cloud.

Open source all the way

Not only Drupal is completely open source but it also has direct integration with major open source components such as memcached, Apache SOLR, and native support for jQuery. This not only provides additional scale and performance benefits to Drupal on the cloud, but the entire stack on the cloud is backed by vibrant open source communities.


It took a couple of years for the customers to overcome the initial adoption concerns around the cloud security. They are at least asking the right questions. Anything that runs on the cloud is expected to be scrutinized for its security as well. We believe that the developers should not explicitly code for security. Their applications should be secured by the framework that they use. Drupal not only leverages the underlying cloud security, but it also offers additional security features to prevent the security attacks such as cross-site scripting, session hijacking, SQL injection etc. Here is the complete list by OWASP on top 10 security risks.
Search and Semantic Web

One of the core functionally that any content website needs is search. Developers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Integration with SOLR is a great way to implement search functionality without putting in monumental efforts. Drupal also has built-in support for RDF and SPARQL for the developers that are interested in Semantic Web.


The cloud is a natural platform for NoSQL and there has been immense ongoing innovation in the NoSQL category. For the modern applications and websites, using NoSQL on the cloud is a must-have requirement in many cases. Cloud makes it a great platform for NoSQL and so is Drupal. Drupal has modules for MongoDB and Cassandra and the modules for other NoSQL stores are currently being developed.

Drupal started out as an inexpensive content management system, but it has crossed the chasm. Not only the developers are trying to extend Drupal by adding more modules and designing different distributions, but importantly enterprise ISVs have also actively started exploring Drupal to make their offerings more attractive by creating extensions and leveraging the multi-site feature to set up multi-tenant infrastructure for their SaaS solutions. We expect that, the cloud as a runtime platform, will help Drupal, ISVs, and the customers to deliver compelling content management systems and applications on the cloud.

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