A Deep Dive into a Decoupled Drupal 8 Project

How Elevated Third, Hoorooh, and Acquia worked together to create a decoupled site for the Powdr Resorts, one of the largest ski operators in North America

Part 1: Setting the Stage: Hosting a Decoupled Drupal site.

Powdr Ski Resorts was facing a familiar challenge: the web sites in their network of ski resorts were on a collection of disparate content management systems, which made it difficult to govern their digital properties across multiple brands and sites. Powdr needed a digital solution that provides each brand in the Powdr family the flexibility required to deliver customized web experience for their users.

Powdr turned to Elevated Third, Hoorooh Digital, and Acquia to build and design the first in the next generation of sites, a Decoupled Drupal 8 site for Boreal Mountain Resort. Elevated Third spearheaded the decoupled Drupal development; Hoorooh Digital supported the website’s frontend design; Acquia provided the cloud hosting, the technical account manager, and 24/7 global support.

This series will detail how the three teams worked together to bring the project to to the finish line.

But first, a refresher.

What is Decoupled Drupal?

A decoupled CMS allows developers to utilize any technology to render the front-end experience (“the glass” where a user interacts with an application) in lieu of the theming and presentation layers that come with a coupled CMS out-of-the-box. In a decoupled Drupal architecture, the Drupal back end exposes content to other front-end systems, such as native mobile applications, conversational UIs, or applications built in JavaScript frameworks.

JavaScript frameworks are increasing in popularity due to the demand for more flexibility in the front end, in addition to the promise of increased productivity and maintainable code. Many JavaScript frameworks exist, but some of the most popular include Ember, React, and Angular.

Drupal can function as a services layer to allow content created in the Drupal CMS to be presented through a JavaScript framework. Drupal’s robust collection of web services and flexible APIs means that any system can consume data from Drupal with ease.

Setting the Stage

As the Technical Account Manager on the project, responsible for the hosting and support for the project, I’d like to share some important points about hosting decoupled Drupal projects.

My first point is that there’s a low barrier to entry for decoupled applications on Acquia Cloud.

What I mean by that is there’s no additional product or package you need to buy from Acquia in order to decouple your Drupal site.

Decoupling is something that you have full control over, out of the box and right out of the gate. Once you’re hosting on Acquia that’s no different. You have full control and freedom over how much or how little of your application you want to decouple from Drupal itself.

My second point is regarding the popular javascript frameworks: React, Angular, Ember, and so on. There’s really no limitation that we put on you in terms of client’s side JS framework. Just because you’re hosting with Acquia, we’re not going to push you in one direction or the other. I encourage you to use whatever you’re most familiar with, whatever you find most exciting or useful.

My next two points are more specific to Acquia:

If you go with a decoupled framework on the frontend, you still have the ability to continue to leverage Acquia support for your Drupal application’s monitoring and triage. So, if your frontend is decoupled or completely headless, and if anything comes up on the backend of your site that is specific to Drupal, there’s no real limitation in terms of SLA or scope around our support engineers getting in and making sure that we can triage the site to bring things back online, or restore access if you get locked out. If you’re familiar with Acquia’s Drupal support, nothing changes if you have a decoupled front end.

Finally, my last point here is that when you work with us, you can learn from me and other Acquians. I’ve worked on a number of decoupled Drupal projects, and we’ve all learned a lot along the way. With the adoption of Drupal 8, there’s been a significant increase in the number of decoupled projects that we’ve seen come our way. It’s an exciting evolution of Drupal. The Acquians here are always looking for the best, most interesting, and exciting developments for Drupal 8. Decoupled is certainly the way that we’ve seen the industry shift with Drupal 8. So, a great deal of info has been learned through real experiences. Also, we have public documentation, blog posts and, we also have Acquia Academy in addition to the experts on staff here at Acquia.

So the good news is that if you’re considering a decoupled project, you still have a lot of flexibility in your hosting and support with Acquia.

Check out Part Two of this series -- Decoupled Drupal: A 10,000-foot View -- for an overview of the overall challenges for the entire project: the requirements, the responsibilities, and the initial architectural considerations.