Unleashing Government Digital Innovation: A Deep Dive into Acquia and AWS Synergy

Co-written by Pal Patel, Solutions Architect, WWPS - Amazon Web Services

In the intricate landscape of government technology, where innovation and security coalesce, the potent combination of Acquia and Amazon Web Services (AWS) delivers enterprise digital experience capabilities for public sector agencies. This empowers such agencies with the technical intricacies of Acquia's Drupal prowess fused with AWS's cloud infrastructure resulting in a new era of digital excellence for federal, state, and local government agencies.

Evolving with Drupal: A Technical Revolution

Shifting from conventional platforms to Drupal is a strategic leap that empowers organizations to harness the power of open-source technology, fostering rapid development, scalability, and customization.

Technical Benefits of Drupal Platform Migration:

API-First Approach

Drupal's API-first architecture harmonizes with modern development paradigms and offers several significant advantages that have solidified its position as a robust and adaptable content management system.

  1. This API-first approach empowers organizations with unparalleled flexibility. By exposing content and functionality through APIs, Drupal allows developers to create custom front-end experiences using modern technologies like JavaScript frameworks (e.g., React, Angular, or Vue.js). This decoupled architecture enables organizations to build unique user interfaces tailored to their specific needs while leveraging Drupal's robust content management capabilities. This flexibility is particularly valuable for enterprises that require highly customized digital experiences.
  2. Another key advantage of Drupal's API-first approach is scalability. With APIs at its core, Drupal can effortlessly support diverse digital channels and devices, from websites and mobile apps to IoT devices and chatbots. This scalability is essential for organizations with a global reach, as it ensures consistent content delivery across various platforms. Moreover, Drupal's API-first approach simplifies the integration of third-party services and data sources, enhancing the overall efficiency and agility of digital ecosystems.
  3. Additionally, security is a top priority in Drupal's API-first strategy. Drupal has a strong track record of prioritizing security, and this approach maintains that commitment. By decoupling the front-end and back-end, Drupal can isolate sensitive data and functionality, reducing potential attack vectors. Furthermore, Drupal's community-driven development model ensures rapid identification and patching of security vulnerabilities. Organizations can confidently build complex digital solutions while maintaining robust security measures.
  4. Drupal's API-first approach offers unparalleled flexibility, scalability, and security, which are specifically attuned to meet the needs of public sector agencies. This strategy empowers government organizations to create unique digital experiences, adapt to evolving technologies, and maintain a high level of data protection, making Drupal a top choice for institutions seeking a versatile and secure content management solution.

Microservices Capabilities

Drupal's modular structure aligns with microservices architecture, allowing developers to build and deploy individual services independently. This decoupling accelerates development cycles and minimizes codebase dependencies.

Drupal's modular architecture is built around the concept of "modules," which are self-contained units of functionality. This parallels the microservices approach, where each microservice represents a specific function or feature. In Drupal, developers can create custom modules that encapsulate distinct functionalities, such as user management, content publishing, or e-commerce. These modules can be developed, tested, and deployed independently, mirroring the microservices philosophy of independently deployable services.

Again highlighting the out-of-the-box API-first approach, Drupal's robust API support, particularly through RESTful APIs and GraphQL, facilitates communication between different modules and external services. This makes it easy to integrate Drupal-powered microservices with other systems, enabling seamless data exchange and interaction. For instance, a Drupal-based content management microservice can provide content via RESTful APIs to a separate ecommerce microservice, allowing for a decoupled yet cohesive digital experience.

Lastly, Drupal's dependency management and version control capabilities further support the microservices approach. Developers can specify dependencies between modules, ensuring that changes in one module do not adversely affect others. With version control tools like Git, developers can track changes, collaborate effectively, and manage deployments of individual modules or microservices independently, simplifying the overall development and maintenance process.

Customization and Extensibility

Government websites often demand unique features, whether to meet agency missions and mandates; or to provide valuable and necessary information and services to the public. Drupal's extensive library of modules is a cornerstone of its success, empowering developers to customize functionality and deliver tailored digital experiences without reinventing the wheel. This rich ecosystem of modules, both contributed by the community and available in Drupal's core, offers several compelling advantages.

Drupal's module library provides a vast array of pre-built functionalities that cover a wide range of use cases. Developers can choose from thousands of modules that add features like e-commerce capabilities, social media integration, SEO optimization, and more. This eliminates the need to build these functionalities from scratch, saving development time and effort. For instance, instead of coding a complex e-commerce system, developers can utilize modules like Drupal Commerce to rapidly set up online stores with extensive features.

Drupal's modular architecture also allows developers to mix and match these modules to create highly customized solutions. This flexibility enables developers to assemble the precise set of features and functionalities required for a particular project, making it possible to deliver tailored experiences to clients and users. By leveraging Drupal's modular ecosystem, developers can focus on building unique and innovative aspects of a website or web application while relying on the stability and reliability of well-maintained modules for standard functionalities.

Additionally, the Drupal community actively maintains and improves these modules, ensuring they stay up-to-date, secure, and compatible with the latest Drupal versions. This means that developers can confidently use these modules in their projects, knowing that ongoing support and updates are available. Additionally, the collaborative nature of the Drupal community allows developers to contribute back to the ecosystem by creating and sharing their own modules, further enriching the library of available tools.

“We believe Acquia is a leading enterprise-grade platform for creating Drupal digital experiences and we would recommend their Drupal cloud based on proven results with our joint customers. Acquia extends the value of AWS enabling their customers to innovate and get to market faster without risking overspending.” Darren Haas, Principal Advisory Consultant, Shared Delivery Teams, AWS

Cloud Dynamics: Enhancing Government Agility

Elevating services from on-premise solutions to cloud-hosted environments amplifies not just scalability, but also the entire development lifecycle. Acquia Cloud Platform was first launched on AWS as Acquia Hosting in 2009. One of the reasons Acquia hosting was built on the cloud was to be able scale the infrastructure, allowing Drupal to operate in an enterprise-grade environment. Cloud Platform has grown tremendously from those early days and AWS now has a vast array of services scaling from infrastructure to AI. Some of the capabilities driving public sector cloud adoption are: Security and Compliance, Cost management, Business continuity, and Extensibility.

Security & Compliance

AWS’s security tools and global compliance standards fortify Acquia Cloud Platform, ensuring utmost data protection for public sector organizations. In the world of digital security there’s an increasing shift towards Zero Trust architecture, which implies “trust no one, verify everyone”. A number of AWS identity and networking services provide core Zero Trust building blocks as standard features that can be applied to both new and existing workloads. Services like IAM, VPC, AWS CloudTrail and GuardDuty establish secure foundations. While capabilities like AWS Security Hub, Amazon Macie and AWS Certificate Manager further enforce zero trust principles like least privilege access, segmentation, inspection and continuous verification. These tools together allow implementing context-aware access controls.

AWS meets numerous global compliance standards essential for public sector entities. Acquia products hosted on AWS, like Acquia Cloud Platform, Acquia Site Studio, and Acquia Site Factory, are also FedRAMP authorized in AWS's commercial regions. Additionally, they comply with standards such as HIPAA, PCI, SOC 1, SOC 2, ISO 27001, and Australian IRAP, among others.

Cost Management

AWS enables cost optimization by providing scalable and cost-effective infrastructure, allowing efficient resource utilization and flexible pricing options. Acquia cloud platform leverages AWS to offer cost savings to its customers. Acquia’s Drupal Cloud pricing is based on real value, ensuring customers pay for the services they need without surprise expenses. Furthermore, Acquia customers can achieve up to a 60% performance improvement in page load times by running on the latest generation AWS instances, allowing them to optimize compute resources and save costs.

Disaster Recovery and Continuity

With data centers spanning multiple regions and availability zones, AWS enables customers to plan for high availability and disaster recovery. For the Acquia Cloud Platform, this translates to consistently reliable digital experiences for end-users, irrespective of their geographical location. Acquia leverages AWS’s redundancy across regions, automatic snapshots, database replication etc. to provide high availability, with guaranteed 99.95% uptime and RTO and RPO of up-to 1 hour.


AWS's service-rich ecosystem promotes seamless integrations. Acquia, leveraging its API-first approach, can integrate with AWS services, whether it's AI-driven insights with SageMaker, building an API wrapper with API Gateway to enhance the experience, or ensuring web application security through AWS WAF. This empowers public sector organizations to craft more engaging and interactive digital platforms.

Additional Technical Benefits of Cloud Hosting:

Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

AWS’s infrastructure automation capabilities such as CloudFormation and AWS CDK enable developers to define and provision resources using code. This paves the way for consistent and repeatable deployments, minimizing human error.

DevOps Collaboration

AWS’s DevOps suite of services facilitate seamless collaboration between development and operations teams. Services like AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodeDeploy and AWS CodePipeline with AWS CloudWatch enable automated testing, deployment, and monitoring, fostering a robust DevOps culture.

Serverless Possibilities

AWS offers a suite of serverless services such as Lambda, API Gateway, DynamoDB, to name a few, that provide benefits like reduced operational overhead, easy scalability, and low costs. They allow building and running applications without managing servers. Serverless architectures auto-scale seamlessly to meet demand, while only paying for resources used. This enables focusing on code while AWS handles capacity planning, OS patching, and availability. This approach aligns with government agencies’ demand for efficient resource utilization.

NOAA Fisheries - Eliminated Hours of Maintenance per Week
“It can take months to ensure security and compliance for your Drupal application and infrastructure. Leveraging Acquia’s Cloud Platform allows us to get even our most security conscious customers up and running fast and eliminates hours a week that would have been spent maintaining security and compliance for their digital experiences.” Ken Fang, President, Mobomo

The Acquia Edge: Technical Mastery

Choosing between a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach on AWS versus Acquia's specialized platform is a strategic decision laden with technical nuances.

Technical Benefits of Acquia Platform for Government:

Drupal Performance Optimization

Acquia offers robust performance optimization capabilities that are particularly crucial for government websites and applications. One of these is Acquia globally distributed Content Delivery Network (CDN), which ensures fast and reliable content delivery to end-users. This CDN strategically caches and serves content from servers located across the world, reducing latency and speeding up page load times. Additionally, Acquia's platform leverages advanced caching techniques, including edge caching and reverse proxy caching, to further enhance website performance.

The Acquia Cloud Platform also incorporates a range of tools and technologies for automatic scaling and load balancing. This means that during traffic spikes, such as during critical government announcements or events, the platform can automatically allocate additional resources to handle the increased load, ensuring that websites and applications remain responsive and available. Acquia also provides performance monitoring and analytics tools, allowing government agencies to gain deep insights into their websites' performance and make data-driven optimizations for improved user experiences.

Security Measures

Security is paramount for government websites and applications, and the Acquia Platform prioritizes this aspect comprehensively, and takes advantage of the AWS capabilities previously mentioned. This allows Acquia to maintain rigorous security compliance standards, including adherence to Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program ( FedRAMP) Moderate requirements, as well as Defense Information System Agency (DISA) impact level-2, meeting the strict security standards mandated by the U.S. government.

Acquia offers a range of security features, including Web Application Firewall (WAF) protection, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) mitigation, and continuous security monitoring. The WAF helps protect against common web application vulnerabilities, while DDoS mitigation safeguards against malicious attacks aimed at disrupting government services. Furthermore, Acquia provides automated security patching and updates for Drupal and related components, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities. In the event of security incidents, the platform offers incident response support to help government agencies quickly address and mitigate potential threats.

Seamless Deployment Pipelines

Acquia's DevOps-friendly tools streamline code deployment and facilitate DevOps practices, crucial for maintaining efficient and agile government websites and applications. Acquia's DevOps tools enable version control, continuous integration, and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines. And offerings like Acquia Code Studio provide a full Acquia-hosted Gitlab instance that integrates seamlessly with the platform to leverage the best-of-breed capabilities. This means that development teams can collaborate efficiently, manage code changes effectively, and automate the deployment of updates, ensuring rapid and error-free releases.

Acquia also provides development and staging environments, allowing teams to test changes thoroughly before deploying them to production. This minimizes the risk of introducing errors or disruptions to government websites. Moreover, the platform integrates with popular DevOps tools and workflows, supporting agile development methodologies and ensuring that government agencies can keep their digital services up to date, secure, and responsive to the needs of the public.

State of Georgia - Saved $4.7m Over 5 Years
“We wanted to find a better web publishing platform because the existing one limited what we could do. At the same time, infrastructure was a big factor. We were paying a lot for servers, licensing, and maintenance, and needed to find a way to reduce those costs.” Nikhil Deshpande, Director of GeorgiaGov Interactive, State of Georgia

Final Thoughts

The convergence of Acquia and AWS transforms government technology landscapes into hubs of innovation and citizen empowerment. For developers and technology officers, the call to embrace Drupal, harness cloud dynamics, and leverage Acquia's specialized platform delivers as a transformative journey. By combining API-driven Drupal capabilities, AWS infrastructure, cloud scalability, and Acquia's technical mastery, government agencies can pioneer digital experiences that are not just efficient but transformative, shaping a future where citizens are at the heart of digital excellence.