Why Drupal, Why Now? An Agency CTO’s Perspective

For the past 15 years Velir has been customizing and implementing top-tier content management systems. Given our focus on creating digital solutions, content management is at the core of almost every project we take on.

We’re veterans in the CMS space, but up until recently we exclusively worked with commercial CMS platforms. As the CTO of my agency, I wanted to explain why we’ve now decided to take the leap with Drupal.  

This post focuses on one reason we like Drupal: because it offers a solid technical foundation to build upon.  This foundation has been created by a large and passionate community, has shown an ability to evolve intelligently over time, and is being guided by strong leadership which is positioning the platform for the future.

The Strength of Open Source

Even a casual follower of the CMS space will have noticed how the “proprietary vs open source” conversation plays out regularly each year.  We have never bought into the FUD spread by both sides of this debate, as it’s usually a philosophical argument rather than a capability-based comparison of each platform.

But it is undisputable that open source software excels at providing tools and platforms for well understood problems.  As a result, over the past 20 years, there have been a number of problems that could be considered solved in the CMS space:  structured data, versioned content, workflow, accessible content APIs, and rich text editing (well, maybe not this one, yet). Drupal has a strong community with thousands of developers who have contributed to making sure these problems are solved well. Going forward we are excited to contribute to this community by supporting our team to contribute their own projects and solutions for Drupal.

Big Changes, Big Progress

As Drupal 8 has taken shape over the past few years, it has become clear that the project is evolving in intelligent ways.

The Drupal project was arguably growing too large to stay nimble - most everything had been built from the ground up. The continued growth of custom built sub-systems were demanding time and attention from the core team.  

In 2012, the collaboration between the Drupal and Symfony project teams signaled an important shift: a willingness to shed custom built pieces of the Drupal framework and partner with other proven projects for large pieces of functionality.  

This introduces a critical dependency on an outside project, but in exchange it provides a great deal of freedom for the Drupal community.  It allows them to apply more focus on solving the unique problems of web content management, rather than working on a series of problems that have been elegantly solved elsewhere.

Another key evolution we’re excited about is the embracing of an Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) approach in Drupal 8.  OOP offers a long history of promoting design patterns for solutions, which once learned, can easily be adopted to build well-architected systems.  Our experience tells us that these OOP principles and techniques will promote reuse, extensibility, testability -- and lead to solutions that are more efficiently maintained.  

Built with the Future in Mind

Accessible digital content is vital for modern organizations.  Content may be repurposed for display on the desktop or mobile web, pushed to native devices, or pulled into content aggregators like Flipboard or Prismatic.  

Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal and co-founder of Acquia, has been cultivating a strong vision for how Drupal fits into the future of web content management. With core support for RESTful content APIs, schema.org support for boosting semantic tagging, and the rising buzz around Headless Drupal implementations, it’s clear that Drupal is being positioned to serve future content management needs.  

As an agency, Velir has remained focused on building deep expertise with the best platforms in the market.  We’ve been doing this long enough to know that no technology platform offers a panacea to a company’s digital needs.  

To sum up: We feel Drupal’s technical foundation is solid and we are reassured that the project is evolving intelligently to meet future needs.  In the next post, I’ll share some of the non-technical motivations behind why we have decided to invest in a Drupal practice.