125: Fabrice Bernhard - Symfony2 and Drupal: working together is working better

At SymfonyCon Warsaw in December 2013, I spoke with Fabrice Bernhard, co-founder of Symfony service provider Theodo and President of the French PHP Users' Association, AFUP ("Association française des utilisateurs de PHP"), and we compared notes on Drupal, Symfony, and all things open source.

Fabrice, meet Drupal

"I was in Portland for SymfonyLive that was happening at the same time and same venue and was connected to DrupalCon. That was my first (physical) encounter with the Drupal community. It was an amazing experience. First of all, basic facts: 4000 people instead of 400, so a much bigger community, but also much more diverse. The Symfony community is very tech-oriented whereas in the Drupal community you see all these other influences from UX and design parts that are really interesting. It was nice to spend time with these people and discover much more than you discover at a typical SymfonyLive Conference."

Fabrice joined the DrupalCon sprints in Portland. "It was all new to me. I didn't feel like I could fit in directly, but it was amazing. I saw the first-commit ritual." (This is one of my favorite moments at any DrupalCon.) "This is a great thing. I hope we will be able to import it into the Symfony community soon."

Drupal: from maybe not, to yes please!

I asked Fabrice what he thought about Drupal in the past (i.e. before Drupal 8). "I've always had a lot of respect for the solution, the community around it, and all the things you can do with it quite easily. But it's true that as a core geek, when you dive inside and you see some of the code, it's not the latest design patterns. It's not been architected from the beginning; you see that many people have contributed ... I wasn't keen on working in it if there wasn't a real benefit from the functional side, so I wouldn't have used Drupal for building anything custom. Symfony was much more comfortable for that."

My next question was if new architecture in Drupal 8 and its inclusion of Symfony2 components is changing his opinion of Drupal. "The change is first of all cultural. The idea of having a nice core, nice architecture on the inside and getting the Symfony components because they are so well done is huge. It sends a signal to everyone in the web community.

To Symfony developers it is, 'Hi! You can join in now and you can't complain anymore about the code. If you do complain, just contribute now.' The the Drupal developers, it sends a signal saying, 'We're growing fast and now we need a solid base.' To the whole PHP community saying we should be working together. We all have our own strengths, but when we work together it works better. And to the whole web community, because PHP has grown so well thanks to solutions like Drupal and because PHP has been criticized for not being a 'hard core' language. I would say Symfony brings this hard-core aspect to the PHP language and that Drupal takes it on and shows the web that we can be hugely popular and have high standards on the coding side."

What are you most excited about in Drupal 8?

"As a person who usually develops tailor made solutions, I want to use Drupal to take care of the whole content management [problem space] and use its power as a framework. Than I want it to communicate really nicely with some custom made parts of my Symfony apps. I've done some proofs of concept and I gave a talk at SymfonyLive London how to technically integrate Symfony2 projects with Drupal 8 (video below). Of course, the nicest way would be to use the API parts. That's why I am really interested in everything that goes on in the [Drupal core]. That is what will enable Drupal to communicate better with other parts of big IT systems. That is where it will really stand out from the crowd of content management systems."

I wanted to know if Drupal 8's easy integration thanks to being fully RESTful would change how Fabrice approaches his business and works for his clients. "Yes. When a client comes with both needs: content management and custom made modules I want the best of both worlds and these RESTful parts make that possible."

Integrating Drupal 8 into Symfony2

Fabrice's presentation at SymfonyLive London, October 2013, courtesy of SensioLabs.