Chris Jolly, CTO Ontraq Europe, and his company have a strong technical background, going back to "old school" (pre-internet) IT. Their main focus until now has been eCommerce, Symfony, and solving hard problems like legacy-system integrations. Now, thanks to its use of Symfony framework components, they've started using Drupal 8 as their content management technology of choice! Chris and I talked at DrupalCon Amsterdam about getting there and what they're up to now.
Getting to Drupal
In late 2013, Chris told me, "I can't wait for Drupal 8 to be useable, because I need to work with a PHP content management system and I never want to work with Typo3 again as soon as I can find a viable alternative." By the time we met again at DrupalCon Amsterdam, Ontraq was already running a production site for a customer on Drupal 8: www.sommercable.com. I guess he liked what he saw! :-)
"We come from the Symfony and eCommmerce world and this is our third year looking at Drupal and our second year doing Drupal. We've used a variety of CMS systems in the past; we've done integrations with Typo3 and Wordpress and to be honest, we were not really very excited by where they were going. We've also used Symfony for our own applications and integration work, so when we saw that Drupal was going to use Symfony, that was a trigger for us to look at Drupal much more seriously. Just before we came to that conference [in Vienna, where Chris and I met in late 2013], we'd already made the decision to use Drupal and so we were very excited last year in Vienna to have it confirmed: what a great community and the quality of the team and the software. Coming here [to DrupalCon Amsterdam] this week has reinforced that it was a good decision."
Speaking of the componentized web ...
As Ryan Weaver pointed out in his post, The Future of PHP is Shared Power Tools, sharing the best components between systems is the way PHP and the web are moving. Chris and Ontraq have grasped the essence and point of Drupal 8's architecture and where the web looks like going now: componenization. Sommercable.com "integrates four separate sub-domains. It has a Drupal sub-domain for the main corporate content for the front page. It has two Oxid eCommerce websites, one for B2C, one for B2B. And then it has a Symfony sub-domain for for single sign-on between Drupal and the eCommerce side."
How was it to build that in Drupal 8? "Actually, it was much more straightforward than we'd expected. It was brilliant, because the way that the modules in Drupal 8 are constructed, [and how they work with Drupal core], is for me as a Symfony developer, very straightforward. It's like a slightly different dialect, but it feels like the same language. It was really good for us."
"The new REST interface is fantastic, too; we used that as well. If you go to www.sommercable.com, you'll see on the front page, in the central area, is product information that is pulled out of the eCommerce websites and we use the REST interface to go and grab that information. Our business is all about integrating with legacy systems for business customers. For them, Drupal now offers a platform to build more complicated websites."
"We don't really do the traditional, pure corporate website; it's more about the integration of services. For example, in our eCommerce, we integrate with legacy ERP systems. Bringing a diverse set of systems and displaying information, reusing business knowledge that's buried in another system and displaying it in Drupal, that's just the way to go forward."
What are you most excited about in Drupal 8?
"That's very difficult. There are so many things and, in fact, every time I speak to somebody here [at DrupalCon] it's like: Oh Goodness! That's yet another thing we could be doing! So it's very hard for me to say one thing that is the business reason for Drupal 8."
Business benefits of Drupal 8
Looking at Ontraq's work and client needs, "What we see in the silo-based eCommerce world – Magento, PrestaShop, Oxid, OS Commerce, etc. – is, yes, you can build fantastic web shops, but to build an eCommerce 'experience' where it's a combination of blogs and newsletters and content and shopping, these silo-systems find it very challenging to offer the devleoper a good way of realizing customer requirements in an easy fashion. So for us, something like Drupal plus Drupal Commerce or Drupal plus REST interface into other things offers a tremendously wider range of options. I can see us migrating a lot more of what we do into Drupal. If we are going to be doing more work in Drupal then it would seem sensible that we also open up the type of business that we do in Drupal to be broader than just eCommerce integrations."
What about hiring? "If I was a young programmer who was looking for a job and I saw that the agency was doing Drupal with Drupal 8, it makes it a lot more attractive to me because I would know that it's not just 'The Drupal Way' that I'd be working on. It's Symfony and for me as an engineer, it's much better and it offers me in the future a much wider range of things I can do because I can say I worked on Drupal and Symfony and so I think it's a much more attractive proposition."