Drupal and Leveraging a Cloud Platform
If the amount of sleep one gets at a conference is inversely proportional to how good the conference is, then DrupalCon Munich was a huge success for me. I’m back home now, still catching up on sleep, and I’ve had a chance to reflect on the conference. Once again, I learned a great deal (it was great to get the scoop on what’s coming in Drupal 8…I’m very excited about the Symfony integration), I got caught up with some old friends, and I made some new friends.
With the presence of the Symfony guys, core PHP folks (there was a great session by Pierre Joye on how to contribute to PHP core!), PHPBB, and Joomla!, and more, it dawned on my just how “open” this event was. The lesson here: everyone is always looking to learn more, and that happens through being more and more open.
Of course, now the real work begins. With all of the new technology I learn and with all the new people I meet, I realize how much I don’t know (i.e. how much work I have ahead of me). Until I get caught up on sleep and am ready to tackle what I don’t know, I’ll just call that realization “job security”. In the meantime, here’s a quick summary of what Microsoft was doing at DrupalCon Munich…
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – The Microsoft Booth
Once again, as a DrupalCon sponsor Microsoft had a booth. Together with several colleagues, I spent quite a bit of time at the booth, which provided an excellent forum for showing curious passers-by all the new fun ways to deploy Drupal in Windows Azure (Windows Azure Web Sites and Linux VMs). (We also had lots of fun showing off Windows 8!) We all had the opportunity meet new people and to learn about new things people are trying on the Windows Azure platform. I’d like to reiterate my thanks to the people who stopped by – without you stopping by I wouldn’t come away with valuable information (or at least leads on information) that I can pass along to our product teams so that they can improve interoperability with Drupal.
This was a panel discussion among 4 representatives from companies that offer cloud hosting for Drupal: Jeff Pflueger from Pantheon, Kieran Lal from Acquia, Robert Douglass from Commerce Guys, and Mark Brown from Microsoft. The format of the discussion was this: each representative had 90 seconds to answer a question posed by the moderator (the very diplomatic George deMet, founder and co-owner of Palantir.net). All representatives were asked the same 7 questions.
I found the discussion interesting because it brought to light the fundamental differences between Microsoft’s Windows Azure offering and the others. Fundamentally, Windows Azure is a cloud platform designed to provide elastic scalability for any application, whereas Pantheon, Aquia, and Commerce Guys leverage a cloud platform (such as Windows Azure or Amazon Web Services) to provide Drupal-specific hosting solutions that leverage the value proposition of a cloud platform. This meant that for some questions, the answers weren’t really comparable. For example, one question was “What customer service and support options are available on your platform?” Windows Azure offers support for the platform itself and, in the case of Cloud Services, the operating system. (In the case of Linux VMs, OS support is provided by the distributors of the images in the Gallery.) However, Pantheon, Aquia, and Commerce Guys focus on application support, troubleshooting Drupal-specific issues that may arise, while relying on a cloud provider for platform support.
Another question whose answers were difficult to compare was this: “How do you ensure privacy and security of customer data?” Again, Windows Azure takes measures at the platform level to provide security and privacy of customer data, while Pantheon, Aquia, and Commerce Guys focus on security and privacy at the application level.
Some of the similarities between represented providers were that they all provide multiple hosting options for Drupal (Windows Azure Web Sites, Linux VMs, and Cloud Services in the case of Windows Azure) and they all support multiple migration paths (Git and FTP on Windows Azure Web Sites, and Drush on VMs).
Wednesday - BoF session Drupal in the cloud on Azure
This session, as with most Bird’s of a Feather sessions, was informal and mostly just Q & A. Microsoft MVP Alessandro Pilotti came prepared to do a very condensed version of the Deploying Drupal at Scale on Microsoft Platform training he did at DrupalCon Denver, but there were enough questions that he had to save that for another day.
This was another panel session. This time the participants included Grace Francisco, Mark Brown, Michaela Kraft, and myself, and we talked about how Microsoft has shifted to embrace OSS and communities in recent years. You can watch a complete video of the session here, but main message is that you might be surprised at what Microsoft has learned in the last few years. From contributing to OSS projects to creating more and more open source projects, to partnering with communities like the Drupal community to improve interoperability, Microsoft has taken some big steps toward becoming a valued participant in the OSS world. Of course, the discussion that followed the presentation (and the discussion is included in the video) was perhaps the most valuable part of the hour. Some folks were somewhat skeptical about Microsoft’s continued commitment to OSS communities, and I personally think that is a fair point of view. However, when I attended DrupalCon San Francisco in 2010, I noted that only with time will people be able to judge our commitment. And, when you look at our commitment since then, I feel pretty good about what we have done.
One of the key things that I took away from the conference was that Microsoft has made some big strides toward being a real participant in the Drupal community. One thing that will help us do even more here is to have more examples of folks deploying Drupal on Windows Azure in ways that really leverage what the platform has to offer. We have some examples of this (the SAG Awards website is one), but we need more. As I said at the beginning…the real work starts now.
I hope you all had as productive and fun a DrupalCon as I did. If you attended any of these sessions (or even if you didn’t), we’d love to get your thoughts and/or questions in the comments below.
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