Jan 04 2019
Jan 04

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ultra-modernist novel about jazz-age America, The Great Gatsby, has been regarded as one of the best books ever written. It has fascinated the readers by creating a sort of aftermath of wonder. Enter the digital age, there is another ‘Gatsby’ which is getting a wondrous reception and is in the reckoning for being a great tool when it comes to web development.

Cover page of the Great Gatsby book with illustration showing eyes and lips


The emergence of the static site generation, where views are rendered in advance for mitigating the burden on APIs and other backend systems, is proving to be a remarkable solution for great web performance. Gatsby, as a static site generator, can dramatically metamorphose the web performance. It can be a magnificent option in combination with Drupal as the backend for building an enriching single page applications.

No wonder Kyle Mathews, the founder of GatsbyJS, tweeted in 2017:

A tweet from Gatsby founder Kyle Mathews with his photo on top left and his name alongside the photo


GatsbyJS: Explained

Graphical representation with red, blue and green lines depicting usage statistics of Gatsby JSGatsby Usage Statistics | Source: BuiltWith

Currently, GatsbyJS is on the rise when it comes to its usage as can be seen in the graph above. So, what is it? GatsbyJS, an open source static site generator, stitches together the best of ReactJS, Webpack, routing, GraphQL and other front-end tools into one very enjoyable developer experience.

Logo of Gatsby JS with a Capital G written in white inside a violet coloured circle


Gatsby leverages powerful pre-configuration for developing a website. It has out-of-the-box capabilities for spectacularly fast page loads, data prefetching, asset optimisation, code splitting, server-side rendering, service workers, and intelligent image loading.

Features of Gatsby

Flowchart with white and yellow coloured boxes showing the workflow of Gatsby JSSource: Gatsbyjs.org

Following are the reasons that should be considered while choosing Gatsby:

Well-architected plugin system

With Gatsby, content is written as React components and is rendered at build time to the Document Object Model (DOM) as static HTML, CSS and JavaScript files. With a rich data plugin ecosystem, the static content rendered can be sourced from a plethora of sources and formats constituting markdown, CSV (Comma-separated values), and from content management systems (CMS) like Drupal.

Magnificent Scalability

Gatsby can scale to the entire internet as it builds the site as static files that can be deployed with ease on numerous services. It helps in letting go of intricate deploys involving databases and servers, their time-intensive setup costs, maintenance among others.

Performance and Progressive Web Apps out-of-the-box

Gatsby enforces best practices and optimises your site by default. When the build process runs, static HTML files are created for individual pages to offer swift initial load times.

When the page is loaded by the browser, Gatsby boots up React and navigates around your site as if you were navigating through a single page application with near-instant transitions without page reloads.

Gatsby prefetches adjacent/related page content in the background which nullifies any chances of delay when the user clicks on a link. The client-side experience is awesome with JavaScript enabled as there is no loss of content or navigation if the user has JavaScript disabled.

Gatsby can offer offline support as well with the addition of a single plugin thereby making your site into a full-blown progressive web app (PWA).

JAMstack setup

A paradigm shift has been occurring in the web development arena with JAMstack setup taking the centre stage. The amalgamation of client-side JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt Markup is the future of web development. Gatsby can be a stupendous JavaScript framework for a JAMstack-powered web application.

Merits of Integrating Gatsby and Drupal

Drupal is great for its provision of intricate page layouts or content modelling with numerous sections per page. It is an amazing solution for the teams with multi-stage content creation and assessment processes. Decoupled Drupal is an astounding solution for building enterprise-grade websites and has the deep-rooted support of Drupal Community leaders. 

Leveraging the benefits of Drupal with Gatsby is an amazing approach towards getting an enterprise-level CMS for free in addition to modern development experience and the merits of JAMstack such as security, scalability and performance. One of the great examples of implementation of decoupled Drupal and Gatsby can be seen through the demo site of Umami Food Magazine which is powered by Contenta CMS, headless Drupal distribution, and GatsbyJS.

Incorporating Gatsby in a decoupled Drupal setup enables you to access the impressive content architecture and access workflow capabilities of Drupal 8 in addition to the splendid UI creation and performance toolset of Gatsby. Moreover, both Drupal and Gatsby are open source, have a huge and active community presence and a wonderful ecosystem of add-on modules or plugins. To add to that, the built-in web services of Drupal 8 streamlines the integration process.

Demonstration

An illustration showing a laptop and a rocket taking off with smoke billowing out its rear end


To integrate Gatsby to a new or existing Drupal site, gatsby-source-drupal plugin is added to the Gatsby site. Gatsby-source-drupal plugin is a source plugin that is used to pull data into Gatsby from Drupal sites and it does so with the help of JSON:API module. It is followed by configuration of the plugin with your Drupal credentials and hosted URL. You can, then, access the Drupal data with the help of GraphQL queries.

A digital agency exhibited a demonstration that pulls Drupal content into a Gatsby site. It had a Drupal 8 site already installed and created a content type named Coffee with three fields: Title, Body and Image. Drupal was made into an API server with the installation of JSON:API and JSON:API Extras modules. For accessing the JSON API resource list, anonymous user permission was given.

This was followed by building process of Gatsby site called coffees.gatsby by making sure that the node and npm are installed on the computer. Then, the content was fetched from the Drupal server. For this, a simple page was created to display all the coffee types from the Drupal site.

Then, gatsby_source_drupal plugin was used to read Drupal content from the default endpoint /jsonapi. GraphQL was utilised to query all the coffee nodes from Drupal. Finally, the Gatsby site was published by simply copying or pushing contents in /public to the server.

Conclusion

Gatsby is an incredible static site generator that streamlines the process of creating blazing fast websites. Gatsby extracts data from sources like Drupal and then uses that data for generating static pages at build time. The data sourced from numerous backends can even be merged. This technique helps in extracting the benefits of both static sites like speed, ease of deployment etc. and the content management systems like the easy update process, user-friendly editorial interface etc.

Coming together of Drupal and Gatsby renders incredibly fast static pages and then merges that with traditional React for user authentication and personalisation.

We are committed to the provision of ambitious digital experiences with our expertise in Drupal development.

Contact us at [email protected] to get the most out of Drupal + Gatsby integration.

Jan 03 2019
Jan 03

Digital transformation is at the helm of every enterprise to keep up with the rapid technological advancements. The New York Times, a leading international news media, leads by example in such changing times. It is not just known for its premium content but also for the astronomical presence both in the print and the digital medium. React has been at the forefront of its digital evolution to make its site faster and easier to use for both the readers and the developers alike.

Home page of The New York Times with a box containing code snippet at the bottom


Large organisations like the New York Times are leaping forward with their inclination towards best-of-breed web technologies like React. Any front-end technology React would require a RESTful service-based backend for storing data and implementing business logic. This is where Drupal makes a big impact with its RESTful services that are built into its core. Before we move onto the exploration of the amazing duo of Drupal and React, let’s explore React.

React: The Incipiency

The first signs of React can be traced back to 2010 as stated by RisingStack. React kicked off as a JavaScript port of XHP which was introduced by Facebook into its PHP stack and was open sourced. XHP majorly accounted for reducing cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.

React was introduced in 2013 and was made open source.

The biggest obstacle with XHP was that dynamic web applications needed numerous round trips to the server which could not be achieved by XHP. This paved the way for ReactJS. FaxJS was the early prototype of React which came into the limelight in 2011. Ultimately, in 2013, React was introduced and open sourced.

Since then, React has swiftly gone on to become a popular choice (as can be seen in the graph below) because of its declarative style and the dearth of assumptions about your tech stack. Today, React has a large ecosystem comprising of top-of-the-line libraries, conferences and jacked-up demand for developers with React skills.

Graphical representation with red, blue and green lines showing usage statistics of ReactReact Usage Statistics | Source: Builtwith

The World of React

React is a JavaScript library for building user interfaces - reactjs.org
Logo of React with three ovals intersecting each other and the word ReactJS written beside it


ReactJS is a JavaScript library created by a Facebook engineer named Jordan Walke. It is a declarative and a component-based solution for building web applications. It is great for the following reasons:

Provision of declarative views

With its declarative views, your code becomes simpler and foretellable while debugging thereby allowing you to develop interactive UIs and design streamlined views for each state in your application. In case of any alterations in the data, React can let you efficaciously update and render the right components.

Facilitation of writing components

Passing rich data through your app and keeping the state out of the Document Object Model (DOM) is possible as the component logic is written in JavaScript instead of templates. React helps in creating encapsulated components for managing their own state which can, then, be composed for making intricate user interfaces.

Focused and easy-to-learn

Unlike Angular or Vue.js, ReactJS is a library and not a full-featured framework. It emphasises on one thing and doing it properly. It is consistently leveraged in association with other JavaScript libraries. So, there is a shorter learning curve vis-à-vis understanding React in comparison to other comprehensive libraries. It does not assume anything about your existing tech stack which helps in developing new features in React without having to rewrite existing code.

React for mobile app development

React Native is advantageous for its portability and the ability to reuse components, real-time reload and modular architecture, open source and generous ecosystem.

React + Drupal

As an open source content management system, Drupal has witnessed a staggering growth over the years (as can be seen in the graph below). It offers a magnificent suite of tools for data modelling, editorial workflow implementation and the coding custom application logic. It has spectacular support for JSON API or GraphQL web services which makes it a splendid choice as the backend for a React application.

Graphical representation showing red, blue and green lines to depict usage statistics of DrupalDrupal Usage statistics | Source: Builtwith

Whether few of the elements on an existing web page has to be enhanced or a fully decoupled single page application needs to be created, the duo of Drupal and React can do it all. Implementation of Drupal and React together can be performed with a fully decoupled or headless approach; and progressively decoupled approach.

Decoupled or Headless Drupal with React

With the powerful web APIs, Drupal simplifies the creation of headless applications. Several lighthouse applications have been created with Drupal as the backend and powerful demo systems and starter kits like Reservoir and Contenta have burst onto the scene.

In a headless approach, Drupal is leveraged as the backend for a frontend application built in React. Usually, headless applications are utilised for showing content and the editing of content is still done in the backend. But React can also be used for the creation of wonderful editorial experience. With Drupal’s powerful REST APIs, integration of a decoupled editing system can be done. Drupal Europe 2018 had a session that demonstrated how to create an enterprise-level editorial experience for Drupal 8 with the help of React.

[embedded content]


It exhibited a decoupled application with React that can let you edit content directly in the frontend. Leveraging React to the fullest, a modern editorial experience was created with in-place editing, context-sensitive editing, drag-and-drop content placement and creation and a lot more.

Progressively Decoupled Drupal with React

To strike a balance between editorial needs like layout management and developer’s desires, progressively decoupled Drupal allows you to interpolate a JavaScript framework into the Drupal front end.

OpenSense Labs has revamped the website of the Produce Market Guide (PMG), a resource for produce commodity information, fresh trends and data analysis, with help of progressively decoupled Drupal and React among others.

Website of Produce Market Guide showing a search box at the top and the search results below it


ElasticSearch Connector and Search API modules were utilised for the creation of mapping and indexing on Elastic Server. The development of Elastic backend architecture was followed by the building process of faceted search application with React and the integration of the app in Drupal as block or template page.

The project structure for the search was designed and developed in the sandbox with modern tools like Babel and Webpack and third-party libraries like Searchkit, which is a suite of React components that communicate directly with Elasticsearch cluster, turned out to be of great help with its fully customisable solution.

Logstash and Kibana, which are based on Elasticsearch, were integrated on the Elasticserver for collecting, parsing, storing and visualising the data. The app in the Sandbox was developed for the production and all the CSS/JS was incorporated inside the Drupal as a block thereby making it a progressively decoupled feature.

The project, that followed the principles of Agile and Scrum, resulted in a user-friendly website for PMG with a search application. It loaded the search results faster.

Conclusion

Drupal and React together can help enterprises to leap forward in the digital space. Drupal’s RESTful services-based backend and React with its amazing capabilities as the frontend can prove to be a remarkable solution.

We remain steadfast in our goals of fulfilling the digital transformation endeavours of our partners with our suite of services.

Contact us at [email protected] to build a Drupal website using React as the front-end technology.

Dec 16 2018
Dec 16

Cooking something very delicious requires the right sort of ingredients and preparation. Serving delectable food can entice people and make them remember the taste for a long long time. Building a food-based website also requires the right platform that can engage people and offer ambitious digital experiences. This is where Drupal enters the scene.

Illustration showing a transition of sunrise into a plate with spoon and fork with six different images in six different boxes


As an open source CMS, Drupal is a reliable, secure and flexible platform and helps in creating the features that technology professionals want. It conforms with technical and business requirements and can be a great solution for powering the online presence of a food-based brand.

Drupal’s Greatness for Food-based Website

Drupal powers websites of some of the great names in the food industry like BBC Good Food, 24 Kitchen, Bosscaffe, Alevri among others. What prompts them to choose Drupal?

Drupal powers websites of some of the great names in the food industry

Spectacular functionalities

Drupal offers a lot of modules, themes, and distributions that can help build a great food-based website.

For instance, a restaurant chain can use the make their Drupal website stylish with a free mobile-first, Bootstrap 3 based theme for Drupal called Restaurant Lite.

You can even leverage the benefits of Restaurant Zymphonies Theme which is another free mobile-first theme that can power the websites of restaurants, food stalls, hotels and other dining websites.

As a multifunctional, commercial profile created for intricate online stores, Food Delivery, a Drupal distribution, offers a complete starter pack for developing food-based websites.

Security

Drupal Security Team has been working round-the-clock validating and responding to security issues thereby making it one of the most secure open source CMS. Among the leading open source CMSs, it has been performing far better than Wordpress, Joomla and Magento.

Drupal is one of the most secure open source CMS
Table with rows and columns showing statistics on web app attacks targeting top CMS and ecommerce assetsSource: Alert Logic

Scalability

To help you cope with the busiest of days, Drupal can scale with your needs and can efficaciously handle a massive amount of traffic.

Multilingual

Drupal has out of the box support for building multilingual websites in the form of core modules that allows you to deliver localised digital experiences.

Mobile-responsive

Drupal helps in building responsive sites and web applications thereby allowing you to interact with your consumers on-the-go.

Text about Bosscasse in a boxHome page of Drupal powered food-based website of Bosscaffe showing a restaurant hall with chairs and transparent glass-wall


Speed

To run an agile team and ensure the continuous delivery of the web development project, Drupal’s pliable platform is superb. Furthermore, it helps in implementing performance optimisation techniques for building a high performing site.

Third-party integration

You can leverage the best tools outside the periphery of Drupal by integrating a variety of marketing technologies and business applications.

Content Workflow

Content authors can get awesome tools for creating and publishing content on the site. With the help of its preview feature, you can see how your content will look across various devices. Moreover, the authentication and permissions enhance the editorial workflow.

Content authors can get awesome tools for creating and publishing content on the site
Description about Alevri Drupal Food website in a boxHome page of Alevri with an image of brown coloured pizza on white plate


Content architecture

Drupal lets you create the right content architecture and show appropriate content for each context with the help of great display mode tools, Views and a plentitude of media types.

Text description about Food drink devon site in a boxHomepage of Food Drink Devon with the image of a book kept on a wooden surface


Content-as-a-service

Its content as a service approach lets the front end developers build engaging customer experiences with Drupal’s presentation neutral content and RESTful API leveraging tools like Angular, Ember, Backbone and many more.

Multisite

Drupal’s immense capability in building a multisite architecture allows you to govern multiple websites across your enterprise brands, geographies and promotional campaigns on a  centralised platform.

Business-driven

You can build a solution that adheres to your business requirements and does things as your business demands.

Perfect tech stack

Drupal dwells on a modern LAMP technology stack comprising of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP which helps in fulfilling the needs of fast-moving, flexible, and agile enterprises in creating ambitious digital experiences.

Large community

Drupal’s vast community presence is one of its greatest strength as thousands of organisations create solutions with Drupal and in the process build Drupal itself.

Description about BBC GoodFood website in a boxHomepage of BBC goodfood with the images of red and green coloured breads shaped in the form of sweaters


Case study

24 Kitchen, one of the most popular platforms on food, cooking and lifestyle, has extracted the power of Drupal with the help of a digital agency to transform their presence in the digital landscape.

Homepage of 24 kitchen website with an image of green coloured oval shaped dishes on a plate

Search API Solr Search, a Drupal module for offering Solr backend, uses Apaches Solr servers for indexing and searching content and was utilised for related recipes in 24 Kitchen website development. The amazing capabilities of Fast Autocomplete module merged the extensive database of videos with the recipe’s database thereby allowing the retrieval of thousands of recipes that come with recommendations based on preference and user parameters.

Without any developer’s interference, the content editor could create flexible layout components, new pages and formats. This was made possible by paragraphs module. Through smart widgets, high-value content was disclosed which allowed other websites to directly query and present content from the 24 Kitchen within their own website. 

The Drupal website of 24 Kitchen has been very advantageous for marketing and sales with its boundless integration with the 24 Kitchen television format. It has paved the way for working with partners on promotional campaigns and cross-selling via numerous national news and lifestyle sites. The Drupal-powered website made it possible for content syndication and serving content to the consumers when relevant (for example, the Widgets and Facebook recipe bot). Ultimately, the redressal of 24 Kitchen website with the help of Drupal’s monumental capabilities resulted in staggering growth in page views.

Conclusion

Drupal offers a stupendous platform for building a powerful food-based website and allows the enterprises to grow as a brand.

We love Drupal and have been in our constant pursuit of delivering high quality and innovative solutions with our expertise in Drupal development.

Contact us at [email protected] to build a food-based site using Drupal.

Dec 16 2018
Dec 16

We are continuing our march towards becoming an AI-first world where the mobile centricity is getting replaced with personalised user-centricity. This is an age where conversational commerce and artificial intelligence (AI) as a utility are altering the way we communicate with brands and with each other. One of the great examples is the LivePerson’s LiveEngage. As a leading conversational commerce platform, it allows the students of Barry University to interact over popular messaging services. They can ask anything ranging from the application processes to the courses available in a convenient manner like they do with their friends and family.

Four people, holding differently shaped cards, standing in an open field near a building at daytime


Conversational commerce is already making great inroads and is revolutionising the way consumers and brands interact with each other. It has the potential of being a curator of services and experiences that can intelligently fulfill the needs and engage consumers emotionally anytime and anywhere. Drupal Commerce, an open source e-commerce solution, can help in implementing conversational commerce. Before we look at Drupal Commerce’s capabilities for this implementation, let’s explore conversational commerce first.

Conversational Commerce: Explained 

Graphical representation showing a curve with many dots on it to explain the history of conversational commerceSource: Mücke, Sturm & Company GmbH

From the traditional point of sale systems (POS) to mobile commerce, we have seen it all. They have paved the way for conversational commerce which can dramatically metamorphose out shopping experience by leading a new era of individualised shopping.

Chris Messina coined the term Conversational Commerce looking at the dominant trend of consumer computing apps which came to life in 2015 with Uber’s integration into Facebook Messenger. He described it as a solution that can deliver “convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go with only partial attention to spare”.

Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare. - Chris Messina

Conversational Interfaces leverages the power of AI whilst using the technologies that consumers relish using like messaging, voice interface or other natural language interfaces thereby enabling people to interact with brands or services through bots.

With the objective of delivering a top-of-the-line customer experience, it helps in replicating the one-on-one, in-store salesperson experience with the consumers. Whether you are buying clothes, ordering food from a hotel, or making a financial transaction, conversational commerce is here to revolutionise the business model.

Why is Conversational Commerce Important?

Comscore states that 85% of the smartphone time is being spent on social media, messenger and other media applications. Moreover, by 2021, the number of users using digital voice assistants is projected to reach 1.8 Billion.

Massive adoption of messaging applications along with the rise of conversational, AI-powered technology can streamline the process of making one-on-one conversations at scale. And as people distance themselves from clicks and taps and inch towards conversational UI, more adoption of conversational commerce can be witnessed in the coming years as it promises a slew of benefits which are stated below:

  • Driving customer satisfaction: Offering voice assistants can enhance brands’ Net Promoter Scores (NPS®) thereby driving customer satisfaction.
Bar graph with red and blue coloured bars to represent Net Promoters Scores

 

  • Generating more business: Enterprises will be able to generate more business and positive word-of-mouth
Graphical representation showing green and blue distorted lines to explain voice assistants and their effects on customer experience

 

Graphical representation showing green boxes placed horizontally to explain voice assistants and their effects on customer experience

 

  • Increasing consumer spending: Consumers show the willingness to increase their spending with a brand when they receive a good voice assistant experience.
Bar graphs showing orange and blue bars to explain consumer spending

 

  • Focussing on priority consumer segments: Enterprises that emphasise on the segmentation of priority consumers like targeting users who prefer voice assistants for purchases will bring in great value.
Graphical representation showing four quarters in dark green, light green, orange, and pink colour with a straight line passing through them to explain audience segmentation


How does Conversational Commerce Work?

There are different ways to look at conversational commerce in action. One of the types of experiences can be a proactive model. In this, the customer buys something for the very first time from a shop and receive an automated message with greetings and thanking them for shopping at that store. Another working model can be a reactive approach. In this, a customer buys a defective product from a shop and seek assistance. In response, the shop guides them through a solution.

Two smartphones side-by-side with both of them showing an interaction between a human user and a chatbotSource: Chatbots Magazine

Furthermore, there can be one-to-one and one-to-many working models. If a shop sends a message and personalised offer to a customer who has applauded their service on Twitter, this comes under the one-to-one approach. Suppose a restaurant chain has opened a new store. They can send a custom message to a targeted audience segment who live nearby. This comes under the one-to-many approach.

Also, a digital voice assistant like Amazon Alexa and Google Home can assist the consumer in finding stores, hotels, events and much more. It can also recommend products, access customer care service, book a cab, or even control smart home devices.

Conversational Commerce with Drupal

Decoupled Drupal Days 2018 had a session which showed how to integrate bots in Drupal Commerce. When it comes to bot’s business logic, Drupal Commerce turned out to be a great solution in addition to its robust capabilities in storing content and product details. Moreover, Drupal, being an API-first CMS, offers a plethora of APIs out-of-the-box and the Commerce Cart API module makes it easy to interact with carts in Drupal Commerce.

[embedded content]


It showed how decoupled Drupal Commerce, bot frameworks and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) can be leveraged for providing a boundless shopping experience to the e-commerce websites which are built on Drupal using Drupal services layer.

Decoupled Drupal Commerce, bot frameworks and Natural Language Understanding can be leveraged for providing a boundless shopping experience

The session focussed on Drupal 8 core services and the creation of custom REST APIs. It also laid emphasis on utilising decoupled Drupal Commerce APIs and using Node.js and Bot framework for building a chatbot.

In addition to this, it also talked about the bot frameworks and other cognitive services that can be used to develop bots for different use cases. Several bot frameworks were considered like Facebook Messenger (wit.ai), Google Dialogflow, IBM Watson, Microsoft Bot Framework and open source conversational AI like Rasa. Ultimately, it all started with a framework called Open Source Bot Builder SDK for Node.js which is used for building bots. The application was hosted on Heroku and the Microsoft Bot Framework was used to integrate with Facebook.

In the demonstration, some of the common e-commerce functionalities like search, exploring products and many more were exposed as REST APIs. The main idea was that the bots will enable search and explore the products by incorporating Drupal Commerce APIs. On the basis of message-based interaction, bots can also enable simple Add To Cart and Review Cart functionality among others and can offer relevant actions while looking for a product.

Conclusion

Conversational Commerce represents an astronomical opportunity for the brands and the retailers alike. It can enable them to interact with their consumers in a new and innovative way. Enterprises must extract the power of this interaction opportunity for building relationships of value with consumers across the lifecycle.

Conversational Commerce, along with Drupal Commerce, can help the organisations to offer a completely new and more instinctive way for consumers to engage with them.

We have been steadfast in our goals of powering digital innovation for the enterprises with our expertise in Drupal development.

Contact us at [email protected] to implement conversational commerce in your business.

Dec 12 2018
Dec 12

Healthcare. When you listen to this word, you get a feeling of ‘care’ and ‘improvement’ because that’s what the healthcare industry does. This industry cares for the people and works on the improvement of their health. And today’s growing number of healthcare providers, payers, and IT professionals need a HIPAA-compliant website that also ‘cares’ about processing, storing and transmitting protected health information.

A doctor pointing his finger on his laptop screen as another man looks at it.


Open source software align tremendously well with the requirements of the healthcare sector. Drupal, being an open source content management framework itself, aligns very well with Health IT interoperability and is great for commercial applications at the enterprise level.

What is HIPAA compliance?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) is a legislation that was implemented for the easy retention of healthcare insurance coverage that can be of huge significance whenever the US workers change or lose their jobs.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is a legislation that sets the standard for the protection of sensitive patient data

It sets the standard for the protection of sensitive patient data and any organisation that confronts with protected health information (PHI) has to make sure that all the required physical, network and process security measures are being adhered to. According to Amazon Web Services, PHI includes a very wide set of personally identifiable health and health-related data, including insurance and billing information, diagnosis data, clinical care data, and lab results such as images and test results.

It also encourages to use electronic health records (EHR) for the betterment of efficiency and quality of the US healthcare system via improved information sharing.

It encompasses covered entities (CE), anyone who offers treatment, payment and operations in healthcare and business associates, and people who can access patient information and offer support in treatment, payment or operations. Moreover, subcontractors or business associates of business associates should also be in compliance.

How to make your website HIPAA compliant?

In order to make sure that your website is HIPAA-compliant, you must start by establishing new processes. Make sure that the PHI is only accessible to authorised personnel in addition to establishing processes for deleting, backing up and restoring PHI as needed. Emails consisting of PHI should be sent in an encrypted and secure manner.

Moreover, it is of great significance that you partner with web hosting companies that are HIPAA compliant and have processes for protecting PHI. Also, sign a business associate contract with third parties who have access to your patient’s PHI.

It is of paramount importance to buy and implement an SSL certificate for your website and ensuring that all web forms on your site are encrypted and safe.

Use Case: Drupal ensures HIPAA compliance

Drupal, being one of the most security-focussed CMS, comes with stupendous database encryption mechanisms. For high-security applications, Drupal can be configured for a firm database encryption. When the whole database encryption is not desirable, top-notch granularity is available for safeguarding more specific information like user accounts, particular forms, and also the values of particular fields can be encrypted in an otherwise plaintext database.

Drupal’s encryption system is configurable to adhere to the norms of PCI, HIPAA and state privacy laws constituting offsite encryption key management

Drupal’s encryption system is configurable to adhere to the norms of Payment Card Industry (PCI), HIPAA and state privacy laws constituting offsite encryption key management. Drupal is also a spectacular solution as an enterprise-grade healthcare system because it can be extended. It is possible to leverage Drupal as a content dissemination network, intranet, or even to incorporate several systems within a single platform.

By integrating Drupal data layer and an electronic medical record (EMR) via a RESTful API connection could dramatically enhance interoperability. It can unlock the important data from the proprietary systems and their data silos.

Flowchart with semicircles, full circle and boxes in blue colours to explain HIPAA compliant websiteSource: Acquia

Proprietary EMR systems are astronomical with their top-of-the-line standardised approaches and the ability to organise and store enormous amounts of data. But they are not great for customisation or interoperability. The dearth of interoperability of high-priced, single-vendor solutions and the hurdles while functioning in an integrated healthcare delivery setting results in HIPAA non-compliance. Even if the files are electronic, the difficulty in moving the files boundlessly leads to frequent violations like the shortage of legal authorisation or unencrypted emails.

Drupal and EMR integration is an excellent example of a Drupal-powered healthcare technology that empowers the staff to leverage critical and potentially life-saving data. Healthcare delivery systems, with the division of data silos, can witness the evolution from being a reactive diagnostic model to a proactive preventative model.

Drupal can be layered on top of multiple EMR systems within a medical group and the information can be compiled into one physician portal. The integration of Drupal and EMR systems can be made through numerous feeds from API calls, XML or JSON feeds and RESTful APIs.

Drupal offers granular user access control, that is, it can offers site administrators complete authority over who can see and who can modify different parts of a site. It operates on the basis of a system of extensible user roles and access permissions. Thus, with the help of role-based provisioning, Drupal can emphasise on critical data that dwells behind a firewall in a HIPAA secure environment.

Drupal can also be configured to look into the database via web services integration on the basis of specific EHR authorisation requirements. And it does so by adhering to the user access permission controls. Therefore, the data remains safe and secure all the time.

Conclusion

Drupal is a magnificent solution for enterprises in the healthcare sector to help them process, store and transmit protected health information.

We have been steadfast in our goals to deliver a great digital experience with our expertise in Drupal development.

Contact us at [email protected] to build HIPAA-compliant Drupal website.
 

Dec 09 2018
Dec 09

Customer experience was elevated to a new high when storefronts and shopping carts first burst onto the scene. Then, e-commerce created a different dimension in the world of shopping. In this age of shoppable everything, brands and retailers need to seize the moment of truth as consumers look for shiny objects of inspiration. Today, headless commerce is destined to take shopping experiences to a whole new level where the experience itself can be merchandised.

A black and white image of a man wearing a shirt with flower designs and his face blurred by smoke


Headless commerce is here to get the consumer’s attention and get the deal done. Drupal Commerce allows you to implement headless commerce and helps in monetising the moment of heightened emotion as most of the time, the inspiration, which is potent at the moment, diminishes to a fleeting whim.

Headless Commerce: Explained

When the frontend of your shopping experience is decoupled from the backend, that is, the presentation is segregated from the commerce stack, it is referred to as headless commerce architecture.

In headless commerce, the frontend of your shopping experience is decoupled from the backend.

Such an architecture supports an e-commerce platform without ‘head’ - front-end presentation layer - permitting additional flexibility, customisation, enhanced shopping experiences and creative freedom.

In a headless commerce, you do not have to worry about interfering with the back-end commerce setup. Marketers and merchants can experiment and make alterations to the front-end with agility.

Flowchart with a box, desktop icon, and smartphone icon showing the workflow of headless commerceSource: Snipcart

Headless commerce vs Traditional commerce

Following are the two key differences:

Source: Snipcart


Presentation layer

In a traditional commerce, design constraints are observed as alterations would require you to invest an awful lot of time in editing the database, code, and the frontend platform.

In contrast, frontend developers do not have to be concerned about modifying databases in the backend and can create a unique user experience that adheres to their business requirements with just a simple API call. With no presentation layer, everything from product pages to the landing pages has to be built from the scratch in headless commerce.

More room for customisation

In traditional commerce, developers have to edit several layers of coding even for a single customisation starting from front-end to the database layer that is dwelling in the back-end.

Headless commerce offers more room for customisation and personalisation.

Headless commerce offers more room for customisation and personalisation. It gives you complete authority over the look and feel of your digital commerce platform.

Benefits of headless commerce

Following are some of the major benefits from different perspectives:

Magnificent shopping experience

It gives a magnificent shopping experience to developers, merchants, and consumers. For instance, adding a new field to a customer account, implementing a custom checkout flow, adding ratings and reviews to the shopping experience and many others can be performed without redeploying the digital commerce platform.

With less duplication of functionality, it offers a better experience to the merchants while administering the shop. At the same time, end-users or consumers get content-rich experiences.

Leveraging portable backends

There is no dependency on large, restricting infrastructures which lets you stay competitive with your front-end without getting bogged down by coupled solutions.

Choosing best front-end tools

Whether it is a web application, mobile application or Internet of Things, headless commerce lets you select the best front-end tools for every platform or device.

Utilising JAMstack

Headless commerce allows you to build using JAMstack which faster, safer and cost-effective thereby providing a creative and strategic development experience

Headless commerce with Drupal

Drupal Community, with its commitment towards making Drupal more better, is continuously working on decoupling Drupal Commerce and the result is incredible.

Drupal Camp Ashville 2018

A session held at Drupal Camp Ashville 2018 delineated the development of the Commerce Demo project. It talked about the out-of-the-box capabilities of the demo store and an ecosystem update constituting the roadmap for decoupled Drupal Commerce. The demo store is available online

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The Commerce Demo project was built to create a product catalogue that can be easily removed without hampering the configuration of the site. The design involved modern shopping cart interaction paradigms. It required simple Views and Form API based solutions.

As a result, the design resulted in building a standalone Commerce Cart API module. This can be leveraged by anyone to develop a custom shopping cart widget and Commerce Cart Flyout which is the reference implementation for demonstrating how decoupling Drupal Commerce would look like. 

The design resulted in the development of a standalone Commerce Cart API module that anyone can use to develop a custom shopping cart widget and Commerce Cart Flyout. It showed a reference implementation that demonstrates what decoupling Drupal Commerce can look like.

Drupal Europe 2018

Another session held at Drupal Europe 2018 showed a Cart API for progressively decoupled cart experiences. It talked about how to decouple Drupal Commerce to enhance scalability and flexibility for the organisations. It demonstrated the works that were done for developing a standard Cart API to support progressively decoupled shopping carts in Drupal Commerce for Drupal 8. It was not without hurdles as the core RESTful Web Services were reviewed and involved contributions in JSON API projects.

[embedded content]


The new Commerce Cart API project and the reference implementation in Commerce Cart Flyout demonstrated the end result showing a potential of creating a unique user experience. With this, Drupal Commerce can offer great shopping experiences that are on par with leading e-commerce software platforms. This would, in turn, make it simpler for Drupal agencies to sell Drupal Commerce to the customers.

Conclusion

Enterprises encounter increasing pressure to offer innovative customer experiences, An API-based headless architecture provides increased flexibility with its decoupled user interface (UI) approach. Technical professionals responsible for digital commerce can utilise Drupal Commerce for delivering fantastic shopping experiences.

We have been committed to providing a great digital experience with our expertise in Drupal Development.

Contact us at [email protected] to implement headless commerce for your enterprise.

Dec 09 2018
Dec 09

As Leicester City fans continued to rejoice at their team’s unlikely triumph in the 2016 edition of English Premier League to become the champions for the very first time, some people were contemplating how the underdogs managed to beat such high odds. The way a team envisages itself performing is just as important as the physical strength of the players. And in this age of digitisation, imagining themselves performing well in the digital space is immensely significant. This is where Drupal comes in.

Three Leicester City players wearing blue coloured outfit running on the football ground


Be it a football club, a tennis open or a cricket world cup, any popular sports team and the tournament would want to be an instant hit among the sports lovers around the globe and build on it to create a unique brand identity. As one of the leading content management systems, Drupal can help a sports brand establish themselves as an important entity in the digital arena with a unique and powerful website.

Benefits of Drupal

Drupal powers websites of biggest of the sports brands like National Basketball Association, PGA Tour, Major League Soccer, Sevilla Fútbol Club, Kentucky Derby, New England Patriots among others.

Drupal powers websites of biggest of the sports brands

Why do such great names choose Drupal? You have the reasons stated below:

Phenomenal Features

Drupal offers a large number of open source modules, themes and distributions to help build a sports-centric website with robust features.

For instance, Sports League module helps govern content that is typically used for a sports club. It can help manage multi-competition editions and their standings. It can handle rosters, automatic statistics on players and teams and the match moments.

If you need a lightweight Drupal theme for a sports-related website, Drupal 8 Premier League Theme is a great fit. It has features like slider functionality, colour switcher functionality, social media integration among others.

For a complete starter pack, there is a Drupal distribution called Sportsleague that comes with superb features to help build a sports-related website with its robust features for managing content, user accounts, image uploading, and search.

Security

Among the leading open source CMSs, Drupal has made great inroads for being one of the most secure frameworks and has reported least vulnerabilities among the leading players in the industry. Drupal Security Team actively validates and responds to security issues to it the best security-focussed CMS.

Scalability

Drupal can scale with your needs and help you handle busiest of the days by effectively coping with an enormous amount of traffic.

Drupal can scale with your needs

Multilingual

Drupal 8 has in-built support for language handling in the form of core modules and lets you deliver localised digital experiences.

Mobile-responsive

In this age of mobile devices, Drupal enables the development of responsive sites and web applications that would let you interact with your consumers on-the-go.

Speed

Drupal’s flexible platform ensure the continuous delivery of the web development project and run an agile team. Moreover, Drupal is awesome for implementing performance optimisation techniques and build a high performing website.

Third-party integration

To get the best out of the tools that are outside the periphery of Drupal, you can integrate a variety of marketing technologies and business applications.

Content Workflow

Drupal has terrific tools for making it a loveable CMS for the content authors while creating and publishing content on the site. Its preview feature delineates how your content will look across various devices. Also, the authentication and permissions bring in improvement in the editorial workflow.

A box containing text with a heading and a paragraph describing Drupal's capability in building a great sports website


 

Homepage of NBA with an image of three players wearing blue-yellow, blue-orange, and red-white coloured outfits


Content architecture

You can create the right content architecture and exhibit appropriate content for each context with the help of stupendous display mode tools, Views and a wide range of media types.

Content-as-a-service

Drupal’s content as a service approach allows the front-end developers to build engaging customer experiences with Drupal’s presentation neutral content and RESTful API by utilising tools like Angular, Ember, Backbone and so on.

Multisite

It helps you in governing multisite setup across your enterprise brands, geographies and promotional campaigns on a centralised platform.

Drupal helps you build a solution that adheres to your business requirements

Business-driven

Drupal helps you build a solution that adheres to your business requirements. It does things as your business demands.

Perfect tech stack

Drupal dwells on a modern LAMP technology stack that constitutes Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. This allows Drupal to fulfill the needs of fast-moving, flexible and agile organisations who are in pursuit of creating ambitious digital experiences and help them build next-generation digital platforms.

Large community

One of the most beautiful things about Drupal is its huge community presence as thousands of organisations create solutions with Drupal and in the process build Drupal itself.

Case studies

Travelling along the process of building an actual sports website with Drupal would throw the light on how it powers a sports brand. To do so, let us look at the development of two of the massive names in the sports viz. Major League Soccer and Sevilla FC.

Development of Major League Soccer

Homepage of Major League Soccer with 6 different images showing players playing football and jam-packed football stadium


Major League Soccer (MLS) is a professional soccer league that primarily represents top-notch talent from both United States and Canada. It took help from a digital agency to migrate each team’s site to the Drupal platform.

Drupal proved a remarkable solution to improve the fan experience which was the top-of-the-line requirement. While the site maintainers of the each of the sites could easily configure their team’s instance, custom, rich multimedia platform allowed viewers to enjoy games in real-time from any device. Moreover, switching to a multisite setup cut their deployed footprint.

The Drupal platform integrated with the majority of MLS properties comprising of the league’s videos and stats. Furthermore, the integration of Doubleclick for Publishers Drupal module optimised the placement of ads and attract visitors with vibrant advertising media. Also, Drupal allowed faster editorial capabilities and strong customisations.

Thus, Drupal helped build a stable infrastructure for MLS and reduced severity of alerts.

Development of Sevilla FC

Homepage of Sevilla Football Club with two images of a man speaking before the press and some people posing for a photo in front of a statue


Sevilla FC was established in 1890 and is one of the oldest football teams in the history of Spain’s football history. A digital agency used Drupal 8 to help them improve their online brand spectacularly.

Drupal 8 helped in incorporating multisite architecture to build the main website and several satellite sites. The Club was also able to edit and publish most of the app content from a sole entry point.

Most importantly, the multilingual capability was enabled easily with Drupal 8. Drupal’s open source security was also an important reason for considering Drupal for the redressal of the website. Drupal has also resulted in a better website performance, enriching user experience, lower maintenance costs, and improved hardware consumption.

Hence, Drupal helped in increasing monthly user acquisition and the global audience in addition to stability and high availability of the website.

Conclusion

The mantra of Go Play And Get Fit is something we hear from our peers all our life. And we also hear that mental strength and physical strength go hand-in-hand. That is absolutely true. It also applies to a sports-based website albeit in a different manner so that it can be ‘fit’ enough to provide great digital experiences and grow as a brand. Drupal powers innovation and can be a marvellous CMS for building a sports-related website.

We can assist you in growing as a sports brand with our suite of services.

Contact us at [email protected] to power your sports brand with Drupal.

Dec 01 2018
Dec 01

Having a routine of reading newspaper early in the morning is an intricate tapestry. We need something more to continue with our engagement with a newspaper day after day as we aren’t vessels of information. And that elusive thing is not just the pleasure of words but an engrossing design. So, when the editors make the prose readable, graphic designers work on creating templates that help in sustaining our interest in the act of reading.

Three task sheets are drawn on a white surface with blue, indigo and green colours


Similarly, site builders and content authors require intuitive tools as well for developing pages, alter layouts and add or arrange blocks with live preview. Hence, when it comes to new and refreshing easy-to-use page builders, An ambitious visual design tool called Layout Builder is on its way to change things completely.

Layout Initiative: The inception

Layout Builder took its birth through Layout Initiative which was started with the objectives of:

  • Underlying APIs for supporting layout management to be utilised by core and contributed projects alike.
  • Offering a drag and drop interface for building layouts that can apply both to overall site sections and overridden on separate landing pages.
  • Allowing the layout application to data entry forms and content

Layouts have been a significant tool in component-based theming as they can be utilised to map data to component templates. In Drupal 8.3, the Layout API and the Layout Discovery module were included as an experimental subsystem. They were stabilised in Drupal 8.4.

Layout Builder is being planned to be stabilised in Drupal 8.7

The Layout API and the Layout Discovery module were added in Drupal 8.3 as an experimental subsystem, and they were stabilized in Drupal 8.4. An experimental Layout Builder module was included in Drupal 8.5 and is being planned to be stabilised in Drupal 8.7.

Layout Builder: A guile approach to site building

Layout Builder offers the ability to customise the layout of your content where you start by choosing predefined layouts for different sections of the page and then populate those layouts with one or more blocks. That is, it gives you a UI with a visual preview and supports using multiple layouts together. It lets you place blocks in layout regions and create layouts for separate pieces of content.

Layout Builder gives you a UI with a visual preview and supports using multiple layouts together.

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At present, there are some Drupal modules that can enable the functionality of Layout Builder. The combination of Panels and Panelizer can help in developing templated layouts and landing pages. Also, the Paragraphs module can be used for the creation of custom landing pages.

The greatness of the Layout Builder

Following are some of the reasons that show how great the Layout Builder is:

Drupal’s layout builder module in action with the images of a bunch of flowers on top and two puppies in a basket at the bottomSource: Dries Buytaert’s blog
  • To lay out all the instances of a specific content type, Layout Builder helps in creating layout templates.
  • Layout Builder allows you to customise these layout templates. You can override these layout templates on a case-by-case basis.
  • It can be utilised to create custom pages. You can create custom, one-off landing pages that are not linked to a content type or structured content.
  • The key to stabilise Layout Builder is to make sure that it passes Drupal’s accessibility gate (Level AA conformance with WCAG and ATAG). So, it will ensure web accessibility standards once stabilised in Drupal 8.7.
  • The Menu Item Extras module is used in Drupal 8 for implementing mega menus through additional fields. In Drupal 8.6, all you need to do for creating a mega menu is to enable Layout Builder for the default menu item view display mode.

How to work around with Layout Builder?

Follow the following steps to use the Layout Builder for configuring content types and nodes:

1. In the first step, you start by enabling the Layout Builder module.

Layout Builder drupal module interface with a checkboxSource: OSTraining

2. This is followed by content creation. This requires the installation of Devel module where you enable Devel and Devel generate parts of the plugin. This, then, helps in generating articles.

List of options with checkboxes and scrollable list boxes creating content while enabling layout builder drupal moduleSource: OSTraining

3. Then, the layout of the article content type is configured.

Edit layout option while enabling layout builder drupal module with a box containing instructions and save and cancel options above it.Source: OSTraining

4. Finally, the layout of a single node is configured.

Check box for layout option while configuring layout builder drupal moduleSource: OSTraining

Conclusion

There is no doubt that Drupal’s current site building and content authoring capabilities are great. But Layout Builder will transform the whole experience of creating pages with its simple and intuitive tools.

Opensense Labs has been offering a suite of services to help organisations lead their ambitious plans of digital transformation.

Contact us at [email protected] to dive into the world of Layout Builder and get the best out of it.

Nov 30 2018
Nov 30

Perhaps it is not very surprising that in an age of austerity and a climate of fear about child abuse, new technology is being sought by social workers for help. The Guardian, news media, revealed that local authorities in the UK have been using machine learning and predictive modelling to intervene before children were referred to social services. For instance, local councils are building ‘predictive analytics’ systems for leveraging cornucopia of data on hundreds of people for constructing computer models in an effort to predict child abuse and intervene before it can happen.

Sticky notes on a wall with one hand sticky note in focus reading “Run a usability test”


Power of predictive analytics can be extracted not only for social issues like child abuse but for a superabundance of areas in different industries. One such area is the web user experience where implementation of predictive analytics can be very essential. Predictive user experience (UX) can help usher in a plenitude of betterment. But how did predictive analytics came into being?

Destination 1689

Contemporary Analysis states that the history of predictive analytics takes us back to 1689. While the rise of predictive analytics has been attributed to technological advances like Hadoop and MapReduce, it has been in use for centuries.

One of the first applications of predictive analytics can be witnessed in the times when shipping and trade were prominent.

One of the first applications of predictive analytics can be witnessed in the times when shipping and trade were prominent. Lloyd’s of London, one of the first insurance and reinsurance markets, was a catalyst for the distribution of important information required for underwriting. And the name underwriting itself took birth from London insurance market. In exchange for a premium, bankers would accept the risk on a given sea voyage and write their names underneath the risk information that is written on one Lloyd’s slip developed for this purpose.

Lloyd’s coffee house was established in 1689 by Edward Lloyd. He was well-known among the sailors, merchants and ship owners as he shared reliable shipping news which helped in discussing deals including insurance.

Technological advancements in the 20th century and 21st century have given impetus to predictive analytics as can be seen through the following compilation by FICO.

Infographic showing a table with each column showing discoveries in the area of predictive analytics.Source: FICO

Predictive Analytics and User Experience: A Detailed Look

IBM states that predictive analytics brings together advanced analytics capabilities comprising of ad-hoc analysis, predictive modelling, data mining, text analytics, optimisation, real-time scoring and machine learning. Enterprises can utilise these tools in order to discover patterns in data and forecast events.

Predictive Analytics is a form of advanced analytics which examines data or content to answer the question “What is going to happen?” or more precisely, “What is likely to happen?”, and is characterized by techniques such as regression analysis, forecasting, multivariate statistics, pattern matching, predictive modelling, and forecasting. - Gartner

A statistical representation of data compiled by Statista delineates that predictive analytics is only going to grow and its market share will keep expanding in the coming years.

A Bar graph with blue-coloured vertical bars depicting statistics on market share of predictive analyticsPredictive analytics revenues/market size worldwide, from 2016 to 2022 (in billion U.S. dollars) | Statista

A Personalisation Pulse Check report from Accenture found that 65% of customers were more likely to shop at a store or online business that sent relevant and personalized promotions. So, instead of resulting in alterations to the user interface, applying a predictive analytics algorithm to UX design presents the users with relevant information. For instance, a user who has recently bought a costly mobile phone from an e-commerce site might be willing to buy a cover to protect it from dust and scratches. Hence, that user would receive a recommendation to purchase a cover. The e-commerce site might also recommend other accessories like headphones, memory cards or antivirus software.

How does Predictive Analytics Work?

Following are the capabilities of predictive analytics according to a compilation by IBM:

  • Statistical analysis and visualisation: It addresses the overall analytical process including planning, data collection, analysis, reporting and deployment.
  • Predictive modelling: It leverages the power of model-building, evaluation and automation capabilities.
  • Linear regression: Linear regression analysis helps in predicting the value of a variable on the basis of the value of another variable.
  • Logistic regression: It is also known as the logit model which is used for predictive analytics and modelling and is also utilised for application in machine learning.

Leveraging Predictive Models in UX Design

Data will drive the UX in the future. Patterns that derive data make for a terrific predictive engine. This helps in forecasting a user’s intent by compiling numerous predictors that together influence conversions.

Data will drive the UX in the future

With the help of predictive analytics in UX design, conversation rates can be improved. For instance, recommendation systems leverage data such as consumer interest and purchasing behaviour which is then applied via a predictive model for generating a listicle of recommended items. 

Amazon, e-commerce giant, utilises an item-item collaborative filtering algorithm for suggesting products. This helps in displaying the books to a bookworm and baby toys to a new mother. Quantum Interface, which is a startup in Austin Texas, has built a predictive user interface with the help of natural user interface (NUI) principles. This utilises the directional vectors - speed, time and angle change - for forecasting user’s intent.

Implementing Predictive UX with Drupal

Predictive UX adapts content based on a user’s previous choices just like web personalisation does. But predictive UX extracts the power of machine learning and statistical techniques for making informed decisions on the user’s behalf.

While modern technology is oscillating from mobile-first to AI-first, predictive UX is the next huge thing which is going to be a trend-setter. It is meritorious as it helps users reduce the cognitive load because coercing users to make too many decisions will propel them to take the easy way out.

Drupal provides different ways of implementing predictive UX:

Acquia Lift

A drop shaped icon and a rocket passing through it representing Acquia lift logo

Acquia Lift Connector, a Drupal module, offers integration with the Acquia Lift service and an improved user experience for web personalisation, testing and targeting directly on the front end of your website.

It leverages machine learning to automatically recommend content based on what a user is currently looking at or has looked in the past. It has a drag-and-drop feature for developing, previewing and launching personalisations and has a customer data repository for providing a single view of customers.

It has the feature of real-time adaptive targeting that refines segments while A/B helps in keeping the users engrossed with the content that resonates.

ApachePrediction IO

Bay Area Drupal Camp 2018 has a session where a demonstration showed how predictive UX helps users decide. It was geared towards both UX designers and developers. It talked about how machine learning powers predictive UX and the ways of implementing it using Drupal.
 

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It exhibited a Drupal 8 site which had a list of restaurants that could be sorted by proximity. That means you can check out the nearest restaurant and order food. When users log in to this site, they see top recommendations customised to them.

There are some interesting things happening behind-the-scenes to show the recommendations. An API query is being sent to the machine learning server which, in return, shows a ranked list of recommendations. So, when users go to a restaurant and order food, all that data is sent to the event server through the API which is how data is being collected. Here, the Apache PredictionIO server, which is an open source machine learning stack, offers simple commands to train and deploy engine.

Gazing into the future of UX

UX Collective says that the future of UX is effulgent in the coming years. Demand for pixel perfect, usable and delightful UX is sky-high especially when digital transformation endeavours underway globally. Following graphical representation shows the top design-driven organisations against all of Standard and Poor’s (S&P) index.

Graphical representation showing a yellow line and a red line to depict Standard and Poor’s indexSource: Job Trends Report: The Job Market for UX/UI Designers

It further states that UX design will consist of more formal studies:

  • Study of cognitive neuroscience and human behaviour
  • Study of ethics
  • Artificial Intelligence advances, generated and unsupervised machine learning-based system interactions, predictive UX, personalised robotic services and so on

Conclusion

User experience will always be an integral component of any sector in any industry. While web personalisation is a sure-shot way of improving digital web experience, disrupting technologies like machine learning take it to another level. Leveraging machine learning algorithms, predictive UX can forecast user choices and help them decide. Implementing predictive UX is a praiseworthy solution to offer users an unprecedented digital experience.

When it comes to Drupal development, OpenSense Labs has been making steadfast in its objectives of embracing innovative technologies that can be implemented with Drupal’s robust framework.

Contact us at [email protected] to implement predictive UX with Drupal.

Nov 28 2018
Nov 28

More than five centuries ago, Johannes Gutenberg introduced the mechanical movable type printing and set the stage for the Renaissance and Age of Enlightenment. Years later, digitisation has brought a volte-face in the thinking and has carved out new ways of sharing and governing the content. Gutenberg editor, which is named after Johannes Gutenberg, is one of a kind and is destined to streamline website creation and editing even for the average non-technical users with its cutting-edge features.

Black and white image of Johannes Gutenberg and written text in the background


Other platforms like Medium, Squarespace or Ghost provide a really unique and refreshing experience for writers. This led to the development of Gutenberg editor. It was introduced to the world by Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, at WordCamp Europe in 2017. The idea behind this is to make the process of adding rich content to the site simple and enjoyable. So, how can Drupal and Gutenberg be combined?

What is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg editor allows you to govern website content in customisable chunks or blocks where you do not have to be adept with HTML or need to write shortcodes. The complete layout of the website can be controlled including both the front end and the back end from a single console.

Black and white image with the word ‘Gutenberg’ written in bold


By looking at the editor as more than a content field, Gutenberg allows you to revisit a layout that has not been touched for over a decade thereby enabling you to design a modern editing experience. Now, the question arises. Why does Gutenberg lets you look at the whole editing experience and not just the content field?

As the block unifies several interfaces, adding that on top of the existing interface would add intricacy as opposed to removing it. Revisiting the interface allows us to create a rich and modern experience while writing, editing and publishing and all the while keeping factors like usability and simplicity in mind. Singular block interface offers a clear path for the developers for the creation of blocks. By considering the whole interface puts the emphasis on full site customisation. Full editor screen not only entirely modernises the foundation but paves way for more fluid and JavaScript-powered future.

Gutenberg for Drupal

What’s the situation like in Drupal? Like Wordpress, Drupal is an open source content management system (CMS) and there is a never-ending debate on which one’s better (we have done our part as well). But providing a modern UI for rich content creation is a priceless feature which is what Wordpress has done by introducing Gutenberg editor. This decoupled React-based editing experience can work wonders for Drupal as well.

Difference between CKEditor and Gutenberg

Merging Drupal and Gutenberg is a killer combination as it allows us to empower content authors to develop rich landing pages inside a rock solid CMS framework. Before we jump into that, let’s see what the current mode of editing looks like in Drupal.

Admin interface of Drupal’s CKEditor module in action with an illustration showing a dumbbell, gym rope, pair of shoes, water bottle and a smartwatch kept on a smartphoneAdmin Interface of CKEditor module

The picture shown above is an example of the current text editor of Drupal which is CKEditor - WYSIWYG HTML editor. It is part of the Drupal 8 core modules and is magnificent to work around. It brings the stupendous WYSIWYG editing functions of known desktop editors like Microsoft Word to the web. It is super fast and does need any sort of installation on the client computer.

On the contrary, Gutenberg editor can make your words, pictures, and layout look as good on screen as they do in your visualisation. By leveraging blocks for the creation of all types of content, it removes inconsistent ways of customisation of Drupal and adheres to modern coding standards thereby aligning with open web initiatives. You can try it out yourself!

Table showing three columns and five rows for comparing Gutenberg editor and CKEditor


How does Gutenberg work?

In a session, held at Drupal Europe 2018, a demonstration showed how Gutenberg content editor would work with Drupal. Gutenberg module needs to be installed and enabled.

[embedded content]


Like the Drupal paradigm, all elements on a page are Gutenberg blocks. Blocks are basically the unifying evolution of what is now encompassed by shortcodes, embeds, meta-boxes, theme options, custom post types, post formats, and other formatting elements.

While Gutenberg comes with its own set of blocks, Drupal core has its own as well. That is, all the existing Drupal blocks are available in the Gutenberg UI and can be inserted into a page along with core blocks. In addition to this you can, of course, extend them or build your own. You can also access to Gutenberg Cloud library for more contributed blocks.

Gif showing the demo of Drupal Gutenberg with text on left-hand side and the settings on the right-hand sideA demo of Gutenberg

The block types that are working in the first release are:

  • Content positioning: Performing the positioning of content can be flexibly done as there is no separation between what’s inside the editor and what is before or after.
  • Font: It has an awesome font colour and size adjustment mechanism. The UI for altering fonts and colours is eye-catching.
  • Searchable blocks: In addition to having a search box at the top left, page blocks are accessible inline with the help of “/”.
  • Embedding: Whether you need to embed social posts or videos, just paste the URL. You will see it expanding by itself.
  • Layout: As the blocks can have child blocks, handling layout is simple. You can split your blocks into columns on a grid.

Conclusion

It is so wonderful to think that Drupal is the best way to get your ideas on the web (Of course it is!). But if you know how to write code, then you can unlock a world of beautiful features that Drupal can offer. Not everyone is adept with code. With Gutenberg editor, you don’t need to.

Gutenberg’s content blocks would metamorphose how users, developers, and hosts communicate with Drupal to make developing rich web content simpler and more intuitive. Thus, it democratises publishing and can work for everyone no matter what their technical proficiency is.

With our expertise in Drupal Development, we can help make your digital transformations dreams come true.

Ping us at [email protected] to know more on how Gutenberg can change the editing process on your Drupal site forever.

Nov 24 2018
Nov 24

“Read out the headlines on the front page of today’s edition of The New York Times newspaper”. Say something like this to Google Home or Amazon Echo and you will get to listen to a voice reading out the news. Forget swiping, scrolling and typing, just talk to a voice assistant and hear what you want. Voice interfaces are all the rage in recent times.

A pile of books, a voice interface device, a pen and an apple kept close to each other


Not only is it helpful for your personal use, but organisations from different industries can find it meritorious. When it comes to new publishing opportunities, voice interfaces are right up there alongside artificial intelligence, augmented reality and blockchain. This world is not a part of a fairy tale and voice interface do pose a few challenges. Before we see how publishing companies make a great use of voice assistants, let’s explore voice interfaces a bit.

What exactly are voice interfaces?

Voice user interfaces (VUIs) enable the user to communicate with a system through voice or speech commands. Amazon Alexa, Echo dot, Google Home, Google Mini, Siri, Cortana and the Google Assistant some of the great examples of VUI.  The primary advantage of a VUI is that it enables you to interact with a product hands-free, eyes-free.

The primary advantage of a VUI is that it enables you to interact with a product hands-free, eyes-free.

Applying the same design guidelines to VUIs as to Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) is impossible. There are no visual affordances in a VUI. That means when you are looking at a GUI, you have no apparent indications of what the interface can do or what are the options available. When designing VUI actions, it is of paramount significance that the system clearly lays down possible interaction options, lets the user know what functionality is he/she is using and limit the amount of information to an amount that the user can remember.

Now, why are they important? It’s growing at an alarming pace and Gartner, a research firm, says that it is a trend, no discussion. You can see ‘Virtual Assistant’ in the graphical representation of emerging technologies below.

raphical representation showing parabolic line and blue dots and yellow triangles on it to show the Gartner's hype cycle for emerging technologiesSource: Gartner

VUI is getting better and better. In just an year, the betterment is apparently visible. Whether it is Google Home or Siri, advancements are impeccable as can be seen in the following graph.

Bar graph showing a light and dark green vertical bars to depict the improvement in voice assistants

Things that publishers need to know

There is a land grab to own skills and in the arena of VUI, skills can be split into two categories.

First is the branded skills that are connected to your brand and could not be owned by any other organisation. Skills like TED’s ‘play the latest TED Talk’ action and the Wall Street Journal’s ‘What’s News?’ come into this category.

Another category is the one that encompasses more generic skills like “Alexa, give me the headlines on sports” or “Okay Google, give me the stock market news”. Ownership of such generic skills would give you the sole authority over all the categories from the creation of first-mover advantage in the market as brands race to the capturing skills before they are gone.

This can make things tougher for brands who are looking to extract market-specific skills in both the generic and branded categories. And like most things, it is all about finding the right target.

Consumer Intelligence Research Partners stated in a study that Amazon Echo customer spend 66% more than average Amazon customers. This goes to say that Amazon can now afford to sell Echo devices at a lesser price than originally planned. They can even occasionally take a loss on devices for gaining a greater share of consumer spending. The inference that we get from this for the publishers is that optimising for voice search could result in a revenue boost.

Benefits of voice assistants for publishers

Emphasising on Customer Experience

Fabrice Rousseau, Amazon’s general manager of Alexa skills, emphasised on reinventing customer experience with the help of voice technology in his keynote address at the CMO Digital Insight Summit. He said, “When we moved from desktop to mobile we didn’t bring the desktop experience to mobile, we invented a very specific mobile experience”. He further stated, “When you move from mobile to voice don’t bring your mobile experience. Just invent an experience that is unique to voice.”

Fabrice Rousseau, Amazon’s general manager of Alexa skills, standing on the stage and several people sitting and listening to him.

One of the greatest examples of the importance of customer experience through voice technology can be seen through Amazon Audible. If you are a fan of audiobooks, the odds are that Amazon is your preferred place to shop. Of all the ways Amazon has been able to prove its hegemony in the book market, its share of audiobook sales probably represents its most formidable dominance.

Branding with skills

It is of utmost importance to note that, as far as most of the publishers are concerned, although the VUIs have been storming the market, there’s still plenitude of advancements in the pipeline. In spite of early triumphs with branded skills and flash briefings, VUIs still operate at a fairly low level such as following the commands to play music or read out your appointment dates. With that being said, many publishers are already working on plans for expansion. With the land grab to own skills still underway, the ones who make the first move will taste the success in the future.

What are the major challenges?

Dearth of personality

Voice assistants’ dearth of personality is one of the foremost concerns of publishers. Chris Gathercole, the head of FTLabs at the Financial Times, and his team used Amazon Polly for converting existing text articles into audio that is then delivered by ‘Artificial Amy’. What they observed was that ‘Amy’ was quick to learn and was also cost-effective but her lack of human-like characteristics was irksome and killed the humour or nuance of a piece.

Banal and disturbing

Automated voices are often either of banal nature or straight up disturbing which can put users off. An amalgamation of artificial and human voices could temper the issue with a voice actor reading parts of the text and a computerised voice contributing further snippets.

Automated voices are often either of banal nature or straight up disturbing

Privacy concerns

There are privacy concerns hovering around the ownership of devices that are essentially perpetually eavesdropping on your home. Consumer Watchdog, a customer advocacy group, stated in a study. “These patents show that smart devices target moments in between screen time to monitor sleep habits, listen in on dinner conversations, and track when users shower. Access to this data can flesh out Google and Amazon’s profiles of their users in order to help them more accurately server targeted ads”.

Conclusion

Conversations will evolve into an integral element of digital experiences. Interfaces that enable people to use natural language - from chatbots based on typing and reading to voice interfaces that are based on speaking and listening - are highly popular but also very immature.

However, with more devices without screens being connected, more consumers will look to voice for controlling their efforts and to perform more intricate tasks. Enterprises including publishing companies need guidance from Customer Experience (CX) pros so that their efforts at building conversational interfaces help customers instead of driving them away.

Looking for CX pro? Looking no further than OpenSense Labs as we strongly believe in offering a wonderful digital experience through a suite of services.

Contact us at [email protected] to know more about the benefits of voice interface for a publishing company.

Nov 23 2018
Nov 23

There is a moment of realisation when we see how much we have actually evolved while reading a novel where the story takes us into the 20th century. When we see characters in that novel, who go to the office and have to keep an account of all the company documents that just keeps mounting up, we sense the burned-out feeling of all those office-goers. And then there is this internet era where all the documents are digitally managed, searched, shared and archived. Such is the effect of digitisation that something like a Document Management System helps an organisation to go paperless and govern complex files in an organised way.

Rolled printer papers on the table with a lady sitting in the background


Instead of searching for files and consuming a lot of time and effort, the Document Management System (DMS) is a one-stop destination for streamlining business workflow and improving team collaboration in the process. It helps in letting go of papers and having a positive change in the environment. Drupal, as one of the leading open source content management framework, has the provision for handling document management with a suite of modules. Let’s look at what DMS is exactly before we plunge into Drupal’s efficacy.

What is a Document Management System?

Document management system refers to the system that is developed specifically for authoring and governing electronic documents. Creating, sharing, organising, and archiving the documents are managed by DMS. It simplifies these processes for enhancing productivity while managing the documents digitally. Its central electronic location streamlines the process of finding documents, saves your time in the process, and helps you manage more of your organisation’s core operations.

Document management system refers to the system that is developed specifically for authoring and governing electronic documents.
Infographics with statistical information written below the logos of IDC, M-files, Harris interactive, and Ombud

DMS is quintessential. A compilation of statistics by Business.com delineates that document management is right up there and is very essential for efficacious business workflow. In a survey, IDC stated that 21.3% of productivity is lost because of convolutions in handling the document. Another report by M-Files states that poor document storage amounts to 50% of the loss of time due to difficulty while searching. Harris interactive says in a study that 83% of knowledge workers lose time in versioning and e-signatures reduce timearound times by 80% according to Ombud Inc.

Categories of Document Management System

The two common types of DMS include cloud-based and self-hosted.

Cloud-based DMS

In this case, the software is hosted by your provider which is accessible online. As long as you are connected to the internet, it is possible logging into the system. You won’t require an IT team for installation to keep it running properly. You can tap into the system from anywhere and anytime while files are automatically saved in the cloud thereby reducing the need for regular backups.

Self-hosted DMS

Unlike Cloud-based DMS, it is stored on your company’s servers. It is possible to store as many files as your server allows. The challenge lies in regularly backing up files manually. It is great for users who value being in control of their own system and do not have to rely on others to keep it running.

Features of Document Management System

  • Storage: DMS lets you archive your files in a single location so that they can be retrieved, stored and shared easily for future use.
  • Security: DMS helps you in avoiding unauthorised access by implementing role-based permissions for file entry. Some systems also restrict IP addresses.
  • Version control: You do not have to handle numerous copies of a single document thereby staying in control of your document’s versions. You can see all the versions made and sends alerts to all the members about the most up-to-date version.
  • Indexing: You can index files systematically for a swift, simple retrieval later on given its file key.
  • Uploading: You can upload documents in bulk efficiently.
  • Editing: It is easier to apply adjustments and modifications to a PDF file.
  • Branding: It is possible to define your organisation’s branding by setting up its colour, theme and logo to convey your brand’s look and feel.
  • On-the-go: You can access your files using mobile devices. This helps in easily capturing images of documents and uploading them swiftly.
  • Synchronising files: Online files with the copies of documents stored in your system can be synced which helps in updating the team members with the latest documents.
  • Audit trail: Referring to a document’s path in its lifecycle, audit trail feature of DMS helps in fetching detailed reports on the path that the file has followed.

Merits of a Document Management System

  • Centralisation: DMS lets you organise your file easily using tags and labels thereby centralising the document management.
  • Team collaboration: DMS allows team members to view and edit a document at the same time.
  • Data security: Many Document Management Systems implement a role-based access control for permitting entry only to specific users to the document.
  • File retrieval: Simple by using a keyword or keyphrase, you can look for a specific file. You can also use a document remotely.
  • Regulatory compliance: DMS leverages features like audit trails, security and backups to ensure regulatory compliance like the 21 CFR Part 11 and Annex 11.
  • Carbon footprint: Choosing DMS ensures that you are reducing carbon footprint by going paperless.

Examples of Document Management System

Alfresco, an open source Enterprise Content Management (ECM), offers document management, collaboration, knowledge and web content management, record and image management, content repository and workflow.

Seed DMS, an open source DMS, is user-friendly. It serves as a fully developed enterprise-ready platform for tracing, accessing, storing and sharing documents.

M-Files is another useful and easy-to-implement DMS. It helps in governing your information securely with its Check-out feature.

LogicalDOC is an open-source Java-based system which improves productivity and collaboration of document management system.

Ademero supports centralised control mechanism for storing documents at a single vault and allows scanned documents to be converted into PDFs using Optical Character Recognition feature.

How can Drupal be integrated with Document Management Systems?

Drupal offers an amazing set of modules and distributions that can help in incorporating the features of DMS.

Vardoc: Knowledge base system and documentation site

Logo of vardoc with an icon representing documents on left and vardoc written on right

Vardoc, which is a knowledge base system, a wiki system and a DMS, is Drupal distribution built for hosting an enormous amount of content in a structured and easy to find format. It lets you develop a connected organisation, product or knowledge area.

This is built on top of Varbase, which is an open source Drupal 8 distribution, and offers some useful functionalities like editorial features, search function, taxonomy, user management and customisable themes.

Moreover, it delivers top-of-the-line non-functional requirements like enterprise security, high performance, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), accessibility compliance and so on.

Document Module

Document module provides complete integration with Drupal node system and acts as a DMS for Drupal. This module adds a custom node type - document. Every document that you will create will be a Drupal node and therefore will reap the benefits available to a node.

It has the support for document revisions/versioning. The custom fields added by the module to the Document node type are accessible in Views. It also has the support for theming.

Moreover, the documents, being nodes, are entirely indexable by the Drupal search system. This module also provides its own custom search for documents. This module is available only for Drupal 7 version.

CMIS API

CMIS API is a suite of modules primarily offering an API for connecting to Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) compliant systems to bi-directionally syncing content between the CMIS ECM system and Drupal.

It also comes with features like creating, updating, browsing and searching content in the CMIS ECM system through the Drupal interface.

The objective of CMIS API is to offer an easy-to-use, web content management front-end in Drupal for ECM systems that are, most often than not, unfamiliar to web content managers.

Filedepot

Filedepot module gives you a Google Docs like feel. It is an integrated file management module that supports role and user-based security. You can save the documents outside the Drupal public directory for safe access.

Files of all type can be stored in filedepot and its flexible permission model lets you delegate folder administration to other users.

You can simply drag and drop files from local desktop and upload them in bulk. Also, users can receive notification of new files being added or altered. You can flag the document as ‘locked’ in order to alert users that it is being updated. This module is available only for Drupal 7 version.

Alfresco Module

Different coloured droplet-shaped icons forming a circle on left and alfresco written on right

Alfresco module provides integration between Drupal and Alfresco Enterprise CMS. It helps you in developing Drupal sites using the Alfresco’s document management repository for storing and sharing documents.

It governs Alfresco content items as Drupal nodes with the help of custom content type (Alfresco item). It also offers a Content Construction Kit (CCK) field type for Alfresco content items.

Bundled with AJAX-based repository browser, it lets you visualise, upload, search and retrieve nodes from the Alfresco repository. Please note that this module is not covered by Drupal’s security advisory policy.

Web File Manager

WebFM module is based on a hierarchical directory structure and leverages AJAX for letting the administrators arrange files on the server in a similar way as done with file managers on the personal systems. This improves the manageability of huge collections of documents.

It lets you define permissions by role and file user ID. You can also attach files to numerous nodes and/or comments. This module is not covered by Drupal’s security advisory policy.

Conclusion

Document Management Systems are essential for product documentation sites, agencies who want to document software, documentation for open source products/projects, organisations who want to document their process and online user manuals. Integrating DMS with Drupal is a praiseworthy option as you get the best of Drupal’s robust content management functionalities and the power of specialised DMS.

Drupal experts at OpenSense Labs are committed to delivering an incredible digital experience with its suite of services.

Contact us at [email protected] to leverage the power of Drupal and the DMS.

Nov 19 2018
Nov 19

Delicious. Sweet. Yummy. You may taste the jam and say these words or just the thought of jars containing jam stacked together may propel you to blurt out these words. Talking about the stack, in the technological space, we no longer talk about operating systems, specific web servers, backend programming languages or databases. In the web development arena, we think of different sorts of development stacks like the LAMP stack, the MEAN stack etc. And there is a new kid in the block called JAMstack which is not about specific technologies but a new way of building websites and apps.

Jars stacked together consisting an image of a tree on them and a red cloth over the lid.


What is the concept behind JAMstack?

To build a web development project with the JAMstack, three integral criteria should be met namely:

  • JavaScript: It governs the dynamic programming during the request/response cycle running completely on the client (e.g. Vue.js, React.js etc.)
  • APIs: Abstraction of all the server-side processes or database actions into reusable APIs is done which are accessed over HTTPS with JS (e.g. Twilio, Stripe)
  • Markup: By leveraging a site generator for content sites or a build tool for web apps, templated markup must be prebuilt at deploy time (e.g. Gatsby.js, Webpack).

Benefits of JAMstack

  • High performance: When it comes to reducing the time to first byte, pre-built files served over Content Delivery Network (CDN) enhances web performance. You do not have to wait for the pages to build on the fly as JAMstack allows you to generate them at deploy time.
Graphical representation showing uneven lines in purple and grey colours to explain time to first byteA high TTFB penalizes the Speed Index of a page
Source: DareBoost Blog
  • Robust Security: Abstraction of server-side processes into microservice APIs minimises the security threats. Also, the domain expertise of specialist third-party services can be utilised.
  • Better Scalability: CDNs are a great way of ensuring scalability when your deployment amounts to a stack of files that can be served anywhere.
  • Great developer experience: More targeted development and debugging can be done by the developers with loose coupling and separation of controls. Moreover, the need to administer a separate stack for content and marketing goes away with the expanding selection of CMS options for site generators.

Best practices

  • The entire site must be served on CDN. Rather than living on a single server, JAMstack projects can be distributed as they do not rely on server-side code.
  • Atomic deploys should be employed. This ensures that no alterations go live until all the changed files have been uploaded.
  • Governance of instant cache purges by CDN ensures that when a deploy goes live it really goes live.
  • Everything should dwell in Git. This minimises contributor friction and streamlines staging and testing workflows.
  • Utilise modern build tools like Babel, PostCSS, Webpack etc.
  • Automate markup builds. This is because JAMstack markup is prebuilt and content alterations won’t go live unless and until you run another build.

How is JAMstack different from other development stacks?

Three columns with headings LAMP, MEAN and JAM stack with icons below representing different technologiesSource: Memory Leak’s blog | Medium

Jamstack is an alternative to the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) and MEAN (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular and Node.js) stacks.

LAMP is used to build dynamic websites and web apps. In this, pages are reconstructed from a database on request instead of being held as flat documents ready for delivery. It is easy to add content and modify them. However, JAMstack delivers content at a much faster speed.

MEAN and LAMP are more similar to each other and are very different from JAMstack.

MEAN is also designed for building dynamic websites and apps. All the MEAN components are written in JavaScripts. The key difference is that MEAN still assembles pages from databases on request like LAMP. MEAN and LAMP are more similar to each other and are very different from JAMstack.

Two columns with the heading LAMP workflow and JAM workflow and bullet points below themSource: Memory Leak’s blog | Medium

Implementing JAMstack and Drupal together

Web development projects that rely on a tight coupling between client and server is not built with the JAMstack. This comprises of a site built with a server-side CMS like Drupal, a monolithic server-run web app relying on backend language and a single page app that is using isomorphic rendering for creating views on the server at runtime. So, how can Drupal and JAMstack work together?

[embedded content]


In a session held at Bay Area Drupal Camp 2018, a demonstration showed a method of integration of Gatsby with Drupal. Gatsby is one of the leading JAMstack based static page generators. The demo showed that Gatsby is not a replacement for Drupal and Drupal would still control the content, site structure and how content is created. Whereas Gatsby would be governing little things like the public facing site.

Gatsby is not a replacement for Drupal and Drupal would still control the content

It talked about ‘Gatsby Drupal Kit’ which is under development stages that can help jumpstart Gatsby-Drupal integrations. It is designed to work with a minimal Drupal install as a jumping off point and provide a structure that can be elongated to a larger and complex site.

The demonstration focused on a base Drupal 8 site connected with Gatsby and the best practices for making Gatsby work for real sites in production. The emphasis was also on the sane patterns for translating Drupal’s structure into Gatsby components, templates, and pages.

Conclusion

Once you have fully understood the specific risks and put in place appropriate workflows, the JAMstack exhibits its share of opportunities. Creating a static site takes time and needs an architecture involving orchestration of several solutions. Today, it may seem intricate but so was your first dynamic site involving choosing a host, master FTP, juggling the web server logs and so on. With experience, JAMstack users would be more and more adept in leveraging its full potential.

OpenSense Labs has been making the digital transformation dreams come true for its partners with a suite of services.

Contact us at [email protected] to leverage JAMstack for Drupal sites.

Nov 16 2018
Nov 16

From the vantage point of a school, some of the features that prove its greatness are a library with a superabundance of books, science laboratory with advanced scientific instruments, projection room with 3D technology and so on. Today, where almost everything is happening through the internet, the education sector is not left far behind. E-learning platforms have taken the world by storm with its unprecedented provisions of online learning. And E-learning platforms need great features as well to be able to disseminate knowledge across multiple channels efficaciously.

Written equations on brown wooden board


A lot of significant features can spring up in your mind that you think should be in an e-learning platform. It can be tons of courses on a plenitude of subjects for the learners. Or it can be digital certifications that can be provided for a successful completion of a course. Drupal comes with some amazing set of modules for enabling essential features of an e-learning platform. Let’s look at some of the important features and see how Drupal has the answer for that.

Courses

Modern learners are infatuated with the notion of getting a top-quality education and love to choose from an extensive list of courses on an e-learning platform. Some of the Drupal modules that can be helpful in creating courses include:

Course module lets you build e-learning courses with any number of tracked requirements for completion. It allows any content type to be used as an e-learning course comprising of graded or ungraded course subjects. It offers course object API for defining learning objects that can be added to a workflow.

For assigning and mapping credit types to learner profiles and courses, Course Credit module is useful. On successful completion of an activity, online learners will be able to receive or claim credit for which they are eligible. 

To expose Course module as a Course object, Course relationships module is effective which allows parent courses to include sub-courses. It can grant access to sub-courses by enrolling into or purchasing a parent course.

Quiz

Through online tests and quizzes, an instructor can track the progress of students and analyse the effectiveness of the curriculum. Simultaneously, it paves the way for the students to track their own progress and improve their skills accordingly.

Quiz module allows you to build graded analytics in Drupal where a quiz is given as a series of questions and the answers are, then, stored in the database. During or after the quiz, the scores and results are displayed. Administrators can also provide automatic or manual feedback. This module can be leveraged as an object in a larger Learning Management System (LMS) or a supplemental classroom activity.

Certification

Skills and certification tracking is one of the important features of an e-learning platform.

Certificate module helps in creating and awarding PDF certificates with the help of tokenised HTML templates. It provides the interface for governing custom certificate templates and mappings and allows integration with Wysiwig for rich certificates.

Open badges, which are digital images used to recognise an individual’s skills and achievements, can be created with Drupal. Open digital badging module helps in providing a Mozilla OBI compliant badge empowered by the learning system.

To create badges earned by students on their successful completion of a course or a class, Opigno Mozilla Open Badges App module lets you integrate Opigno LMS with Mozilla Open Badges. In this, badges will be exhibited in the user profile and can be automatically synchronised with Mozilla Backpack.

Social learning/ Message boards

E-learning platforms should allow students to learn from one another.

Modules like Opigno Messaging and Opigno Forum, which are related to Opigno LMS distribution, govern the private messaging feature to let users share messages between them. It allows you to select a list of recipients and start a discussion thread with the selected users. It is worth noting that these modules are not covered by Drupal’s security advisory policy.

Social Login and Social Share modules eliminate the need of creating a username and password by allowing you to log in using the social network sites and helps in sharing the content with your network.

Consistent instructor presence

The role of the instructor is significant in e-learning as he or she is instrumental in encouraging and inspiring the students.

Opigno instructor-led training module helps in implementing instructor-led training (ILT) entity. It can be added to learning paths in combination with online modules and virtual classrooms. ILT sessions let you register attendance of users and provide them with a grade. These sessions can be made mandatory in the learning path and are automatically added to the user’s calendar. Also, note that this module is not covered by Drupal’s security advisory policy.

A well-designed LMS

A streamlined and a well-designed LMS means that it should be easy to navigate, well-organised, and must contain high-quality content.

The LTI Tool Provider module allows a Drupal site to act as a Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) Tool in any LMS that supports the LTI standard. LTI compliant LMSs include Angel, Blackboard Learn, Moodle, and Sakai. Please note that this module is not covered by Drupal’s security advisory policy.

Kaltura module helps in integrating the Kaltura video platform capabilities into Drupal thereby allowing you to instantly enrich your Drupal site with video, audio, and images.

Chamilo integration module allows integration of Drupal with Chamilo LMS by offering ways to see Chamilo resources into Drupal blocks.

Would love to have a starter kit for building the LMS? Open LMS distribution, which is developed and actively maintained by OpenSense Labs, is a learning management system based on Drupal 8 that comes with robust features.

Open LMS offers numerous kinds of content type like textual study material, video lectures, documents that can be utilised as a course material for students. Also, it lets you add H5P, HTML5 based interactive video content type, to the course.

Moreover, it provides a quiz and subjective test functionality, assignment functionality powered by Webforms, and calendar functionality to schedule courses. Please note that Open LMS is not covered by Drupal’s security advisory policy.

Conclusion

E-learning platforms have changed the landscape of education. And Drupal as an open source software and a robust content store helps in innovatively build an efficient e-learning platform.

Some of the significant features have been discussed in this blog post that is fulfilled by Drupal’s incredible set of modules. OpenSense Labs has been powering digital experience dreams of its partners with its expertise in Drupal development.

Contact us at [email protected] to build a great e-learning platform with Drupal.
 

Nov 14 2018
Nov 14

Have you always secretly wanted to spend your evenings writing symphonies, learning about filmography or assessing climate change? Studying niche subjects have traditionally been for niche students. But e-learning platforms have changed all that with the provision for learning almost any subject online.

A student in the front and two behind him sitting on their chairs with a paper and a pen in their hands


Corporate e-learning has witnessed a stupendous 900% growth in the last decade or so. With more and more e-learning platforms flourishing, organisations are striving to be the best to stand apart from the rest. Drupal has been a great asset in powering education and e-learning with its powerful capabilities that can help enterprises offer a wonderful digital experience. Let’s trace the roots of e-learning before diving deep into the ocean of possibilities with Drupal for building an amazing e-learning platform.

Before the internet era

Infographic with ten rows, icons and text showing the timeline of e-learningSource: eFront

A brief history of e-learning can be traced through the compilation made by eFront. Even before the internet existed, distance education was being offered. In 1840, Isaac Pitman taught shorthand via correspondence where completed assignments were sent to him via mail and he would, then, send his students more work.

Fast forward to the 20th century, the first testing machine was invented in 1924 that enabled students to test themselves. The teaching machine was invented in 1954 by a Harvard professor for allowing schools to administer programmed instruction to students. In 1960, the first computer-based training program (CBT program) called Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operation (PLATO).

At a CBT systems seminar in 1999, the term ‘e-learning’ was first utilised. Eventually, with internet and computers becoming the core of businesses, the 2000s saw the adoption of e-learning by organisations to train employees. Today, a plenitude of e-learning solutions are available in the form of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), Social platforms and Learning Management System among others.

E-learning: Learn anywhere, anytime

In essence, e-learning refers to the computer-based educational tool or system that allows you to learn anywhere and at any time. It is the online method of building skills and knowledge across the complete workforce and with customers and partners. It comes with numerous formats like the self-paced courses, virtual live classrooms or informal learning.

E-learning refers to the computer-based educational tool or system that allows you to learn anywhere and at any time

Technological advancements have diminished the geographical gap with the use of tools that can make you feel as if you are inside the classroom. E-learning provides the ability to share material in all sorts of formats such as videos, slideshows, and PDFs. It is possible to conduct webinars (live online classes) and communicate with professors via chat and message forums.

There is a superabundance of different e-learning systems (otherwise known as Learning Management Systems or LMS) and methods which enable the courses to be delivered. With the right kind of tools, several processes can be automated like the marking of tests or the creation of engrossing content. E-learning offers the learners with the ability to fit learning around their lifestyles thereby enabling even the busiest of persons to further a career and gain new qualifications.

Merits and Demerits

Some of the major benefits are outlined below:

  • No restrictions: E-learning facilitates learning without having to organise when and where everyone, who is interested in learning a course, can be present.
  • Interactive and fun: Designing a course to make it interactive and fun with the use of multimedia or gamification enhances engagement and the relative lifetime of the course.
  • Affordable: E-learning is cost-effective. For instance, while textbooks can become obsolete, the need to perpetually acquire new editions by paying exorbitant amounts of money is not present in e-learning.

Some of the concerns that need to be taken care of:

  • Practical skills: It is considered tougher to pick up skills like building a wooden table, pottery, and car engineering from online resources as these require hands-on experience.
  • Secludedness: Although e-learning enables a person to remotely access a classroom in his or her own time, learners may feel a sense of isolation. Tools such as video conferencing, social media and discussion forums can allow them to actively engage with professors or other students.
  • Health concerns: With the mandatory need of a computer or mobile devices, health-related issues like eyestrain, bad posture, and other physical problems may be troublesome. However, sending out proper guidelines beforehand to the learner like correct sitting posture, desk height, and recommendations for regular breaks can be done.

Building Yardstick LMS with Drupal

OpenSense Labs built Yardstick LMS, a learning management system, for Yardstick Educational Initiatives which caters to the students of various schools of Dubai.

Homepage of Yardstick LMS with logos of schools containing leaves, candle, open books, and firestickYardstick LMS Homepage

The architecture of the project involved a lot of custom development:

1. Yardstick Core

This is the core module of the Yardstick LMS where the process of creating, updating and deleting the nodes take place.

2. Yardstick Quiz

We built this custom module for the whole functionality of the quiz component. It generates a quiz, quiz palette and quiz report after quiz completion based upon the validation of the visibility of the report.

Quiz report of Yardstick LMS with table consisting of columns showing the list of schools, students and grades.


We could generate three kinds of reports: 

  • An individual-level quiz where one’s performance is evaluated
  • A sectional-level report where performance for each section is evaluated
  • Grade-level report where performance for all the sections is compared and evaluated.

For the quiz, we had different sub-components like questions, options, marks, the average time to answer, learning objective, skill level score, and concept. The same question could be used for different quiz thereby minimising the redundancy of the data. Also, image, video or text could be added for questions.

Subcomponents of yardstick LMS with a tabular column for assessing the learning objective and two of the metrics coloured yellow and red.


3. Yardstick Bulk User Import

This module was built to assist the administrators in creating users all at once by importing a CSV file. Also, there is an option to send invitation mail to all the users with login credentials.

Message box for importing users with a blank box and a submit button


4. Yardstick Custom Login

We provided a custom login feature where same login credentials could be used to log into the Yardstick system. That is, we provided an endpoint for verifying the login credentials and upon success, users were logged in.

5. Yardstick Validation

This module offers all the validation across the site whether it is related to access permission or some time validation.

6. Yardstick Challenge

It offers the user an option to submit a task which is assigned to them where they are provided with text area and file upload widget.

Yardstick LMS has an intricate structure

On the end user side, there is a seamless flow but as we go deeper, it becomes challenging. Yardstick LMS has an intricate structure.

We had two kinds of login:

  • Normal login using Yardstick credentials
  • And the other for school-specific login like the Delhi Public School (DPS) users.
Flowchart with rectangles and circles of different colours explaining Yardstick LMS custom loginYardstick LMS custom login for DPS users

For DPS users, we used the same login form but a different functionality for validating credentials. DPS school gave us an endpoint where we sent a POST request with username and password. If the username and password were correct, then that endpoint returned the user information.

If the username was received, we checked on our Yardstick system if the username exists. If it does not exist, then we programmatically created a new user with the information that we received from the endpoint and created a user session. And if does exist, then we updated the password on our system.

Yardstick LMS is designed to govern multiple schools at the same time

We designed Yardstick LMS in such a way that multiple schools can be governed at the same time. All the students of various schools will be learning the same content thereby building uniformity.

The core part of our system dwells in the modules. The module is a content type that can store numerous information like components, concept, description, objective, syllabus among others. 

Several different components can be added like Task, Quiz, Video task, Extension, Feedback, Inspiration, pdf lesson plan, Real life application, and Scientific principles.

Yardstick LMS real-life application component page with an image showing animated human figures and atomic theory written above themYardstick LMS Real life application component page

Schools could opt for different modules for different grades. When a module was subscribed by a school, a clone module of the master module was created and the school copy was visible only to the school. School version could be modified by the school admin as per their needs and preferences. Master module remained the same. While creating a subscription, administrator had to provide the date so that the components were accessible to the students. School admin could set different dates to different components and only the components with past date were accessible.

Flow chart showing rectangles, squares and elliptical circle of different colours to explain module subscription to school in yardstick LMSFlow Diagram of module subscription to school

Also, we provided an option to create a dynamic feedback form for the modules for analysis. Yardstick Admin had the option to design and create a feedback form as per their requirement and could assign it to a particular module. Different types of elements could be utilised for designing the form like rating, captcha, email, range slider, text field, checkboxes, radio buttons and so on.

Message box showing star icons, a blank box and a submit button


Students and teachers need to submit their feedback for each of the modules. On the basis of this, Yardstick team try to improve the content of the system.

Session evaluation page of yardstick LMS with a set of questions on the left and different options on the right and a blank box at the bottom


Also, various roles were defined for users such as Yardstick Administrator, School Administrator, Teacher, and Student.

1. Yardstick Admin

Yardstick Admin can perform all the operations. He or she can create new users, grant permissions and revoke them as well.

2. School Admin

It has the provision for handling all the operation which are only related to their school. School Admin handles the modules and their components and can import user for their school. All school reports and task submissions are visible to School Admins.

3. Teachers

Teachers can view modules and components assigned to their classes and provide remarks to the students for multiple components and they can view all kinds of reports.

4. Students

They can attempt quiz, submit tasks, view components and view their own reports.

What’s the future of e-learning?

According to a report on Research and Markets, the e-learning market is anticipated to generate revenue of $65.41 billion by 2023 with a growth rate of 7.07% during the forecast period.

The report goes on to state that with the advent of cloud infrastructure, peer-to-peer problem solving and open content creation, more business opportunities would pop up for service providers in the global e-learning market. The introduction of cloud-based learning and AR/VR mobile-based learning will be a major factor in driving the growth of e-learning.

The growth of the e-learning market is due to the learning process enhancements in the academic sector

According to Technavio, the growth of the market is due to the learning process enhancements in the academic sector.

Infographic showing statistics on e-learning market with icons representing bar graph, speedometer, horizontal lines, and a bulbGlobal self-paced e-learning market 2019-2023 | Source: Technavio

Following are major trends to look forward to:

  • Microlearning, which emphasises on the design of microlearning activities through micro-steps in digital media environments, will be on the rise.
  • Gamification, which is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context to keep the users engrossed and help them solve more problems, will see increased adoption rates.
  • Personalised learning, which is the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments to meet the demands of learners, can be a driving force.
  • Automatic learning, like the one shown in the movie The Matrix where a person is strapped onto a high-tech chair and a series of martial arts training programs are downloaded into his brain, can be a possibility.

Conclusion

It’s a world which is replete with possibilities. As one of the most intelligent species to walk on this earth, we perpetually innovate with the way we want to lead a better lifestyle. We learn new things to gain more knowledge. And in the process, we find ways of improving our learning experience. E-learning is one such tech marvel that promises to be a force to reckon with. It is not a disrupting technology but something that is going to get bigger and bigger in the years to come.

As a content management framework, Drupal offers a magnificent platform to build a robust e-learning system. With years of experience in Drupal Development, OpenSense Labs can help in providing an amazing digital experience. 

Contact us at [email protected] to build an e-learning system using Drupal and transform the educational experience.

Nov 03 2018
Nov 03

A machine learning model, that could lead a driver directly to an empty parking spot, fetched the second prize in the Graduate level: MS category at the 2018 Science and Technology Open House Competition. It goes without saying that dreams of computer systems with godlike powers and the wisdom to use them is not just a theological construct but a technological possibility. And sci-fi éminence grise Arthur C. Clarke rightfully remarked that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

A robot sitting on a brown chair, draped in a red blanket, working on a laptop with a glass of wine beside him and river water falling over a real human working on a laptop


Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be the buzzword of our times but Machine Learning (ML) is really the brass tacks. Machine learning has made great inroads into different areas. It has the capability of looking at the pictures of biopsies and picking out possible cancers. It can be taught to predict the outcome of legal cases, writing press releases and even composing music! However, the sci-fi future where a machine learning beats a human in all the conceivable department and is perpetually learning isn’t a reality yet. So, how does machine learning fit into the world of content management system like Drupal? Before finding that out, let’s go back to the times when computers did not even exist.

Machine learning predates computers! 

In this day and age, self-driving cars, voice-activated assistants and social media feed are some of the tools which are powered by machine learning. Compilations made by BBC and Forbes show that machine learning has a long timeline that relies on mathematics from hundreds of years ago and the elephantine developments in computing over the years.

Machine learning has a long timeline that relies on mathematics from hundreds of years ago and the elephantine developments in computing over the years

Mathematical innovations like Bayes’ Theorem (1812), Least Squares method for data fitting (1805) and Markov Chains (1913) laid the foundation for modern machine learning concept. 

In the late 1940s, stored-program computers like Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (1948) came into the picture. Through the 1950s and 1960s, several influential discoveries were made like the ‘Turing Test’, first computer learning program, first neural network for computers and the ‘nearest neighbour’ algorithm. In the nineties, IBM’s Deep Blue beat the world chess champion.

Post-millennium, we have several technology giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Facebook today actively working on more advanced machine learning models. Proof of this is the Alpha algorithm, developed by Google DeepMind, which beat a professional in the Go competition and it is considered more intricate than chess!

Discovering Machine Learning

A gif showing a flowchart of machine learning through icons like computers, bulb, magnifying glass, Rubik's cube and boxes.

Machine learning is a form of AI that allows a system to learn from data instead of doing that through explicit programming. It is not a simple process. As the algorithms ingest training data, producing more accurate models based on that data is possible.

Advanced machine learning algorithms are composed of many technologies (such as deep learning, neural networks and natural-language processing), used in unsupervised and supervised learning, that operate guided by lessons from existing information. - Gartner

When you train your machine learning algorithm with data, the output that is generated is the machine learning model. After training, when you provide an input to the model, an output will be given to you. For instance, a predictive algorithm will build a predictive model. Then, when the predictive model is provided with the data, you receive a prediction based on the data that trained the model.

Difference between AI and machine learning

Illustration showing small boxes inside and outside a bigger box to explain machine learning and artificial intelligenceSource: IBM

Machine learning may have relished a massive success of late but it is just one of the approaches for achieving artificial intelligence.
 
Forrester defines artificial intelligence as “the theory and capabilities that strive to mimic human intelligence through experience and learning”. AI systems generally demonstrate traits like planning, learning, reasoning, problem solving, knowledge solving, social intelligence and creativity among others.
 
Alongside machine learning, there are numerous other approaches used to build AI systems such as evolutionary computation, expert systems etc.

Categories of machine learning

Machine learning is generally divided into the following categories:

  • Supervised learning: It typically begins with an established set of data and with a certain understanding of the classification of that data is done and intends to find patterns in data for applying that to an analytics process.
  • Unsupervised learning: It is used when the problem needs a large amount of unlabeled data.
  • Reinforcement learning: It is a behavioural learning model. The algorithm receives feedback from the data analysis thereby guiding the user to the best outcome.
  • Deep learning: It incorporates neural networks in successive layers for learning the data in an iterative manner.

Why is machine learning accelerating?

A pyramid split into 4 parts of a different colour with each describing the Intelligence capability business modelSource: The Apttus Intelligence Capability Model

Today, the majority of enterprises require descriptive analytics, that is needed for efficient management, but not sufficient to enhance business performance. For the businesses to scale higher level of responsiveness, they need to move beyond descriptive analytics and move up the intelligence capability pyramid. This is where machine learning plays a key role.

For the businesses to scale higher level of responsiveness, they need to move beyond descriptive analytics and move up the intelligence capability pyramid.

Machine learning is not a new technique but the interest in the field has grown multifold in recent years. For enterprises, machine learning has the ability to scale across a broad range of businesses like manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, retail, travel and many others.

Three boxes on top and three boxes at the bottom with small icons over each of the boxes representing different industries of machine learningSource: Tata Consultancy Services

Business processes directly related to revenue-making are among the most-valued applications like sales, contract management, customer service, finance, legal, quality, pricing and order fulfilment.
 
Exponential data growth with unstructured data like social media posts, connected devices sensing data, competitor and partner pricing and supply chain tracking data among others is one of the reasons of why adoptions rates of machine learning have skyrocketed.
 
The Internet of Things (IoT) networks, connected devices and embedded systems are generating real-time data which is great for optimising supply chain networks and increasing demand forecast precision.
 
Another reason why machine learning is successful because of its ability to generate massive data sets through synthetic means like extrapolation and projection of existing historical data to develop realistic simulated data.
 
Moreover, the economics of safe and secure digital storage and cloud computing are merging to put infrastructure costs into free fall thereby making machine learning more cost effective for all the enterprises.

Machine Learning for Drupal

A session at DrupalCon Baltimore 2017 had a presentation which was useful for machine learning enthusiasts and it did not require any coding experience. It showed how to look at data from the eye view of a machine learning engineer. 

It also leveraged deep learning and site content to give Drupal superpowers by making use of same technology that is exploding at Facebook, Google and Amazon.

[embedded content]


The demonstration focused on mining Drupal content as the fuel for deep learning. It showed when to use existing ML models or services when to build your own, deployment of ML models and using them in production. It showed free pre-built models and paid services from Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Google and others.

Drag and drop interface was used for creating, training and deploying a simple ML model to the cloud with the help of Microsoft Azure ML API. Google Speech API was used to turn spoken audio content into the text content to use them with chatbots and virtual assistants. Watson REST API was leveraged to perform sentiment analysis. Google Vision API module was used so that uploaded images can add Face, Logo, and Object Detection. And Microsoft’s ML API was leveraged to automatically build summaries from node content.

Another session at DrupalCon Baltimore 2017 showed how to personalise web content experiences on the basis of subtle elements of a person’s digital persona.

[embedded content]


Standard personalisation approaches recommend content on the basis of a person’s profile or the past activity. For instance, if a person is searching for a gym bag, something like this works - “Here are some more gym bags”. Or if he or she is reading about movie reviews, this would work - “Maybe you would like this review of the recently released movie”.

But the demonstration shown at this session had advanced motives. They exhibited Deep Feeling, a proof-of-concept project that utilises machine learning techniques doing better recommendations to the users. This proof-of-concept recommended travel experiences on the basis of kind of things a person shares with the help of Acquia Lift service and Drupal 8.

With the help of Instagram API to access a person’s stream-of-consciousness, the demo showed that their feeds were filtered via a computer-vision API and was used to detect and learn subtle themes about the person’s preferences. Once a notion on what sort of experiences, which the person thinks are worth sharing, is established, then the person’s characteristics were matched against their own databases.

Another presentation held at Bay Area Drupal Camp 2018 explored how the CMS and Drupal Community can put machine learning into practice by leveraging a Drupal module, taxonomy system and Google’s Natural Language Processing API.

[embedded content]


Natural language processing concepts like sentiment analysis, entity analysis, topic segmentation, language identification among others were discussed. Numerous natural language processing API alternatives were compared like Google’s natural language processing API, TextRazor, Amazon Comprehend and open source solutions like Datamuse.

It explored use cases by assessing and automatically categorising news articles using Drupal’s taxonomy system. Those categories were merged with the sentiment analysis in order to make a recommendation system for a hypothetical news audience.

Future of Machine learning

A report on Markets and Markets states that the machine learning market size will grow from USD 1.41 Billion in 2017 to USD 8.81 Billion by 2022 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 44.1%.

The report further states that the major driving factors for the global machine learning market are the technological advancement and proliferation in data generation. Moreover, increasing demand for intelligent business processes and the aggrandising adoption rates of modern applications are expected to offer opportunities for more growth.

Some of the near-term predictions are:

  • Most applications will include machine learning. In a few years, machine learning will become part of almost every other software applications with engineers embedding these capabilities directly into our devices.
  • Machine learning as a service (MLaaS) will be a commonplace. More businesses will start using the cloud to offer MLaaS and take advantage of machine learning without making huge hardware investments or training their own algorithms.
  • Computers will get good at talking like humans. As technology gets better and better, solutions such as IBM Watson Assistant will learn to communicate endlessly without using code.
  • Algorithms will perpetually retrain. In the near future, more ML systems will connect to the internet and constantly retrain on the most relevant information.
  • Specialised hardware will be delivering performance breakthroughs. GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit) is advantageous for running ML algorithms as they have a large number of simple cores. AI experts are also leveraging Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) which, at times, can even outclass GPUs.

Conclusion

Whether computers start ruling us someday by gaining superabundance of intelligence is not a likely outcome. Even though it is a possibility which is why it is widely debated whenever artificial intelligence and machine learning is discussed.
 
On the brighter side, machine learning has a plenitude of scope in making our lives better with its tremendous capabilities of providing unprecedented insights into different matters. And when Drupal and machine learning come together, it is even more exciting as it results in the provision of awesome web experience.

Opensense Labs always strives to fulfil digital transformation endeavours of our partners with a suite of services.

Contact us at [email protected] to know how machine learning can be put to great to use in your Drupal web application.

Nov 01 2018
Nov 01

Visualise that you are working for an organisation that builds web applications for its clients. Every time you gain a new client for a web application, you visit AWS or any cloud provider for that matter. You wind up with 2 VMs for running the app and for the associated database. You will need at least two copies of this infrastructure for production and staging and then start deploying the code for that client. And this process starts all over again for a new client and so forth. Instead, by utilising Infrastructure as Code (IaC), you run a bit of code and that’s it, you are all set to go!

Foundation of a building under construction on left hand side and fully constructed building on right hand side


Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) teams must disrupt their traditional infrastructure architecture strategies with IaC. This comprises of investing in hybrid cloud, containers, composable infrastructure and the automation for supporting these workloads. As we hurtle through the wall-to-wall internet of things (IoT) and edge computing, a holistic strategy for IaC becomes more significant to enterprises than ever before. It will be interesting to witness the power of Infrastructure as Code for the deployment of Drupal-based web applications. Before we dive into that, let’s see how IaC helps in efficient software delivery.

Solving environment drift in the release pipeline

Illustration showing sheets of paper on the left-hand side and a lot of computers on the right-hand side


Infrastructure as Code refers to the governance of infrastructure (networks, virtual machines, load balancers, connection topology) in a descriptive model by leveraging the same versioning as DevOps team uses for source code. In a similar principle of the same source code generating the same binary, an IaC model generates the same environment whenever it is applied. It is an integral DevOps practice and is used in combination with Continuous Delivery.

Infrastructure as Code refers to the governance of infrastructure in a descriptive model by leveraging the same versioning as DevOps team uses for source code

IaC evolved to solve the environment drift in the release pipeline because:

  • The teams must maintain the settings of separate deployment environments without IaCs.
  • Over a period of time, each environment becomes a snowflake. In other words, it leads to a unique configuration that cannot be reproduced automatically.
  • Inconsistent environments incur deployment obstacles.
  • With snowflakes, management and maintenance of infrastructure constitute manual processes which were difficult to track and contributed to errors.

Idempotence, a principle of IaC, is the property in which no matter what the environment’s starting state is, deployment command always sets the target environment into the same configuration. It is attained by either automatically configuring an existing target or through the recreation of a fresh environment by discarding the existing environment.
 
With IaC, DevOps teams can test applications in production-like environments early in the development cycle. These teams expect to provision several test environments and on-demand. Infrastructure represented as code can also be validated and tested for avoiding common deployment challenges. Simultaneously, the cloud dynamically provisions and tears down environments based on IaC definitions.
 
Implementing Infrastructure as code helps in delivering stable environments faster and at scale. By representing the desired state of their environments via code, teams avoid manual configuration of environments and enforce consistency. Infrastructure deployments are repeatable and safeguard against runtime issues that are caused by configuration drift or missing dependencies. DevOps teams can work in combination with a unified set of practices and tools for delivering applications and their supporting infrastructure quickly, reliably and at scale.

Benefits of Infrastructure as Code

Graphical representation showing horizontal bars in light and dark blue colours to depict benefits of Infrastructure as Code

 

  • Minimising Shadow IT: Allowing a fast response to new IT requirements through IaC assisted deployment ensures higher security, compliance with corporate IT standards and helps with budgeting and cost allocation.
  • Satisfying Customers: Delivering a quality service component with a short time period leads to customer satisfaction and enhanced perception of IT within an organisation.
  • Reducing operational expenditures: An enterprise can configure and deploy a completely tested and compliant new IT infrastructure asset in just a matter of few minutes either with minimal or no human intervention at all This saves a superabundance amount of work time and security-related financial risk potential.
  • Reducing capital expenditure: A developer accomplishing the task of several team members on his own, particularly in the context of DevOps, highly benefits the project capital expenditure.
  • Standardisation: When the creation of new infrastructure is coded, there is consistency in the set of instructions and standardisation.
  • Safer change handling: Standardisation assurance allows safer alterations to take place with lower deviation rates.

Challenges of using Infrastructure as Code

  • Organisational resistance to change: Largest organisational challenges stem from budget limitations as it can deter an organisation’s ability to hire or retrain staff lead to an overall resistance to change.
  • The dearth of expertise in-house: Lack of in-house expertise can pose a technical hurdle.
  • Shortage of tools, skills and the fear of loss of control: As IaC languages are more code-like than script-like, so developers are more comfortable with them in general but this poses issues for Ops team. Ops is more concerned with configuration control conflicts as they have traditionally had all control over configurations.

'Key recommendations' written inside a box at the top and some bullet points follows after that to explain Infrastructure as Code


Infrastructure as Code tools

Infographics showing a quarter of a circle inside a square-shaped box with several small circles inside it denoting the market presence of Infrastructure as Code toolsSource: Forrester Wave™: Configuration Management Software For Infrastructure Automation, Q4 ’17
  • The Puppet open source engine emphasises on supporting configuration management on numerous platform such that if a system is reachable by IP then it must be configurable.
  • Puppet Enterprise augments the open source Puppet providing a web-based UI to enable visibility into configurations, dependencies and events.
  • The Chef open source engine leverages an imperative approach with support for several operating systems, containers and cloud services.
  • Chef Automate builds on the Chef open source automation engine which incorporates respective projects of Habitat and InSpec and offers a web-based GUI and dashboard for compliance visibility.
  • The Salt open source project provides the option to run the modular software with or without agents and using push or pull processes.
  • SaltStack Enterprise builds on the open source Salt offering that gives you an enterprise GUI and API for integration.
  • Normation Professional Services sells plug-ins for Window/AIX support, auditing and HTTP data sourcing integration
  • Rudder is an open source automation platform that emphasises on continuous reliability.
  • Ansible open source project emphasises on minimalism and easy usage. It does not require any agents and relies on SSH and WinRM to remotely control member nodes which limits the resource usage and potential network traffic.
  • Ansible Tower is an enterprise solution for Ansible that emphasises on improving the open source project’s analytics and compliance capabilities.
  • Microsoft Azure Automation is a SaaS-based suite for process automation.
  • Microsoft PowerShell DSC is a configuration management execution engine which is developed primarily for Windows with support for Linux and MacOS added recently.
  • CFEngine Community Edition is an open source automation engine which is considered the father of modern-day configuration management.
  • The Enterprise version of CFEngine offers GUI/dashboard to manage and monitor node health, user-based and role-based management, richer reporting, asset management capabilities, and modules to support AIX and Windows 

Infrastructure as Code for Drupal

A digital agency showed how to automate the whole deployment process from the start to finish by leveraging Ansible. Ansible, being agentless, has a great ecosystem, the YAML syntax is easy to read, understand and maintain. This could be automated using any other provisional tool like Chef or Puppet as well.

Black background with ‘Ansible + Drupal’ written in blue and ‘ A fortuitous DevOps Match’ written in white below it


Project involved making the Ansible playbooks a part of their codebase. It will live alongside the Drupal code. Also, it is considered an industry-wide good practice to have infrastructure and deployment as a part of the code. It is still not technically 100% Infrastructure-as-Code setup as they only had the provisioning scripts checked in and not the code to spin the actual servers. The playbooks assume that the servers are already present with Docker, Docker compose is installed and having SSH access.

This setup made the deployment process consistent and repeatable as any developer with necessary permissions in the team could run the script and get the same results all the time. Moreover, when the build fails, it fails loud and clear where exactly things went wrong.

Challenges in the project

They did not guarantee a rollback for this process. If for instance, you perform a deployment and it fails, you would have to manually perform the rollback to the previous state. But it does store DB backups. So, it would not be an arduous task to add a rollback mechanism with the tag rollback and some parameters like what commit to rollback to, which DB to reset to etc.

Steps to be performed

A significant precursor to automating is to document and have a script for each step. They split the tasks into two categories namely

  • Setting up the system like creating DB backup directories
  • Running the DB updates via Drush

Ansible has the concept of tags for which 2 tags were defined namely ‘setup’ and ‘deploy’.

The listicle of setup only tasks included:

  • Creation of a directory for DB files to persist
  • Creation of a directory for storing DB backups
  • Creation of a directory for storing file backups

The listicle of tasks for both setup and deployment included:

  • Creation of a backup  of files and DB
  • Cloning the correct code, that is, specified branch or bleeding edge.
  • Creating .env file
  • Building and booting the latest containers for all services
  • Running composer install and DB updates, importing config from files and clearing cache (Drupal specific)

It is important to secure your servers prior to the deployment of the application. Ansible helps in storing the sensitive information in an encrypted fashion like DB credentials, the SSH key pair and the server user credentials. This setup enables you to easily build production replicas or non-production environment. 

In the years to come

IaC has a bright future with its ability in provisioning and managing computing resources. While it does come its own set of implementation barriers, the benefits that it delivers far exceeds the challenges it currently faces.
 
As the tools the frameworks that are associated with Infrastructure as Code mature, it has the potential of becoming the default standard to deploy and govern infrastructure.

Infographics showing statistics on Infrastructure as Code (IaC) using bar graphs, pie charts and relevant icons.


Technavio analysts forecast the global DevOps platform market to post a CAGR of more than 20% during the period of 2018 to 2022.  One of the major trends that are being seen in the global DevOps platform market 2018-2022 is the increase in the adoption rates of Infrastructure as Code. DevOps tools are being implemented by the organisations to shift from manual configuration of IT infrastructure to programmable IT infrastructure.

Increase in the adoption rates of Infrastructure as Code is a major trend in the global DevOps platform market

The report goes on to state that one of most significant reasons contributing to the growth in the global DevOps platform market is the need for reducing the time to market. Asia-Pacific region is projected to see the maximum enhancement in the market share of global DevOps platform. The Americas region and Europe-the Middle East-Africa region, which holds a large market share currently, will witness a decline in the market share over the forecast period.

Conclusion

Customer-obsessed technology puts the broader charter of service design on the infrastructure and operations team. I&O leaders should own the design for the full system of interacting parts that are sourced from a rich and dynamic software-defined ecosystem. Infrastructure as Code holds a great potential in disruption of traditional infrastructure architecture strategy and can be efficacious for Drupal deployments.

With years of expertise in Drupal Development, Opensense Labs has been providing a wondrous digital experience to its partners.

Talk to our Drupal experts at [email protected] to know how can we implement Infrastructure as Code with Drupal to power your digital transformation endeavours.

Oct 26 2018
Oct 26

The Guardian, one of the most trusted news media, took a different approach for their membership and subscriptions apps. Rather than emphasising on lengthy validation in staging environments, The Guardian’s Continuous Deployment pipeline places greater focus on ensuring that the new builds are really working in production. Their objective was to let the developers know that their code has run successfully in the real world instead of just observing green test cases in a sanitised and potentially unrepresentative environment.

Front view of lots of hollow cylindrical pipes stacked on top of each other with a man sitting inside one of the pipes


Thus, The Guardian reduced the amount of testing run pre-deployment and extended the deployment pipeline constituting feedback on tests run against the production site. Such is the significance of utilising a lightweight Continuous Deployment pipeline which has helped a large organisation like The Guardian to focus on production validation instead of a large suite of acceptance tests. Such benefits can be witnessed in the Drupal-based projects as well where Continuous Deployment can allow us to iterate on Drupal web applications at speed.

Read more on the implementation of Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery with Drupal

A Brief Timeline of Continuous Deployment

Agile Aliiance has stated that the origins of Continuous Deployment can be traced in the early 2000s. In 2002, Kent Beck, creator of Extreme Programming, has mentioned Continuous Deployment in the early discussions (unpublished) of applying Lean ideas to software where undeployed features are seen as inventory. However, it took multiple years for it to be refined and codified.

Later, in the proceedings of Agile 2006 Conference, the first article describing the core of Continuous Deployment - The Deployment Production Line - came into the limelight. Published by Jez Humble, Chris Read and Dan North, it was a codification of the practices of numerous ThoughtWorks UK teams.

By 2009, the practice of Continuous Deployment became well established as can be seen through the article called Continuous Deployment at IMVU by Timothy Fitz. Not only it is beneficial in Agile processes, but its great features can be extracted for methodologies such as a Lean startup or DevOps.

Continuous Deployment in focus

Flowchart showing green and orange coloured boxes to illustrate workflow of Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery and Continuous DeploymentSource: Atlassian

While Continuous Integration refers to the process of automatically building and testing your software on a regular basis, Continuous Delivery is the logical next step which ensures that your code is always in a release-ready state. The ultimate culmination of this process is the Continuous Deployment.

In Continuous Deployment, every alteration that passes all stages of your production pipeline is released to the customers

In Continuous Deployment, every alteration that passes all stages of your production pipeline is released to the customers with no human intervention and only a failed test will deter a new alteration to be deployed to production. It is a spectacular way to aggrandise the feedback loop with your customers and take pressure off the team as is takes away the so-called ‘release day’ from the equation. It allows the developers to emphasise on creating software and they can see their work going live minutes after they have put in all their efforts on it.

Why Should you Consider Continuous Deployment?

Continuous Deployment benefits both the internal team who are implementing it and the stakeholders in your company.

For internal team

  • Instead of performing a weekly or a monthly release, moving to feature-driven releases enables faster and finer-grained upgrades and helps in debugging and regression detection by only altering one thing at a time.
  • By automating every step of the process, you make it self-documenting and repeatable.
  • By making the deployment to the server fully automated, a repeatable deployment process can be created.
  • By automating the release and deployment process, you can constantly release the ongoing work to the staging and QA servers thereby giving visibility fo the state of development.
Moving to feature-driven releases enables faster and finer-grained upgrades

For stakeholders in the company

  • Instead of waiting for a fixed upgrade window, you can release features when they are ready thereby getting them to the customer faster. As you are constantly releasing to a staging server while developing them, internal customers can see the alterations and take part in the development process.
  • Managers will see the result of work faster and progress will be visible when you release more often
  • If a developer needs a few more hours to make sure that the feature is in perfect working condition, then the feature will go out a few hours later and not when the next release window opens.
  • Sysadmins will not have to perform the releases themselves. Small, discrete feature releases will enable easier detection of the alterations that have affected the system adversely. 

Continuous Deployment Tools

wrench and screwdriver icon


Unit tests and functional tests put the code into as many execution scenarios as possible for predicting its behaviour in production. Unit testing frameworks consist of NUnit, TestNG and RSpec among others.
 
IT automation and configuration management tools like Poppet and Ansible manage code deployment and hosting resource configuration. Tools like Cucumber and Calabash can help in setting up integration and acceptance tools.
 
Monitoring tools like AppDynamics and Splunk can help in tracking and reporting any alterations in application or infrastructure. Performance due to the new code. Management tools like PagerDuty can trigger IT incident response. Monitoring and incident response for Continuous Deployment setups should be to real-time for shortening time to recovery when there are hassles with the code.
 
Rollback capabilities are essential in the deployment toolset to detect any unexpected or undesired effects of new code in production and mitigate them faster. Moreover, canary deployment and sharding, blue/green deployment, feature flags or toggles and other deployment controls can be useful for organisations looking to safeguard against user disruption from Continuous Deployment.
 
Some applications can deploy in containers such as Docker and Kubernetes for isolating updates from the underlying infrastructure.

Continuous Deployment with Drupal

An arrow and a box icon representing settings icon


A digital agency worked with Drupal 8, Composer, Github, Pantheon and CircleCI around Continuous Integration and Deployment. The project involved moving from internal hosting to the cloud (in this case, Pantheon), moving the main sites from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 and implementing a new design.

To the cloud

Pantheon was chosen as the cloud host for new Drupal sites. Initially, it was chosen for features like ‘Cutom Upstreams’, one-click core updates, simple deployments between development, Test, and Live environments, Multidevs, and the fact that each is a Git repo a heart. Terminus (Pantheon CLI tool) was heavily used and appreciated.

Migration to Drupal 8

It focussed on two main umbrella sites and one news site to serve both umbrella sites. It did a content refresh which showed that only content that needs to be migrated are the news articles. The configuration management of Drupal 8 was found to be nicer than the Drupal 7.

Custom Design

As the Drupal is not the only web platform they were using, instead of building a Drupal theme, they built a platform-agnostic project with a new look and feel. It was based on the Zurb foundation and was just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
 
Grunt was used as the build tool. So when they have a new release, they would just commit and push to Github. That triggers a CircleCI workflow which tags a new release and publishes the release artefact as an npm package to Artifactory. From there, npm package can be pulled into any project including Drupal.
 
It should be noted that the published package includes only the CSS, JS, libraries and other assets. After the publishing, a static site is created with the package and corresponding HTML templates on a cloud host as a reference implementation.

Deployment Process

They had an ‘upstream’ repo on Github named umbrella-upstream which is a composer-based Drupal 8 project with a custom install profile comprising of custom modules, package.json, and deploy scripts. Each of the sites (umbrella-site X, umbrella-site Y, etc.) was also in a Github repo as composer-based Drupal 8 project and had umbrella-upstream configured as a remote.
 
When they push an alteration to the upstream repo, a set of CircleCI workflows gets started that runs some Codeception acceptance tests and the alterations get merged from umbrella-upstream down to each umbrella-site X/Y repo.
 
Then, another CircleCI workflow builds, tests and pushes a full Drupal umbrella-site X/Y install to the corresponding Pantheon site X/Y all the way up right to the test environment. Quicksilver hooks were used to send any alterations Pantheon back to the site repos.

Entire Workflow involved:

  • Code alterations and Git commit in custom design repo
  • Npm update custom-design -save-dev, grunt and Git commit in umbrella-upstream repo

Finally, the alterations show up in the Test environment of each site on Pantheon.

Conclusion

It is of paramount importance that you keep iterating and deploy software at speed and with efficacy. Continuous Deployment is a great strategy for software releases wherein code commit that passes automated testing phase is automatically released into the production environment.
 
Drupal deployment can benefit to a great extent through the incorporation of Continuous Deployment in the project development process. The biggest advantage of doing so is that it makes the alterations visible to the application’s users.
 
Opensense Labs is committed towards the provision of wonderful digital experience to the organisations with its suite of services.
 
To make your next Drupal-based project supremely efficacious through the implementation of Continuous Deployment, ping us at [email protected]

Oct 25 2018
Oct 25

Audi’s implementation of Continuous Delivery into its marketing has had an astronomical impact on its competitive advantage. For instance, when Audi released its new A3 model along with all other new releases, it wanted to communicate the new features, convey the options, and assist people in understanding the differences among body types, engines and things like that. Continuous Delivery turned out to be the definitive solution. It helped in refining the messaging and optimising it on the fly to make sure that the people are understanding what the automaker is trying to communicate.

vehicles on a cargo ship with wake of the ship in the background


Continuous Delivery (CD) is a quintessential methodology which makes the management and delivery of projects in big enterprises like Audi more efficient. When it comes to Drupal-based projects, Continuous Delivery can bring efficacy to the governance of projects. It can lead to better team collaboration and on-demand software delivery.

Read more on Continous Integration with Drupal

Building and Deploying using Continuous Delivery

A graphical representation showing white parabolic curves on a blue graph and text on itSource: Atlassian

For many organisations, shipping takes a colossal amount of effort. If your team is still living with manual testing preparing for releases and manual or semi-scripted deploys for carrying out releases, it can be toilsome. No wonder software development is moving towards continuity. In the continuous paradigm, quality products are released in a frequent and predictable manner to the customers thereby reducing the risk factor.

In 2010, Jez Humble and David Farley released a book called Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation.

In this book, they argued that “software that’s been successfully integrated into a mainline code stream still isn’t a software that’s out in production doing its job”. That is, no matter how fast you assemble your product, it does not really matter if it is just going to be stored in a warehouse for months.

Continuous Delivery is the software development practice for building software in such a way that it can be released to production at any time.

Continuous Delivery refers to the software development practice for building software in such a way that it can be released to production at any time. So, if your software is deployable throughout its lifecycle, you are doing Continuous Delivery. In this, the team gives more priority to keeping the software deployable than working on new features. This ensures that anybody can get quick and automated feedback on the production readiness of their systems whenever alterations are done. 

Thus, Continuous Delivery enables push-button deployments of any software version to any environment on demand.

How does Continuously Delivery work?

Flowchart showing box and circles to illustrate the workflow of continuous delivery, continuous integration, and continuous deploymentSource: Amazon Web Services

For achieving Continuous Delivery, you need to continuously integrate the software built by the development team, build executables and run automated tests on those executables for detecting problems.

Then, the executables are required to be pushed into increasingly production-like environments to make sure that the software is in working condition when pushed to production. This is done by implementing a deployment pipeline that provides visibility into the production readiness of your applications. It gives feedback on every alteration to your system and allows team members to perform self-service deployments into their environments.

Continuous Delivery requires a close, collaborative working relationship between the team members which is often referred to as DevOps Culture. It also needs extensive automation of all possible parts of the delivery process using a deployment pipeline.

Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Integration vs Continuous Deployment

Continuous Delivery is often confused with Continuous Deployment.

In Continuous Deployment, every alteration goes through the pipeline and are automatically pushed into production which results in many production deployments every day.

In Continuous Delivery, you are able to do frequent deployment and if the certain businesses demand a slower rate of deployment, you may choose not to perform the frequent deployment. So, for performing Continuous Deployment, you must be doing Continuous Delivery.

Continuous Delivery builds on Continuous Integration and deals with the final stages that are required for production deployment.

So, where does Continuous Integration come into the picture? It allows you to integrate, build, and test code within the development environment. Continuous Delivery builds on this and deals with the final stages that are required for production deployment.

Benefits of Continuous Delivery

The major benefits of Continuous Delivery are:

  • Minimised Risk: As you are deploying smaller alterations, there’s reduced deployment risk and it is easier to fix whenever a problem occurs.
  • Trackable progress: By tracking work done, you can get a believable progress. If developers declaring a work to be “done”, it is less believable. But if it is deployed into a production environment, you actually see the progress right there.
  • Rapid feedback: One of the pivotal challenges of any software development is that you can wind up building something that is not useful. So, earlier you get the working software in front of real users with higher frequency, faster you get the feedback for finding out how valuable it really is.

Continuous Delivery with Drupal

Drupal Community has been a great catalyst for digital innovation. To make software development and deployment better with Drupal, the community has always leveraged technological innovations.

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A session held at DrupalCon Amsterdam had an objective of bringing enterprise Continuous Delivery practices to Drupal with a comprehensive walkthrough of open-sourced CD platform called ‘Go’. The ‘Go’ project started off as ‘Cruise Control’ in 2001 rooted in the first principle of the Agile Manifesto: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

It outlined principles of CD practice, exhibited how easy it is to get a Drupal build up and running in Go and illustrated the merits of delivering in a pipeline. It involved setting up of a delivery pipeline. Then, configuring of build materials, build stages, build artefacts, jobs and tasks were done. Furthermore, it drilled down to familiar Drush commands and implemented the basic principles of the CD.

Basically, the build configuration was shown that deploys Drupal sites using Phing, Drush and other tools with the possibility of calling out to Jenkins as another way for managing tasks. Multiple steps of testing and approval were shown with a separate path for content staging as separate from code thereby deploying a complex Drupal site.

Homepage of Go platform with a flowchart explaining Continuous Delivery practice and ‘Simplify Continuous Delivery’ written in bold letters on the top on a pink background

Later, it emphasised on testing and previewing on production before cutting over a release, zero downtime releases, secure and simple rollback options, and making the release a business decision rather than a technical decision.

Moreover, it showed that Go’s trusted artefacts can take the ambiguities out fo the build with spectacular support for administering dependencies between different projects.

This session is very useful for the developers who use Drush and have some understanding of DevOps and knows about all-in-code delivery. Even those who undertake less technical roles like QA(Quality Assurance), BA(Business Analyst) and product owner will find it beneficial as the CD practice is all about the interaction of the team as well as the tools and techniques. 

How the future of continuous delivery looks like?

A report on Markets and Markets stated that the Continuous Delivery Market was valued at USD 1.44 Billion in 2017 and would reach USD 3.85 Billion by 2023 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18.5% during the forecast period of 2018-2023.

Open source Continuous Deliver projects and tools will dominate the commercial CD tools segment
Bar graphs in dark blue and light blue colours showing automation market size in USD Billion, by segment, global, 2016-2020


Another report on Mordor Intelligence states that the market for Continuous Delivery is seeing a tremendous rise. It is due to the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, rapid deployment of connected infrastructure and the proliferation of automated digital devices. But open source CD projects and tools will dominate the commercial CD tools segment.

The North American region is projected to have the largest growth in demand during the forecast period (2028-2023) because of the early adoption of cloud computing and IoT by the United States. The continuous evolution of new technologies (as shown above) have been the prime factor behind large-scale investments in the CD segment. Retail, healthcare, communications and manufacturing application in North America are going to see a massive growth rate in the forecast period.

Conclusion

On-demand software delivery and enhanced team collaboration is a sort of combination that every major enterprise can benefit from. Continuous Delivery is one such mechanism that can help software development projects to be production-ready always. And this can work in favour of projects involving Drupal development and deployment.

Opensense Labs has been steadfast in its goals of offering marvellous digital experience with its suite of services.

Contact us at [email protected] to know how can continuous delivery be implemented for your business in Drupal-based projects.

Oct 24 2018
Oct 24

The Research and Development team at BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) have been working on IP production for a number of years building a model for end-to-end broadcasting that will allow a live studio to run entirely on IP networks. During this period, several software applications and libraries have been built in order to prototype techniques, develop their understanding further and implement emerging standards. To do all these, they leverage Continuous Integration along with a number of tools to aid with Continuous Delivery of their software. Why is Continuous Integration a preferred option for large organisations like BBC?

Illustration showing three pillars and several people exchanging things, working on a laptop, holding a chart while discussing and having a conversation


A software development methodology like Continuous Integration (CI) can be of paramount importance for an efficient software delivery. Drupal-based projects can gain a lot with the implementation of CI leading to better teamwork and effective software development processes.

Predates many of the Agile’s ancestors

CI is older than many of the ancestors of agile development methodology. Grady Booch, an American software engineer, gave birth to the term ‘Continuous Integration’ through the Booch Method (a method used in object-oriented analysis and design) in 1991.
 
Booch, in his book called Object-Oriented Analysis and Design with Applications, states that:
 
The needs of the micro process dictate that many more internal releases to the development team will be accomplished, with only a few executable releases turned over to external parties. These internal releases represent a sort of continuous integration of the system, and exist to force closure of the micro process.

Principles of Continuous Integration

Flowchart showing box, circles, and arrows to depict workflowSource: Amazon Web Services

A software development methodology like Continuous Integration allows members of the team integrate their work frequently. It involves each of the team members integrating at least daily thereby leading to multiple integrations every day. Each of the integrations is checked by an automated build (that includes the test) for detecting integration errors faster.

“Continuous Integration doesn’t get rid of bugs, but it does make them dramatically easier to find and remove.” — Martin Fowler, Chief Scientist, ThoughtWorks

Developers can frequently commit to a shared repository with the help of a version control system such as Git. They can choose to run local unit tests on their code before each commit as a mark of added verification layer before integrating. A CI service automatically builds and runs unit tests on the new code alterations for immediate identification of any errors.

With Continuous Delivery, code alterations are automatically built, tested and pushed to production. Continuous Delivery expands upon Continuous Integration by deploying all code alterations to a test environment and/or production environment after the build stage.

Key practices that form an effective Continuous Integration

  • Single source repository: A decent source code management system should be in place.
  • Build automation: Automated environments for builds are a common feature of systems that ensure that you can build and launch your system using a single command.
  • Self-testing: Automated tests in the build process can help in catching bugs swiftly and efficaciously.
  • Daily commits: By committing to the mainline every day, developers can correctly build their code including passing the build tests.
  • Integration machine: Regular builds should be happening on an integration machine and the commit should be considered done only if this integration build succeeds.
  • Immediate fix of broken builds: The integral part of doing a continuous build is that if the mainline build fails, it should be immediately fixed.
  • Rapid feedback: It is of consummate importance to keep the build fast and provide rapid feedbacks.
  • Test environment: Always test in a clone of the production environment.
  • Finding the latest executable: Anyone involved in a software project should get the latest executable easily and be able to run it for demos or exploratory testing.
  • See the state of the system: Everyone should be able to see what’s happening with the system and the alterations that have been made to it.
  • Deployment automation: You should have scripts that will let you deploy the application into any environment easily.

Continuous Integration Workflow

  • At first, developers check out code into their private workspaces
  • When performed, commit the alterations to the repository.
  • The CI server monitors the repository and checks out alterations when they occur.
  • The CI server builds the system, runs unit and integration tests, releases deployable artefacts for testing
  • The CI server assigns a build label to the version of the code which was just built by it and informs the team of the successful build
  • The CI server alerts the team members if the build or tests fail
  • The team members immediately fix the issue
  • The team continues to integrate and test throughout the project

Responsibilities of the team members

  • Check in frequently
  • Do not check in broken code, untested code or when the build is broken
  • Do no go home after checking in until the system builds

Continuous Integration tools

A development team uses CI software tools for automating parts of the application build and constructing a document trail. The following are examples of CI pipeline automation tools:

  • CircleCI is a continuous integration platform. When connected to a Drupal site, alterations made in version control in code repository such as GitHub alert CircleCI to start the build of the application and execute predefined testing suite.
  • Travis CI is similar to CircleCI which integrates with GitHub, Bitbucket, and other applications. It creates application builds and runs testing suites when code alterations are pushed.
  • Jenkins is an open source automation server installed and handled by the user unlike platform services like CircleCI and Travis CI. It is extendable with plugins and works well with Git. It lets you do a wide range of configurations and customisation.
  • The open source GitLab repository and platform can run unit and integration tests on several machines and can split builds to work over numerous machines for decreasing execution times.
  • JetBrains TeamCity is an integration and management server for enabling developers to test code before they commit alterations to a codebase. It features Build Grids which allow developers to run several tests and builds for different platforms and environments.

Merits of Continuous integration

Illustration showing a number of small circles over the circumference of a larger circle to explain Continuous IntegrationSource: Apiumhub

Eliminates the blind spot

Deferred integration is troublesome as it is an arduous task to predict how long it will take to do a project or even worse how far are you through the process. So much so that you are putting yourself in a blind spot at one of the critical parts of a project. One of the most significant merits of Continuous Integration is minimised risk. With CI, there is no long integration and it completely eliminates the blind spot. You will know where you are, what is working and what is not, and the outstanding bugs that you have in your system.

Easy bug detection

CI does not entirely remove bugs but makes it easier to detect it faster. Projects with CI tend to have dramatically fewer bugs both in production and in process. The degree of this merit is directly proportional to how good your test suite is.

Frequent deployment

CI promotes frequent deployment which lets your users get new features more rapidly, to provide more rapid feedback on those features and collaborate more in the development cycle.

Continuous Integration for Drupal

DrupalCon Dublin 2016 had a presentation which showed how you can leverage the Jenkins 2 pipelines for implementing Continuous Integration/Deployment/Delivery for the Drupal site while taking care of the principles like Infrastructure as Code, Configuration as Code, DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) and Open/Closed principle (from SOLID principles).

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The process that was followed in the presentation required pushing a commit into self-hosted (Gitlab) or private Github repo. It involved building the doc root from the various sources, deployment procedures, auto-tests on servers and everything was done in the same pipeline configured as separate stages.
 
It showed the auto-generation of deploy pipelines for each branch/state like development, staging or production configured. It utilised different approaches for governing code structure such as Composer-based workflow and ‘all-code-in-repo’ solution in the same doc root. Auto-checking that code was delivered to the server prior to the start of drush deploy procedures and testing.

The project team can have their own deploy scripts

Universal deploy script was used that will be useful for any project. Additional project-specific deploy scripts - DRY (or override) basic deploy script - was leveraged which could be useful when you delegate this part of the responsibility to the different team. You can control what drush commands or command options can be used for certain projects, that is, the project team can have their own deploy scripts.
 
Configuration as a code on both the Jenkins side and the Drupal side was performed. On the Jenkins side, all Jenkins jobs (pipelines) was stored as code in Git and regenerated in case of code alterations with the assistance of Job DSL. On the Drupal side, every configuration alteration was performed in code and then processed on Production servers during code deploys.
 
It showed auto-creation of URLs and databases on hosting platform based on multisite setup. It displayed automated backups before code deploys, copied whole sites inside doc root or between different doc roots with one click and added custom actions for offering additional functionality specific to the projects.

Market trends

The Forrester Wave™: Continuous Integration Tools, Q3 2017 delineated the 10 providers that matter most and how they stack up.

Infographic showing a quarter of a circle inside a box and several smaller circles inside it to depict Continuous Integration tools


A report on Markets and Markets stated that the CI tools market size is expected to grow from USD 483.7 million in 2018 to USD 1139.3 million by 2023 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18.7% during the forecast period.

A study by Data Bridge Market Research states that major players operating in the global continuous integration (CI) tools market are Atlassian (Australia), IBM (US), Microsoft (US), Micro Focus (UK), CA Technologies (US), Cloudbees (US), AWS (US), Puppet (Oregon), Red Hat(US), CA Technologies (US), Oracle (US), Micro Focus (UK), SmartBear (US), Jetbrains (Czech Republic), CircleCI (US), Shippable (US), Electric Cloud (US), V-Soft Technologies (South Africa), BuildKite (Australia), TravisCI (Germany), AutoRABIT (US), AppVeyor (Canada), Drone.io (US), Rendered Text (Serbia), Bitrise (Hungary), Nevercode (UK), and PHPCI (Belgium) are among others.

Conclusion

Software development can be drastically improved with the incorporation of Continuous Integration resulting in better team collaboration, reduced risk, and faster delivery. Drupal-based projects can reap the merits of CI tools. With Drupal being a huge perpetrator of digital innovation, implementing Continuous Integration in Drupal projects is viable.

OpenSense Labs has a pool of Drupal experts who have been a force to reckon with when it comes to enabling digital transformation dreams of enterprises with its suite of services.

Contact us at [email protected] to know how can you leverage continuous integration for Drupal projects.

Oct 19 2018
Oct 19

Digitisation has altered the game for content providers. Customers - whether businesses or consumers - look for bite-sized pieces of content delivered to their chosen interface anywhere and anytime. Content creators continuously need to rethink and rewire how they disseminate content across channels due to the proliferation of digital platforms, the variety, and granularity of media, and the ever-shorter attention spans of customers. And so arises the need for a Content as a Service (CaaS) solution.

A hand holding a sticker resembling a fish with Be Content written on it and real fishes in the background


The democratisation of content and the entry of social media and the technology giants into the content business are erasing the divide between media and entertainment market segments. This is building a new ecosystem that will be driven by content-as-a-service delivery models. Drupal can offer a magnificent CaaS solution for the organisations looking to distribute content on screens, websites, mobile apps, IoT devices and beyond.

A Peek at CaaS

An illustration showing the Content as a Service workflow with icons like mobile, desktop, house lock, shopping cart, watch and loudspeaker.Source: Bloomreach

CaaS is an architectural pattern that completely decouples the content authoring process from how it is used. Traditional CMS offers a single software to separate the data layer from the presentation of said data. Even though the presentation of the data is separated, it is still attached to the technology, delivery channels, and the capabilities supported by the software. CaaS comprises of a backend CMS that provides content authoring capabilities with APIs for delivering content to external systems.

CaaS is an architectural pattern that completely decouples the content authoring process from how it is used.

An efficacious content-as-a-service model enables enterprises to store content in a form and with the sort of detail which makes it easier to discover, repurpose, transform, and transmit. Today, service providers can leverage their application programming interfaces (APIs) as platforms for disseminating content.

Simultaneously, organisations must consider the level of granularity that is needed to store and expose units of content in the most effective manner. They should track the business costs generated by individual units of content so that their content supply can be refined and new business models can be developed. Even though technology constraints must be duly assessed, content providers should understand their content’s ‘lowest common monetisation denominator’ (LCMD) and the returns on content assets.

Executing content as a service

CaaS is a paradigm for delivering the right amount of content to the right kind of customer at the right time via the right channel. That is:

  • Content is enough to meet the demands of the customers
  • Content is personalised
  • Content is delivered accurately when the customer needs it. Updates are done in real-time.
  • Content is delivered on the platform of choice at the right time and then swiftly and endlessly transferred from one platform/ device to another.

A perfect CaaS model is integrated with numerous services that connect to a customer-facing platform and expose units of content on demand. These can constitute music on Apple Music, books and magazines on Amazon Kindle, or shows on Netflix. The ubiquitous nature of the IoT is expected to make CaaS indispensable as all types of data are gathered by big data platforms and made available to application developers.

APIs are the drivers for most “X-as-a-service” ecosystems and content-as-a-service is no exception to this
A graphical representation showing the the growth in Web APIs with a blue-coloured regionSource: Bloomreach

With the increase in platforms, formats, devices, languages and locations for exposing content, the ease, speed, and efficacy of governing and delivering it must also increase. APIs can transmit data to and from any destination faster and with cost-effective ways. In the API economy, APIs are developed like products for supporting new business models. An API strategy is a collaborative effort among product and technology teams to keep a digital business strategy on track. APIs are the drivers for most “X-as-a-service” ecosystems and content-as-a-service is no exception to this.

The value of CaaS

A linear flowchart showing the content value chain with icons resembling plus symbol and a person to describe the value of CaaSSource: Cognizant

The ability to precisely identify the smallest unit of content that can be stored autonomously and delivered profitably is the foundation of any CaaS model. This can be referred to as the lowest common monetisable denominator (LCMD) of content which can be tracked, tagged and reused. Through taxonomy and semantics, enterprises can store content at the LCMD level and develop an aggregate or smaller levels of the data on demand.

So once the organisation identifies the LCMD of content the evaluation can be done on the returns from pieces of content created at that granularity, that is, returns on a content asset (RoCA).

When can you use CaaS?

Following are the scenarios where you can utilise the capabilities of CaaS:

  • Mobile applications: Alterations to mobile applications, most often than not, needs the application to be resubmitted to a digital distribution platform vendor like Google or Apple for the approval. CaaS system enables businesses to alter the content in these applications without having to change the application.
  • Multiple channels: CaaS enables business users to deploy the same content to several delivery channels via a singular system rather than having to maintain different systems for different channels.
  • UX flexibility: Being independent of the presentation layer, designers can freely use any technology to develop their UX and are not tied to technologies or components supported by the CMS. Javascript frameworks, that evolve at their own pace, provides developers with greater UX flexibility.
  • AI-based application: Leveraging chatbots and other AI-based applications, it is easier for robots to consume content via an API.

Drupal as Content as a Service

Flowchart showing circles and boxes illustrating workflow of Drupal as Content as a ServiceSource: Dries Buytaert’s blog

If you want to enable your frontend developers to create engrossing customer experiences, Drupal’s content-as-a-service approach allows you to think outside the page-based mentality. Drupal’s CaaS solution helps in delivering reusable, future-proof content seamlessly by decoupling the back and front ends where needed.

Moreover, frontend developers can develop better experiences with Drupal’s presentation-neutral content and RESTful API and leverage tools like Angular, Ember, Backbone and many more. Ingestion of content from third-party content, for example, from aggregators and syndicators, to bring content into your Drupal environment can be done which can be disseminated to any channel. With Drupal’s CaaS capability, content is easily consumed by other websites and application that you choose.

It has all been possible because of the amazing work that is going on in the Drupal Community’s API-first initiative. It is actively working to advance existing and new web services web services efforts thereby making Drupal an excellent CaaS and optimal for developers. Through web services like JSON API and GraphQL or the tooling that accelerates headless application development like the Waterwheel ecosystem, Drupal as a content-as-a-service is great for developers.

Drupal is stupendous for both editors and developers

Drupal is stupendous for both editors and developers. The biggest advantage that Drupal has over its headless competitors is that it can be an amazing CMS for content editors to give them control over the presentation of their content and a rich headless CMS for enabling developers in building huge content ecosystems in a single package.
 
With Drupal perpetually powering more and more websites, it is also being extracted to its full potential in order to serve content to other backend systems, native applications, single page applications, and even conversational interfaces simultaneously.

Conclusion

As digital transformation accelerates, content providers are altering the nuts and bolts of their content activities. As more content is delivered as a service through a myriad of APIs, more data will get generated thereby assisting content providers in creating more precise business models.
 
Content as a service is like a treat for the developers giving them maximum flexibility in their pursuits of digital innovation. Drupal as a CaaS has been offering a great digital experience to both content editors and developers alike.
 
Drupal experts at Opensense Labs have been powering digital transformation of businesses through Drupal development.
 
Contact us at [email protected] to build great digital experiences using Drupal as Content as a Service.
 

Oct 18 2018
Oct 18

You run, you fall and you rise again with your ambitious endeavours of attaining supreme fitness. With so much going around in your own life, when you have to take care of your grandmother and monitor whether her insulin intake is right on track or not, it can prove to be a formidable task. Healthcare technologies have advanced to a whole new level and something like a smart wearable equipped to perform automated monitoring of diabetes can be of immense help.

A man tying shoelaces at the side of the road


As the pace of change accelerates, how can the healthcare industry move ahead and stay relevant with the changing demands? No matter what their size is, healthcare organisations find it a strategic imperative to answer this question. The velocity and scope of technological advancements are blurring the lines between healthcare and technology thereby redefining traditional MedTech and fundamentally altering business models.

With more healthcare technologies offering a new perspective for the organisations, Drupal’s stupendous web content management and its flexibility in integrating with healthcare technologies make it a remarkably meritorious choice for your digital innovation plans. So, what are some of the healthcare technologies doing rounds in recent times?

Healthcare technology trends

Technological innovation is giving different dimensions to what healthcare organisations can achieve

Whether it is the business and administrative side of things or the direct patient care, technological innovation is giving different dimensions to what healthcare organisations can achieve. Here are some of the trends in the healthcare industry that are making a humungous impact:

IT security

Healthcare enterprises are often the targets of sophisticated, well-coordinated cyber attacks because of the depth of information stored by healthcare providers. A study by Beazley Group states that 45% of the ransomware attacks in 2017 targeted healthcare organisations.

A graphical representation showing the number of reported breaches in healthcare industry


This has created a pressing need for better IT security. Healthcare enterprises are responding by investing in advanced security technologies like advanced data encryption, better data backups, and real-time security platforms leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect and curb threats before they start posing serious issues.

Advanced Training Tools

Advanced healthcare training supplies are fast spreading in the marketplace to prepare students, residents and other inexperienced healthcare professionals with safe and efficacious environments to learn. These comprise of things like ECG simulators, live AED units, and bleeding control training kits.

Telehealth

Telehealth and telemedicine are becoming a significant part of the digital health transformation. For instance, Digital health lets the elderly to age and live in their own homes using technology like fall-detection monitors. Tele-mental and Tele-behavioural health services are another healthcare technology innovations that are blooming.

Artificial Intelligence

AI has the ability to completely metamorphose the healthcare industry in the coming years. It can streamline tasks like scheduling, timesheet entry, paperwork, Electronic Health Records (EHR), accounting and the diagnosis of patients.
 
For instance, chatbots can prove to be a great application point. These AI-powered software mechanisms can assist healthcare providers to cut down on the time-intensive nature of patient communication and simplify any tasks that do not require direct human intervention. Advanced chatbots, which are also referred to as conversational chatbots, can discuss in-depth health issues with patients to offer the best possible treatments that are available. For example, IBM Watson is helping doctors in providing advanced treatments.

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Internet of things

A study by Rock Health states that a staggering amount of $3.5 billion was invested into 188 digital health enterprises in the first quarter of 2017 and the number of smart wearables is going to reach 34 million by 2022.

Medical wearable devices are one of the most promising IoT devices that have the potential of offering healthcare teams with valuable data around the clock no matter if the patient is at home or outside of the practitioner’s direct care. Some of the exciting application constitutes cardiac monitoring, infant monitoring, fitness tracking, and pain management.

Big data and EHR

One of the most vital things in recent times is an Electronic Health Record which leverages the merits of Big Data. EHR stores all the health information of the patients electronically in the digital format that can be used by other information systems. It provides an option to the customer and the physician to have a permanent access to client data like cardiac waveforms, chronic diseases, diagnostic and previous prescriptions.
 
An EHR can improve the interaction between doctor and patient for more productive delivery of care. EHR minimises the number of papers that would be needed when visiting physicians.

Augmented reality and Virtual reality

The arrival of virtual reality and augmented reality solutions have also benefitted the healthcare technologies. From educating new students to planning procedures, the field of AR and VR has a lot to offer.
 
For instance, AR can allow medical students to interact in a really intuitive way with a 3D representation of the body. Another example is the AR app which was developed by Pixelbug that gave a better understanding of medical devices and their mechanisms for the physicians.
 

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Also, Maplewood Senior Living in Connecticut has utilised VR headsets to work with individuals to address concerns ranging from dementia to cognitive impairments.

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Coming together of Drupal and Healthcare technologies

Drupal, being an open source CMS, powers healthcare organisations in controlling costs and provides deeper patient and consumer engagement with information thereby improving people’s lives.

Drupal helps in safeguarding patient data with its security-focused framework

Drupal gives the extensibility to healthcare organisations by enabling them to integrate platforms and also help in the addition of new functionality with third-party technology. It helps in safeguarding patient data with its security-focused framework. You can customise the user experience to deepen patient engagement and alleviate provider satisfaction.

Some of the applications that show the capabilities of Drupal integration with healthcare technologies are given below:

Smart Wearables

DrupalCon Nashville 2018: Driesnote had a conversational session between Rebecca Pilcher / RyeBurd (Director of Marketing at Drupal Association) and Dries Buytaert (Project lead of Drupal). Rebecca shared an interesting story that threw light on how a smart wearable powered by Drupal helped to control Diabetes and track the intake of insulin levels.

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When Rebecca was being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, an Omnipod insulin pump and a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) helped her handling diabetes. A CGM tracks blood sugar patterns and an Omnipod insulin pump gives more flexibility in her insulin intake routine.

So how does Drupal come into play here? Dexcom, which is the brand of CGM, has one of its platforms powered by Drupal and Omnipod’s website is built on Drupal as well.

Five arrows forming a circle to explain how Drupal platform powers Omnipod and DexcomSource: Rebecca Pilcher's Blog | Medium

Drupal and EHR Integration

Integration of Drupal with the EHR system can help in creating an excellent system with an astounding web content management capabilities coupled with the innate strength of EHR for patients’ documents management.

A digital agency showed that Drupal has the capabilities to layer on top of several EHR systems within a medical group and compile the data into one physician portal. Drupal’s extensibility enables it to take on sophisticated integrations through numerous feeds from API calls, XML or JSON feeds and RESTful APIs.

Most current EHRs output data in HL7 (Health Level 7) delimited text files. HL7 has upgraded to a new protocol Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) which leverages RESTful APIs and can make clinical modelling and system integrations less intricate.

Through integration between Drupal data-layer and an EHR via RESTful API connection, interoperability can be improved thereby empowering your staff to make use of critical data. Breaking down the data silos lets the healthcare delivery systems to evolve from a reactive diagnostic model to a proactive preventative model.

With the help of secure access management, Drupal can be configured at granular levels to data security and simultaneously access can be provided to a user based on role. Leveraging role-based provisioning, Drupal can surface a focussed view of critical data that dwells behind a firewall in a HIPAA secure environment.

Using specific EHR authorisation requirement, Drupal can be configured to tap into the database through web services integration and at the same following strict user access permission controls. Thus, this helps in protecting the data at all the times.

Genetic Information Management

Flowchart showing icons representing physicians shows the working of Genetic Information Management SuiteSource: bio.logis

Bio.logis offers Genetic Information Management Suite (GIMS) which helps in managing human genetics information for making genetic code accessible and usable. It gives genetic data to allow decision making with a medical value. GIMS comprises of a web-based authoring and content management system based on Drupal which is globally connecting expert knowledge in addition to genetic reports engine.

GIMS is based on Drupal and is globally connecting expert knowledge in addition to genetic reports engine

A multilingual portal and mobile applications offer access to medial-ready knowledge for physicians, patients and healthy clients for supporting distribution and scaling of genetics advice. The ‘pharma.sensor’ online application offers notions about adjusting drug therapies to individual genetic makeup.

Conclusion

With technological advances, healthcare technologies have had a massive makeover. Digital health services are leveraging emerging technologies and this has benefitted healthcare industries. Drupal has been pioneering digital innovation strategies in the healthcare with its enormous capabilities to integrate with disrupting technologies.

Providing ambitious digital experiences to the partners has always been the objective of the Drupal experts at Opensense Labs and we have been doing that through a suite of services that we offer.

Ping us at [email protected] to build great digital solutions through the integration of Drupal and the healthcare technologies.

Oct 16 2018
Oct 16

FinTech and the disruption it can cause to the traditional banking systems is now a hot topic of debate in the banking conferences. Global venture capital funds are super-bullish on this front and are accentuating investments in the FinTech companies. Thanks to the burgeoning demand of FinTech in recent times, more crowdsourcing platforms are letting artists or fledgling entrepreneurs to crowd-source capital from a large constituency of online donors or investors.

A sheet of paper with Finance written in bold letters alongside relevant icons and laptop, notebooks, pen, and plant pot placed around it


For instance, peer to peer (P2P) lending, the high-tech equivalent of borrowing money from friends, helps in raising a loan from an online community at a mutually negotiated interest rate. Also, digital wallet providers allow people to zip money across borders even without any bank accounts using handheld devices.

Amalgamation of these technologies, which goes under the umbrella term FinTech, is expected to metamorphose the way all of us use banking and financial services. And Drupal can act as the perfect content management framework for building a great FinTech platform.

A portmanteau of financial technology

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Financial technology, which is referred to as FinTech, illustrates the evolving intersection of financial services and technology. FinTech allows people to innovate while transacting business ranging from digital money to double-entry bookkeeping.

The lines between technology and the financial services are blurring

Since the advent of the internet revolution and later the mobile internet revolution, financial technology has grown multifold. Originally referred to   technology applied to the back office of banks or trading firms, FinTech now caters to a broad variety of technological interventions into personal and commercial finance.

According to EY’s FinTech Adoption Index, one-third of consumers leverage at least two or more FinTech services and more and more of these consumers are also aware of FinTech being a part of their daily lives.

FinTech encompasses the startups, technology companies or even legacy providers. Startups use technology to offer existing financial services at affordable costs and to provide new tech-driven solutions. Incumbent financial enterprises look to acquire or work with startups to drive digital innovation. Technology companies offer payment tools. All these can be seen as FinTech. Surely, the lines between technology and the financial services are blurring.

Origins of FinTech

infographics showing the history of FinTech with relevant icons against each yearSource: 16Best

In broad lines, the financial industry has seen a gargantuan shift over the years with the way it is leveraged in the times of rapid technological advancements. 16Best has compiled a brief history of FinTech which shows how the gap between financial services and the technology has got bridged over the years.

The gap between financial services and the technology has got bridged over the years.

In 1918, the Fedwire Funds service began offering electronic funds transfer. And while the Great Depression was ravaging the world’s economies, IBM provided some solace with its 801 Bank Proof Cach Machine that offered the means for faster cheque processing. Subsequently, credit cards and ATMs came into existence in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

In 1971, first all-electronic trading emerged in the form of NASDAQ. And in 1973, the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) built a unified messaging framework between banks for handling money movement.

1997 was the year which saw the emergence of mobile payment through Coca-Cola Vending Machine. Fast forward to 2000s and the present decade, a slew of innovations crashed into the finance sector with the introduction of digital wallets, contactless payments and cryptocurrencies.

FinTech is definitely re-inventing a quicker and more durable wheel as the world continues to witness a superabundance of new ventures refining financial services with technology.

Merits of FinTech

Bar graph showing statistics on different areas of FinTech


Financial technology has taken the financial services to a whole new level with a cluster of merits that it offers. Here are some of the major benefits of FinTech:

  • Robo Advisors: They are one of the biggest areas of FinTech. These online investment services put users through a slew of questions and then relies on algorithms to come up with an investment plan for them.
  • Online Lending: It encompasses all aspects of borrowing from personal loans to refinancing student loans which improves money lending.
  • Mobile payments: There is a growing demand for mobile payment options with the stupendous rise of mobile devices over the years.
Bar graph showing statistics on global mobile payment marketTotal revenue of global mobile payment market from 2015 to 2019 (in billion U.S. dollars) | Statista

Personal Finance and Savings: A plethora of FinTech organisations in the micro saving department have been helping people to save their change for rainy days and a whole lot of them rewarding customers for doing so. For instance, Digit allows you to automate the process of saving extra cash.

Bar graph showing statistics on personal financeSource: Statista

Online Banking and Budgeting: Online banks like Simple reward users for using their ‘automatic savings’ service and also offer a cost-effective option over a traditional bank. Leveraging online tools, they assist users to plan budgets and handle their money smartly from their mobile devices with minimal effort to meet their savings goals.

Insurance: New insurance models have been strengthening the FinTech space. Metromile, an insurance model, sells pay per mile car insurance.

Bar graph showing statistics on Insurtech industrySource: Statista

Regtech: Regulation Technology, which utilises IT to enhance regulatory processes, is one of the significant sectors where numerous FinTech app ideas have come into light around this domain. Regtech is useful for trading in financial markets, monitoring payment transactions and identification of clients among others. For instance, PassFort helps in standardising the online compliance processes.

How is Drupal powering FinTech?

Organisations offering FinTech solutions need to maintain a robust online presence. Drupal has been powering the landscape of FinTech with its enormous capabilities.

The launch of TPG Capital

Homepage of TPG Capital with a timelapse image of running cars on the road and trees in the background


TPG Capital is one of the major enterprise-level FinTech companies which has leveraged the power of Drupal 8.

One of the primary objectives for TPG’s marketing circuit was to harness the Drupal’s flexibility as a digital empowerment platform. They wanted the ability to make alterations to content on the fly and try out new messaging approaches. Simultaneously, the financial industry’s stringent legal and regulatory requirements called for a flexible TPG platform that would meet the specific needs of the sector thereby offering top-notch security.

Drupal came out as the right choice when it came to the CMS that would facilitate the TPG’s goal for mirroring their cutting-edge business practices and incorporate modern website design and branding.

A digital agency built a responsive, mobile-first site. It featured newer CSS features like Flexbox and CSS animations and minimised the site’s dependence on Compass by introducing auto prefixer. Moreover, Drupal 8 version of Swifttype was built for the search component and contributed back to the Drupal Community.

The launch of Tech Coast Angels

Homepage of Tech Coast Angels with two people working on their laptop


Tech Coast Angels are one of the biggest angel investment organisation in the US. 

Tech Coast Angels selected Drupal as their CMS of choice for its excellent features vis-à-vis user authentication, account management, roles and access control, custom dashboards, intricate web forms for membership and funding application, workflow management and email notifications.

Performance improvements were made by a digital agency to both the Drupal application and the server environments which brought down the costs to a huge extent by minimising the hardware requirements necessary to run the Drupal codebase in both staging and production environments.

With Drupal being one of the most security focussed CMSs, it helped a great deal in making amendments related to security of the site. Views caching were enabled and unnecessary modules were turned off on the production server.

Market trends

Bar graph showing global investments activity in FinTech companies


The Pulse of FinTech 2018 by KPMG shows that global investments activity in FinTech companies has been steadily rising with 2018 turning out as the most profitable year. It is only going to grow more in the coming years.

Infographics showing bubbles inside a box on the left and description on the right about the size of bubbles with respect to FinTech companies

In the coming years, the main trends in the asset and wealth management, banking, insurance and transactions and payments services industries can be seen in the illustration above.

Conclusion

FinTech is a great alternative to traditional banks. FinTech excels where traditional banks lag behind. In addition to offering robust financial services leveraging technological advancements, organisations offering FinTech solutions need to have a superb digital presence to offer a great digital experience. Drupal can be an awesome content store for an enterprise-level FinTech platform.

Drupal experts at Opensense Labs have been powering digital transformation pursuits of organisations offering a suite of services.

Contact us at [email protected] to build a FinTech web application for your business using Drupal.

Oct 14 2018
Oct 14

First came the physical servers which were followed by the virtual machines and now the developer ecosystem is rapidly adopting container and serverless computing. One of the biggest challenges that physical servers pose is their management which virtualisation resolves by emulating the real system thereby streamlining the governance of different functions. Now, container and serverless computing are extrapolating the benefits to a whole new level for the developers. And this is where Kubernetes comes into play.

black and white picture of cables over a machine


Google’s Cloud Next 2018 summit held in San Francisco emphasised upon the company’s active involvement in over thousands of open source projects including Kubernetes. By the time Kubernetes was introduced in Google Cloud, it had more than 20,000 contributors which made it one of the fastest moving projects in the open source history. Kubernetes can be a huge asset in the deployment of projects based on another open source framework - Drupal. But before we plunge into that, let’s traverse along the short timeline of Kubernetes’ formation.

Timeline of Kubernetes formation

Kubernetes was originally developed by a team at Google which has been open-sourced since its launch and is managed by a large community of contributors. RisingStack has compiled an interesting timeline which traces the history of Kubernetes with the birth of the Borg system. 

Around 2003-2004, Google introduced the Borg system, a large-scale internal cluster management system, which was followed by the introduction of Omega cluster management system in 2013.

In the mid-2014, Google introduced the open source version of Borg in the form of Kubernetes. In the mid-2015, Kubernetes v1.0 was officially released.

2016 was the year when Kubernetes went mainstream

2016 was the year when Kubernetes went mainstream with more advanced releases, case studies, conferences, and the support for Windows Server and OpenAPI.

In 2017, big enterprises started adopting and supporting Kubernetes with Microsoft, Oracle, Google, IBM, and Amazon coming up with more container orchestration methods using Kubernetes.

A Closer Look at Kubernetes

A blue septagon with a white sailor wheel inside it and kuberneter written


An open source system, Kubernetes is used for handling containerized application across numerous hosts offering basic mechanisms for deployment, maintenance, and scaling of applications. It is hosted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). CNCF was formed through the partnership of Google and Linux Foundation. It aims to develop sustainable ecosystems CNCF helps in fostering a community of top-notch projects that orchestrate containers as part of a microservices architecture.

Kubernetes is a portable, extensible open-source platform for managing containerized workloads and services, that facilitates both declarative configuration and automation - Kubernetes documentation

Kubernetes enables you to deploy containerised application swiftly and predictably and can scale containerised applications on the fly. It seamlessly rolls out new features to your containerised applications and optimises your hardware.

The significant features of Kubernetes include:

Deployment of containers and management of rollout control: With Kubernetes, you can describe your containers and define how many you want in a single deployment. It can govern the running of those containers (even across multiple hosts) and also manage changes like updating images, changing variables etc. to your containers.

  • Resource Bin packing: This lets you declare minimum and maximum computer resources (CPU and memory) for all the containers.
     
  • Service delivery: It has the provision of built-in service delivery for the automatic exposure of containers to the internet or other containers in the Kubernetes cluster.
     
  • Autoscaling: It automatically performs load balancing of traffic across matching containers.
     
  • Heterogenous clusters: It helps in developing a cluster with a mixture of virtual machines, on-premises servers, or bare metal in the company data centre.
     
  • Storage support: It has the provision for persistent storage support with support for Amazon Web Services EBS, Google Cloud Platform persistent disks, and many more. Vendors like Red Hat, Dell, NetApp and EMC offer persistent storage for Kubernetes.
     
  • High availability: It has very high availability such as multi-master and cluster federation enabling the linking of clusters together for load balancing.

Docker vs Kubernetes

Note that Kubernetes is not a replacement for Docker but it is for some of the top-of-the-line technologies that have emerged around Docker.
 
One of those technologies is Docker Swarm which is an orchestrator bundled with Docker. It is possible to leverage Swarm instead of Kubernetes but Docker Inc. has chosen to make Kubernetes a part of the Docker Community and Docker Enterprise editions moving forward.

Kubernetes is significantly more intricate than Docker Swarm

Kubernetes is not a drop-in replacement for Swarm. Kubernetes is significantly more intricate than Swarm and needs more work to deploy. But again, the work involved with the container orchestration using Kubernetes would provide a big payoff in the long run - a more governable, resilient application infrastructure. Docker Swarm is a good choice for the development work and smaller container clusters.

Deploying Drupal using Kubernetes

Bay Area Drupal Camp 2017 had a presentation that exhibited the deployment of Drupal leveraging Kubernetes. A digital agency built a Lagoon platform that builds cloud web hosting solutions for decoupled Drupal with Node.js features. It showed that for scaling Drupal to a plethora of annual page views, decoupled CMS architecture enables the deployment of Docker, Kubernetes and OpenStack solutions together in data centres.

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Lagoon platform was created for optimising hosting for Decoupled Drupal sites on the public cloud using OpenStack. With Lagoon, Drupal admins can build containers for PHP with NGINX, run the MYSQL or MariaDB installation in another container with Node.js configured on a third set.

Containers for Redis, Varnish Cache and Solr complete the install with the management of load balancing, page caching and auto-scaling web server nodes to match traffic rates. Lagoon relies upon Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the OpenShift platform in addition to the Original Community Kubernetes Distribution (OKD). System admins would have to use Jenkins, Ansible, Vagrant, TravisCI, Puppet, Docker, and CircleCI for configuration.

Programmers and developers would have to be adept with GraphQL, React, Apollo, Next.js and Prometheus. Lagoon leverages Alpine Linux for container installs from Docker images. Content Delivery Network (CDN) integration completes a different production route for anonymous traffic by geolocation thereby optimising datacentre hardware.

Workflow process with Lagoon involves reading the docker-compose.yml and creating disk images which set up the OS for web servers in containers. Then, disk images are pushed to an OS registry like GitHub or BitBicket. Using Ansible, the disk image is pushed to a git repository and commits are made to Node.js for testing. Lagoon deploys disk images from the git repository for Drupal web hosting requirement s in Kubernetes clusters.

Minishift can be leveraged to run OpenShift server administration on the desktop. Lagoon comprises of server-side rendering for Node.js and React on NGINX, running Drupal on NGINX in isolated containers individually. Then, Varnish Cache is used to handle HTML file transfers to users and CDNs.

Market trends

Two rectangular boxes divided by lines with each block showing percentages on the implementation of the Kubernetes solutionSource: 451 Research

A study conducted by technology research and advisory company 451 Research investigated containers adoptions by enterprises across the wide array of industries. It revealed that enterprises of all sizes are rapidly using containers and man are even deploying and governing their containerised workloads with orchestration software. 52% of the organisations gestured that they are running container management and orchestration software in production today and 71% of the respondents were using Kubernetes.
 
Another survey by Portworx Annual Container Adoption in 2017 included insights from 491 IT pros across a variety of industries and company sizes. It delineated that Kubernetes was the preferred option when it comes to container orchestration(shown in the graph below).

A bar graph with different coloured boxes to illustrate the adoption rate of different container orchestration toolsSource: Portworx

Moreover, a report on Transparency Market Research stated that “key drivers of the Kubernetes solutions market are the rapid growth of container orchestration, increase in investment by vendors, more focus on hybrid cloud and multi-cloud, an increase in adoption of Kubernetes by major players offering cloud computing”.

This report also stated that while North America accounts for the largest share of Kubernetes solutions market, Europe trails behind the second largest. Also, Amazon Web Services, Google Inc., Microsoft Corporation, Red Hat, Inc., Apprenda Inc., UnitedHealth Group, IBM Bluemix, Cisco Systems, Inc., Target, Oracle Corporation, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd, CenturyLink, Inc. Kismatic, Inc., Heptio, Core OS, Datera, and NavOps are the major vendors.

Conclusion

Drupal as a great content store has grown exponentially due to the presence of its large and active community which is committed towards the perpetual improvement of Drupal to powering digital innovation. Kubernetes, also being an open source software, can of huge help in the Drupal deployment and has made rapid strides with colossal adoption rate among the big enterprises in recent times.

At Opensense Labs, we have been offering a suite of services to provide amazing digital experience to our partners.

Ping us at [email protected] to develop and deploy Drupal-based web applications leveraging the power of Kubernetes.

Oct 10 2018
Oct 10

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to different genres of music ranging from alternative rock and post-rock to trap rap and drone metal. Website traffic touches sky-high when a horde of music lovers remain glued to their screens to witness their favourite artists being awarded in this annual event of Grammy awards. Being a scalable and high performing space, the website of Grammy has coped with huge spikes in traffic with ease.

A speedometer in a peach coloured background


Website scalability is such a crucial aspect which has a huge say in the performance of digital firms. Drupal 8 and its capabilities lend better web performance. Being highly scalable, Drupal 8 helps in building a web application that is unfazed by the colossal spike in the internet traffic and scales tremendously. Grammy, powered by Drupal, has extracted the scalability features of Drupal to a great extent. Let's find out how.

The Significance of Website Scalability

58% of application/site owners overestimate their capacity levels: State of Web Readiness Report by Load Impact
Infographics with a heading, text, and four icons vertically lined up in a red background


A report from Load Impact has some interesting statistics on web performance.

  • 68% of respondents have encountered performance or stability issues with their website where the main reason was pointed towards the lack of resources.
  •  
  • 39% of e-retailers claimed that they incurred a financial loss due to performance or stability problems. In comparison to this, just 24% of the non-e-retailers claimed that they incurred money loss.
  •  
  • 98% of e-retailers believed that sub-two-second response time was essential. But the load time for e-commerce sites that were analysed in this report surpassed the desirable response threshold by a huge margin. The average was 7.9 seconds which is more than that for non-e-commerce sites.

Typically, 90% of your website’s response time is from frontend resources but this laters as your load and traffic enhances.

A graph with two curves illustrating frontend and backend load time


Questions that you can raise while determining ways of scaling:

  • Is your website or application performing acceptably with a minimum number of users on the system?
  • Is the website or application responding running faster with additional concurrent users? And if so, how many?
  • Are there hardware bottlenecks in the present system?
  • Is the website or application able to handle the increasing number of users/data?
  • What is the maximum amount of load the system is able to handle?

Is Drupal Scalable?

Drupal is a highly scalable CMS. If you want your site to grow and be amongst the busiest of online spaces, then Drupal can scale with your needs. Even if you are already popular and offer stupendous digital experience to the customers, Drupal is scalable to cope with the gargantuan amount of traffic to your site content.

Large enterprises love Drupal with the digital presence of big names like Grammy, Weather.com, Pfizer, Time Inc., Tesla, Puma, Princess Cruises, and many more powered by Drupal. Whether it is the extreme traffic spikes on certain occasions or the constant web traffic, Drupal handles all of that with utmost ease.

Drupal accommodates content growth and supports the most content-rich sites and experiences. It scales to govern more traffic, content, and users. So whether if you have one or over a thousand content contributors, Drupal can efficaciously cope with a monumental amount of visitors, content, and Drupal users.

Optimising Drupal Performance and Scalability

A superfast website significantly contributes towards the improvement of user experience, usability and engagement. Drupal 8 is one of the most efficient CMS for enabling blistering page speed.

A superfast website significantly contributes towards the improvement of user experience, usability and engagement.

Module management

Outdated modules can deter your efforts in speeding up your website. Updating every module enabled on your Drupal site can be beneficial.
 
It is also important to keep a record on used or no longer used modules. The number of Drupal modules installed on the site is directly proportional to the time taken for code execution thereby affecting page load time. Hence, uninstalling unwanted modules can improve execution time.
 
Furthermore, disabling the modules also add to the execution time of the code. So, a complete removal by uninstalling the unused modules would make the site faster.

Cache optimisation

Caching is an important feature that you can configure for enhancing your website speed. For advanced caching, Drupal comes with a great set of modules:

  • Internal Page Cache module assists in caching the web pages for anonymous users to enhance the speed for subsequent users.
  • Dynamic Page Cache module caches web pages for the anonymous and authenticated users.
  • BigPipe module lets users to swiftly see the unaltered, cacheable page elements while the personalised content is displayed next.
  • Redis module helps in integrating with the Redis key-value store thereby offering a tremendous cache system for static pages.
  • Varnish module allows you to integrate Drupal sites with an advanced and fast reverse-proxy system - Varnish cache- to serve static files and anonymous page views faster and at high volumes.
  • Memcache API and Integration module integrated Drupal sites with Memcached which helps in storing your data in active memory for a limited time period that makes the site faster to access.

Incorporation of Content Delivery Network (CDN)

CDN, Drupal module, assists in the integration of Content Delivery Network for the websites. It alters the file URLs thereby allowing the files like CSS, JavaScripts, images, videos, and fonts to be downloaded from the CDN instead of the web server. This helps in mitigating page load time and rapidly delivers web page components.

Usage of lazy loading

In traditional websites, all the images and content are preloaded into the web browser when someone accesses the site. Lazy loading loads these elements as soon as a user scrolls to view a content. Blazy, Drupal module, offers the functionalities of lazy loading and multi-serves the images to save bandwidth and server requests.

Image optimisation

Drupal 8 is loaded with image optimisation feature for setting the compression ratio of the images and fine-tune the page performance. Also, the size of the images for different screen sizes can be optimised in Drupal 8 which increases the page load speed.

Bandwidth optimisation

Optimising bandwidth refers to the aggregation of all CSS and JavaScript files to make them load together which ensures that all the page elements can be seen by the users almost immediately.

404 error management

When something on the site breaks to cause a 404 error, it can result in sluggishness. For instance, a failed image can hamper the performance of the site. Fast 404, Drupal module, utilises the resources better and whitelists files and checks pathways of problem.

Management of use of CSS and JavaScript

Avoiding overuse of CSS files and JS and adopting a minimalistic approach by keeping the code to a minimum can improve performance. Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation, Drupal module, can help in keeping a tab of your front-end performance by aggregating CSS and JavaScript files to improve speed.

Web hosting

It is of utmost significance that, while implementing every possible way of utilising the Drupal’s powerful capabilities, you select the best hosting provider that will decide your site’s ultimate speed, stability and security.

Scaling the server

In case, your server hardware is nearing its limits and you have optimised the site as much as possible, or you need a faster way of scaling than you can optimise, you can upgrade the server hardware in the following ways:

  • Scaling vertically: This is the simplest way of scaling the hardware. It refers to throwing more resources at the same server. In a cloud data centre, it may be as simple as upgrading the server size for more CPU cores, memory etc.
  • Scaling horizontally: This is a more intricate process than scaling vertically. It refers to adding more servers to separate the load. When done right, this can hugely minimise the load any single server receives.
  • Considering multiple servers: In case, you have multiple app servers for Drupal, you will require a method of deploying code to each server simultaneously. For instance, SaaS platforms like platform.sh and pantheon.io can handle the complete hosting setup for you but if you are doing it by yourself, you would need an rsync setup or git push to each of your servers etc. 

Up above the world so high: Drupal’s scalability for NASA

Flowchart showing the architecture of a website redesign with relevant iconsSource: Drupal.org

A digital agency migrated the website of NASA to the AWS cloud and onto Drupal to create a fully responsive and user-centric experience. Several AWS based Drupal CMS solutions for NASA were implemented for NASA for serving a plethora of needs ranging from nasa.gov to the Science Mission Directorate’s science.nasa.gov in both English and Spanish to a multisite platform and governance model for numerous Drupal applications serving groups across different NASA centres.
 
Nasa.gov and all of its subdomain components were migrated and relaunched which involved replacement of a closed source system. It comprised of more than 250000 pages and almost 3 TB of content.

Drupal in action

Drupal compressed the complete development timeline and also saved a lot of money in the process. Building with Drupal on the Amazon cloud ensured that NASA’s content is stored safely and scales with the content growth. With its user-driven APIs, dynamic host provisioning, infinite compute scalability and storage, and well-architected security architecture, Drupal and AWS together was the right fit.

Drupal compressed the complete development timeline and also saved a lot of money in the process.

Project highlights

  • Migration from proprietary, on-premise CMS system to an open source CMS in the Amazon cloud was performed without any service interruptions
  • Mobile-first approach was employed to the redesign of the site.
  • Headless Drupal in AWS cloud environment was built with security, performance and availability in mind.

Outcome 

Statistics shown on the right side in four blocks and a tab screen on the left with NASA homepage and a red paper bird on it.Source: Drupal.org

It is deployed in multiple AWS availability zones for redundancy handling approximately 500 content editors performing over 2000 content updates every day. On an average, it receives nearly one million page views a day and has handled peak loads of over 40,000,000 page views in a single day with a staggering and record-breaking 2,000,000+ concurrent users during NASA’s 2017 Total Solar Eclipse coverage.

Conclusion

Website scalability and performance is a significant aspect that ensures how well the digital business does during the busiest of times. Whether internet users throng at your website causing a sudden spike in traffic, or you are managing a popular service that witnesses a constant web traffic, Drupal scales with your needs.
 
We have been steadfast in our objective of offering an amazing digital experience through a suite of services.
 
Contact us at [email protected] to build a highly scalable Drupal site for your business.

Oct 08 2018
Oct 08

Big enterprises have been marching on towards the path of digital transformation. Disney, an entertainment giant, has advanced its digital transformation strategies by acquiring companies. By acquiring BAMTech, a media technology service provider, it can access the streaming technology instead of building it in-house. Spending billions of dollars on 21st Century Fox with the assets including famous characters from Marvel comics, it can connect directly with consumers instead of distributors and advertisers.

Illustration showing people sitting around a desk and working


Social media, cloud computing, data analytics, and mobility are dramatically altering the way companies operate. On the one hand, their synergy has led to easy-to-use products and services for customers, on the other hand, it has resulted in richer dividends for companies. Witnessing a positive correlation between business performance and the emerging technologies, organisations are fast-forwarding to digital transformation. 

Drupal, as one of the pioneering CMSs in powering digital innovation, can be highly fruitful for enterprises in their digital transformation endeavours. But before looking at Drupal’s prowess, how did the digital transformation of business models start coming into the picture?

Global connectivity shifts and empowerment of customers

A graph showing a straight line and a curve depicting the evolution of digital transformation


The emphasis and impact of the internet and global connectivity has shifted since the late 1990s to the 2010s. In the 1990s, only the enterprises in select industries like music, entertainment, and electronics were exploring digital products and services. Infrastructure providers led from the front in building out the information backbone for the efficaciousness and better productivity across finance, supply chain, and human resources.

In the late 1990s, the internet hype wounded up with a crash in 2000. But the evolution of consumer demand for digital products and services remained steadfast. As more customers were getting empowered with pervasive access to online information, along with a plethora of choices and channels, their expectations accentuated even more.

Now, the customers have become the primary force behind the digital transformation in all industries.

Digital Transformation in the driver’s seat

A flowchart showing boxes explaining building blocks of digital transformationSource: Hellosign

Digital transformation is the process of integrating digital technology into different aspects of the business that needs fundamental technological changes, different approach towards culture, operational upgrade, and value delivery.

Organisational change is the foundation of digital business transformation - Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation

For leveraging futuristic technologies and their increasing expansion into human activities, a reinvention of business is required by dramatically metamorphosing the entire business process and model.

Digital transformation demands a shift of focus to the edge of the enterprise and numerous agile data centres for supporting that edge. It also requires an enterprise to shed legacy technology that may be price-heavy to maintain thereby changing the company culture in order to support the push that acceleration that comes with the digital transformation.

Gartner’s IT Market Clocks for 2016: Digital Transformation Demands Rapid IT Modernisation states that 66% of the organisations doing digital transformation expect to generate more financial gains from their operations while 48% predict that more business will arrive through digital channels. Cited by 40%, it can empower employees with digital tools and 39% cited that it minimised business costs. To reap the rewards down the line, there is no better time to start upon your own digital transformation journey.
 
Major benefits of digital transformation for an organisation include:

  • Improvement of processes: Newer technologies permits businesses to automate simpler processes and remove the intermediaries in more intricate processes.
  • Finding newer revenue streams: Emerging technologies can open the doors for new profitable avenues that may not have been available for an organisation when they were first established.
  • Building personalised customer experience: Customers expect businesses to meet their individual needs and evolution of technology has deemed it fit enough to fulfil this very purpose.

Strategising digital transformation

Resolving the tension among the leaders

A piechart showing statistics on digital transformation leadership


The natural starting point in an effort to build executive alignment is to resolve tensions in the leadership group and distribute the ownership tasks in a planned manner.

Leveraging the intelligent edge

Infographic showing statistics on IoT with relevant piccharts and icons


The hottest thing in computing right now is ‘the edge’ also referred to as ‘the intelligent edge’. Think of it as a cluster of sensors deployed across industry and society. Vast amounts of sensor data have to be processed locally near the data source. The work must be done on-site if there is no time to send data to the cloud and wait for a response. That is why it is known as the intelligent edge. 
 
Getting the intelligent edge in businesses can make the process more efficient and effective and create a more pleasing environment.

Growing with the platform economy

Illustration showing logo of different companies to explain different types of platform economySource: Raconteur

Platform economy has transformed the way businesses think about innovation. Organisations can take advantage of this phenomenon where online marketplaces are storming market after market, connecting buyers and sellers and taking the friction out of commerce.

Signifying the security from the start

A bar graph showing statistics on top challenges impeding organisations from taking advantage of digital trends


When undergoing a digital transforming process in your organisation, it is always better to engage security people from the very beginning. It saves a lot of pain and backtracking later on

Reimagining your business right now

Four piecharts showing percentages on top drivers of digital transformation


In spite of the economic and political uncertainty, enterprises must seize the initiative and entirely reimagine themselves and the role technology plays for them. Such a need for constant change to be ahead of others in the business means the ‘digital transformation’ may give way to ‘digital evolution’.

Enabling digital tax transformation

An illustration in the shape of hexagon depicting digital tax strategy


Digital transformation can allow the tax professionals to rethink the way they work while offering exciting new opportunities. Digital technology in tax is quickly moving up the boardroom agenda as it affects enterprises both internally and externally. With more businesses going digital, governments and tax authorities can also adopt disruptive technology including advanced data-driven auditing techniques.

Transforming a whole economy

Horizontal bar graphs showing statistics on mobile and internet penetration


Digital technology is not only automating finance functions but the potential to grow business using artificial intelligence. For instance, the potential of a digital economy in India, world’s second most populous country behind China, is gargantuan with benefits for business and citizens alike.

How is Drupal 8 enabling digital transformation?

Drupal 8 has changed the web development landscape with its immense scope for enabling the digital transformation of an enterprise. Not only Drupal 8 does an astounding job to be a leading open source web content management system, but it is continuing to evolve with altering customer expectations.

Drupal 8 is continuously evolving with customer expectations

Some of the highlights are mentioned below:

Content creation

Drupal 8 authoring and theming systems are designed for ease-of-use and standards compliance. For instance, Drupal 8.6 adds support for remote media types thereby letting you to easily embed YouTube or Vimeo videos in your content. Moreover, the addition of Workspaces, experimental module, offers sophisticated content staging capabilities.

Easy installation

A table with rows and columns showing time to installation of different open source frameworksSource: Dries Buytaert's blog

Time taken for installing Drupal has been reduced considerably. You can install Drupal with the new Umami demo profile which exhibits some of Drupal’s powerful capabilities by providing an awesome website filled with content straight out of the box.

[embedded content]


Developer’s paradise

  • Developers can upgrade a single-language Drupal 6 or Drupal 7 website to Drupal 8 with the built-in UI.
  • Everything is fieldable in Drupal 8 thereby improving data modelling.
  • Drupal 8’s core improvements and APIs make it easier to create custom functionality on the basis of bi-directional data connections to handle and exchange content.
  • With mobile-first displays and responsive layouts, content can be deployed across platforms prepackaged for mobile devices.
  • Drupal 8 backend can handle content and be de completely decoupled from the front end and web applications.

Interoperability with adjacent technologies

Drupal 8 has a top-of-the-line interoperability with adjacent technologies such as CRM, Digital asset management (DAM), web analytics, marketing resource management, and multichannel campaign management (MCCM).

Security by design

Drupal is secure by design. The design of the Drupal is in such a way that it addresses all of the top 10 security risks of Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).

A box with pointers showing list of OWASP 2017 security risks


With a proven record of being the most secure CMS, it beats the big players in the CMS market when it comes to being resilient to critical internet vulnerabilities. Drupal Security Team is steadfast in its objective of addressing security issues and offering timely fixes.

You can enable a secure access to your Drupal site as it has the in-built support for salting and repeatedly hashing account passwords when they are stored in the database. It helps in enforcing firm password policies, industry-standard authentication mechanisms, sessions limits, and single sign-on systems.
 
It offers granular user access control to give administrators full control over who can see and modify different parts of the site. You can even configure Drupal for strong database encryption in the top-notch security applications.
 
Its Form API makes sure that data validation is done which helps in preventing XSS, CSRF, and other malicious data entry. It also limits the number of times login attempts are performed from a single IP address to prevent brute-force password attacks. Its multi-layered cache architecture assists in mitigating Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.
 
Rightfully, a report from Sucuri shows that Drupal is best security-focussed CMS amongst the leading players in the CMS market.

Bar graph showing the statistics on Drupal securitySource: Sucuri

Drupal as an e-commerce platform

Drupal stands tall in the age of platforms offering a suite of Drupal commerce modules which can be leveraged to build e-commerce websites and applications of all sizes. While e-commerce solutions, most often than not, are built with an application mindset, Drupal commerce was built with a framework mindset emphasising on what you can develop with it.

Metamorphosis of the whole economy

Drupal can transform the whole economic landscape of a business. For instance, Drupal enabled digital transformation endeavours of TPG Capital which is one of the renowned enterprise-level fintech companies. Drupal turned out to be the best choice to tackle the financial industry’s stringent legal and regulatory requirements.

Homepage of TPG Capital with images of TPG products


The story of Digital transformation with Drupal

Drupal Europe 2018 in Darmstadt (Germany) had a dedicated section for ‘Digital Transformation + Enterprise’. One of the presentations focussed on the digital revolution of the Chatham House.
 
Chatham House, which is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation, has been leading as a global independent policy institute. But its digital presence scrabbled to evolve quite so prosperously. It was an arduous task to access key reports and information.

Homepage of Chatham House with an illustration showing a boat and Euro logo

Being a content-heavy site, it had a set of intricate requirements. Drupal was chosen for the editorial flexibility along with its open source ethos. It proved as the ideal springboard for success with seamless possibilities. And moving to Drupal was just the inception of their long-term digital transformation plans.
 
New strategy focussed on improving the reputation of Chatham House, prioritising outputs, putting more efforts in marketing, and leveraging insights from feedback. It was all to be underpinned by measuring success KPIs and reporting.

Moving to Drupal was just the inception of the long-term digital transformation plans of Chatham House

Then, full website redevelopment project was performed with a user-centric design utilising the powerful capabilities of Drupal.
 
The presentation delineated the significance of collaborative efforts. Combining strategic partnerships with strong internal relationships has ratcheted the monthly online users of Chatham House.

Conclusion

Organisational change involves a lot more than just adopting emerging technologies. There is a change in cultural setup, operational upgrades, and transformation of the whole value chain. And all these factors culminate to form the very essence of digital transformation.
 
Digital transformation has been vital for organisations to be relevant, keep churning out ways for tackling the changing needs of customers in the digital landscape and stay ahead of others.
 
Drupal, as an open source CMS, has an active community that has been working towards powering digital innovation. With such a community, Drupal has been able to evolve with altering needs and can be a great solution for building a marvellous web presence for the businesses.
 
Drupal experts at Opensense Labs have been continuously collaborating with partners to pursue the digital transformation endeavours with Drupal development.
 
Contact us at [email protected] to understand how can we digitally transform your business using Drupal.

Oct 01 2018
Oct 01

Think of your best friend who keeps things to himself - a characteristic that would sometimes make it strenuous for you to understand if he is in distress. Juxtapose such a character with another friend who is an open book which makes it a downhill task to know what he is thinking and feeling. Such a correlation can be observed in this digital world where the security of open source software and proprietary software is constantly debated.

An open book, showing an image of ocean tides, kept on the table


Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, former President and renowned scientist of India, once reiterated that “open source codes can easily introduce the users to build security algorithms in the system without the dependence of proprietary platforms”. The security that open source software offers is unparalleled. Drupal, as an open source content management framework, is known for its provision of magnificent security for your online presence and is worth considering.

Getting to know open source software

It was in 1999 when Eric Raymond stipulated that more eyeballs can make the bugs look shallow. He coined the term “Linus’ Law” which was named in honour of Linux creator Linus Torvalds. Since then, it has been almost two decades for continuous usage of Linus’ Law as a doctrine by some to explain the security benefits of open source software.

Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone - The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond (Lesson 8)

Open source software consists of source code that is openly available for anyone to do inspection, adjustments or improvements. This code may comprise of bugs or issues that require to be flagged.

Furthermore, public availability means attackers could study and exploit the code that emphasises on inculcating code level security practices. Some of the common open source security practices constitute:

  • Governing an inventory of all software used. This data must consist of the version, hash value and the original source of the code.
  • Verification of the availability of security updates and bug fixes. This makes sure that the patch management processes are being done regularly.
  • Testing and scanning the source code. This is performed using code analysers, auditing tools, or a community like Drupal.
  • Make sure that open source applications are in compliance with the existing network architecture to avoid violations of any firewall or security policies.

Myth or fact: Is Open source software more secure than closed source software?

Whether it is the Heartbleed incident in 2014, where the vulnerability was discovered in OpenSSL. Or, the Microsoft Vulnerability Exploit in 2014, when credit card information of millions of Home Depot customers was compromised. Both open source and closed source software have a history of encountering security threats. But which one is more secure?

Closed-source software, also known as proprietary software, is only distributed to authorized users with private modification and republishing restrictions. On the flip side, OSS is distributed under a licensing agreement which makes it available for the general public to use and modify for no cost.

It is this ability to modify the code that forms the crux of the argument within the Linux community that open source is more safer and less susceptible to security attacks in comparison to closed source software Microsoft Windows.

OSS allows anyone to rectify the broken code. In contrast, closed source can only be fixed by the vendor. 

So, when more people are testing and fixing the code within the OSS community, open source gradually increases its salience on security over time. Although attacks are still discovered, it has become a lot easier to identify and fix bugs. Open source enthusiasts believe that they experience fewer exploits and their code receives patches more rapidly as there are a plethora of developers contributing to the project.

When digging deeper, the notion that open source platforms offer users the capability to keeping itself relevant with new and altering requirements underpins the argument for open source over closed. OSS does have a reputation of being more secure as the University of Washington states in a report.

Open source security in Drupal

Infographic with roadmap showing the Drupal security process with relevant iconsSource: Acquia

Drupal Security Team in action

The Drupal open source project has a dedicated team of volunteers who track security-related bugs and release updates. They help in:

  • Resolving security issues that are reported in a Security Advisory.
  • Offering help for contributed module maintainers in fixing security issues.
  • Offering documentation for writing secure code and safeguarding Drupal sites
  • Providing assistance to the infrastructure team for keeping the Drupal.org infrastructure safe.

Anyone, who discovers or learns about a potential error, weakness or a security threat that can compromise the security of Drupal, can submit it to the Drupal security team.

Process cycle

The process cycle of the Drupal security team involves:

  • Analysis of issues and evaluation of potential impact on all the supported releases of Drupal.
  • Mobilizing the maintainer for its removal if found with a valid problem
  • Creation, assessment, and testing of new versions
  • Creation of new releases on Drupal.org
  • Using available communication channels to inform users when issues are fixed
  • Issuing an advisory if the maintainer does resolve the issues within the deadline and recommending to disable the module thereby marking the project as unsupported on Drupal.org.

The security team keeps issues private until there is a fix available for the issue or if the maintainer is not addressing the issue from time-to-time. Once the threat is addressed and a safer version is available, it is publicly announced.

In addition, the security team coordinates the security announcements in release cycles and works with Drupal core and module maintainers. For any concern with the management of security issues, you can also ask [email protected] 

Security features

  • You can enable a secure access to your Drupal site as it has the out-of-the-box support for salting and repeatedly hashing account passwords when they are stored in the database.
  • It also lets you enforce strong password policies, industry-standard authentication practices, session limits, and single sign-on systems.
  • It provides granular access control for giving administrators full control over who gets to see and who gets to modify different parts of a site.
  • You can also configure Drupal for firm database encryption in the top-notch security applications.
  • Its Form API helps in data validation and prevents XSS, CSRF, and other malicious data entry.
  • It limits the login attempts that can be made from a single IP address over a predefined time period. This helps in avoiding brute-force password attacks.
  • Its multilayered cache architecture assists in reducing Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and makes it the best CMS for some of the world’s highest traffic websites like NASA, the University of Oxford, Grammys, Pfizer etc.
  • Notably, the Drupal addresses all of the top 10 security risks of Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).
A box showing a list of OWASP Top 10 Most Critical Web Application Security Risks in 2017


Statistical reports

In the 2017 Cloud Security Report by Alert Logic, among open source frameworks assessed for content management and e-commerce, Drupal was reported for the least number of web application attacks.

Table with rows and columns showing web app attacks targeting top CMS and ecommerce assetsSource: Alert Logic

Sucuri’s Hacked Website Report also showed that Drupal was the most security-focused CMS with fewer security vulnerabilities reported. It stood on top against leading open source CMSs like Wordpress, Joomla, and Magento.

A bar graph in red colour showing infected websites platform distribution in 2017Source: Sucuri

Challenges in open source security

Open source software has its share of challenges as well. Equifax’s 2017 breach was notable because of the millions of US consumers who were affected. For the digital transformation to transpire, developers are moving from perfect to fast using open source components as vital assets for swiftly adding common functionality. For letting developers move as swiftly as customers demand, security pros must address some fundamental challenges.

For the digital transformation to transpire, developers are moving from perfect to fast using open source components as vital assets for swiftly adding common functionality

The time between disclosure and exploit is shrinking. Today, there is enough information in the Common Vulnerability and Exposures (CVE) description of a vulnerability consisting of affected software versions and how to execute an attack. Malicious hackers can make use of this information and decrease the time between disclosure and exploit as was witnessed in the case of Equifax.

Identification of open source component vulnerabilities listed in the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) increased by 10% from 2015 to 2016 with a similar increase in 2017. For instance, in components from Maven packages, Node.js packages, PyPi packages, and RubyGems, published vulnerabilities doubled (see graph below).

A bar graph in green colour showing the state of open source security in 2017


Security pros must assume that prerelease vulnerability scans are not executed by open source developers. So, software composition analysis (SCA) and frequent updates to open source components will be the responsibility of the enterprise.

Conclusion

Open source security does pose a significant case for itself and can be a better option than a closed source or proprietary software. Also, it is a matter of preference looking at the organisational needs and project requirement, to choose between them for your digital business.

Drupal, as an open source content management framework, comes out as the most secure CMS in comparison to leading players in the market. At Opensense Labs, we have been perpetually offering digital transformation with our strong expertise in Drupal development.

Contact us at [email protected] for amazing web development projects and leverage open source security in Drupal 8.

Sep 27 2018
Sep 27

One of the reasons why The New York Times is able to catch up to its growing user base is its inclination towards technological advancements. That was evident when it leveraged the power of microservice architecture via a remodelled video publishing platform to scale with their newsroom demands. They also moved their infrastructure to the cloud which resulted in a stable and scalable email platform, powered by a suite of microservices, for sending emails to the readers.

Illustration showing a back office of news media company with several people working and paper being circulated in the machines


Why are big enterprises like The New York Times leaning towards microservices? Microservices has grown exponentially and holds an astronomical future for the digital businesses. It will be interesting to see how traditional CMS like Drupal finds a place in the world of microservices. But before plunging into all that, one might wonder where did this ‘microservices’ thing originate from?

Tracing the roots in the UNIX world

New Relic has compiled an interesting and brief timeline of the evolution of microservices. Microservices has its roots in the Unix world that takes us back to more than three decades ago.

As a term, microservices was first documented in 2011 by Martin Fowler

Service-oriented architecture (SOA), a design principle where services are offered to other components by application components via communication protocol over a network, was all the rage decades ago. Due to a superabundance of failures and costly implementations, the SOA earned a poor reputation and took a backseat. Martin Fowler, among others, has said that microservices are a new spin on SOA.

As a term, it was first documented in 2011 by Fowler at a software architects’ workshop.

In 2012, a presentation was given by James Lewis at the 33rd Degree in Krakow which was titled “Microservices - Java, the Unix Way”. This delineated microservices as a means of building software more rapidly by dividing and conquering and used Conway’s Law to structure teams.

Since that time, the adoption of microservice architecture has grown and many organisations are going for microservices as their default style for building enterprise applications.

Understanding the terminology

Illustration showing four boxes with texts explaining microservicesSource: LeanIX GmbH

What are microservices? Microservices are an architecture for splitting a monolithic application into smaller pieces. Each of those pieces offers a certain function through a well-defined and carefully handled API.

The collection delivers the same overall business value like the monolithic application with the difference being these independently working individual pieces in microservices. That means they can be updated swiftly without impacting an entire application.

“The microservice architectural style is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API. These services are built around business capabilities and independently deployable by fully automated deployment machinery. There is a bare minimum of centralized management of these services, which may be written in different programming languages and use different data storage technologies”. - Martin Fowler

"A microservice architectural style is an approach to develop a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API".

Netflix is an unsurpassed example of microservices adoption. It moved from a traditional development model with several engineers producing a monolithic DVD-rental application to a microservices architecture. Small teams could focus on the end-to-end development of hundreds of microservices that work together to serve digital entertainment to millions of Netflix customers every day.

Flowchart with the logos of amazon and etsy showing the difference between monolithic and microservices architecturesSource: LeanIX GmbH

The main difference between monolithic and microservices architecture, as can be seen in the depiction above, is that all the features and functionalities were under a single umbrella. That is, they were under a single instance sharing a single database. With microservices, each feature is allotted a different microservice, managing its own data, and performing a different set of functionalities.

How good or bad are microservices?

Illustration with boxes on left and right side showing challenges and solutions of microservices on the respective sidesSource: Logentries

The benefits of microservices are laid out below:

  • Autonomous deployments: You can update a service without having to redeploy the entire application and rollback or roll forward an update during mishaps. Fixing bugs and feature releases are much more manageable with fewer challenges.
  • Autonomous development: Building, testing and deploying a service would need a single development team leading to perpetual innovation and swift release cadence.
  • Small teams: Teams can lay their focus onto one service thereby simplifying the understanding of the codebase with the smaller scope for each service.
  • Isolation of faults: Downtime in one of the services won’t affect the overall application. This does not mean that you get resiliency for free.
  • Tech stack mixture: Technology that is deemed most fit for a service can be selected by the teams.
  • Scalability at granular levels: Independent scaling of services is possible.

Some of the challenges are outlined below:

  • Intricacy: More moving parts are there in microservice application than the equivalent monolithic application.
  • Development and testing: Developing against service dependencies would need a different approach and testing service dependencies is difficult particularly when the application is evolving rapidly.
  • The dearth of administration: The decentralised approach for building microservices may lead to numerous languages and frameworks thereby making it harder to manage.
  • Network congestion and latency: Usage of granular services can result in more inter-service communication. Chances are that if the chain of service dependencies gets too elongated, additional latency can be a challenge.
  • Data integrity: Data consistency can be a hurdle with each microservice responsible for its own data persistence.
  • Management: Correlated logging across services can become a formidable task.
  • Update issues: If not for a careful design, several services updating at a given time could result in backward or forward compatibility.
  • Team skill-set: As the highly distributed systems, microservices require a team with the right mix of skills and experience.

Taking Drupal into the context

Drupal is a monolith. How can it survive this trend of microservices? Drupal, being an amazing content management framework, provides a great content editing experience and has been pioneering digital innovation. With that being said, microservices architecture can be used for development and deployment of applications using Drupal. Let’s see how Drupal can put into the scheme of things.

Demonstration at DrupalCon Vienna 2017

A presentation held at DrupalCon Vienna 2017 demonstrated an effective way of integrating Drupal 8 in a microservices architecture.
 
Drupal 8 proved to be a useful content management framework for this implementing microservices architecture because of its:

  • Symfony components,
  • Composer to manage external dependencies,
  • and the magnificent results of the Web Services and Context Core Initiative (WSCCI).
     

[embedded content]


It exhibited the delegation of asynchronous work from Drupal to a set of very reactive applications written in Go with some assistance of RabbitMq queues. Elasticsearch was leveraged as a common data storage between services and REST endpoints were exposed where the endpoints could notify back to Drupal.
 
Furthermore, methods of connecting websocket server to push and pull messages between services were shown. To run all these services in a controlled and replicable manner, services of Ansible and Docker were extracted.

Demonstration at Drupal Developer Days Lisbon 2018

Another session at Drupal Developer Days Lisbon 2018 delineated how the citizen portal of the city of Reykjavik (Iceland) was relaunched using Drupal and microservices.
 
With the incorporation of more than 100 web services ranging from simple services like registering a dog or renewing a driver’s license to the intricate services like the admissions of children to school or updating the residential address.

[embedded content]


Powered by Drupal 8, this new portal integrates the services with a microservices architecture using JSON Schema as communication protocol. The microservices architecture was chosen to let centralised data collection and presentation in a single portal while simultaneously incorporating a heterogeneous landscape of services autonomously from one another.

Predictions ahead

Oracle’s Cloud Predictions 2018 report states that by 2020, the lion’s share of new applications will be powered by microservices architectures.

Open source has given a whopping push to the microservices architecture. Its several components support continuous integration and delivery pipelines, microservices platforms, containers, container management and orchestration, container registry service, and serverless capability.

Open source has given a whopping push to the microservices architecture

Adoption of cross-cloud containers like Docker and Kubernetes is on the upwards trajectory and developers consider an open cloud stack to prevent vendor lock-in.

A bar graph showing the CAGR of microservices from 2016 to 2023Source: Market Research Future

According to a report on Market Research Future, the microservices architecture market is expected to reach $32.01 billion by 2023 with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 16.17% during the forecast period.

Another report on Research and Markets for the forecast period of 2017 to 2023 states that as far as the ‘Market Analysis’ is concerned, the rise in the cloud adoption is integral for microservices market. This is because the microservices architectures function on smaller and simpler services. Also, there is a high demand from North American companies as they have implemented it in e-commerce, financial, and travel services. This has helped in storing data and information cost-effectively and enhanced the efficacy, agility and scalability.

The report on Research and Markets has an interesting ‘Countries and Vertical Analysis’ vis-à-vis microservices. Most of the major players are in the American region with the prominent vendors covered in the report include the likes of Cognizant, IBM Corporation, Datawire, Salesforce, Infosys Ltd., MuleSoft Inc., and Software AG. Japan, the US and China are expected to witness a tremendous growth in microservices adoption.

Conclusion

Microservices architectures streamline the overall application development lifecycle leading to quicker testing, higher quality and more releases. Such an architecture can be hugely useful for efficient management of Drupal-based projects. Innovation has always been something Drupal is greatly supportive of. Adopting a microservice architecture for Drupal development is possible and is extremely fruitful.

Organisations should be wary of their digital business ecosystem and should understand the challenges that they might have to encounter during its adoption. Opensense Labs has been in the constant pursuit of bringing a positive change for our valued partners with our expertise in Drupal.

Contact us at [email protected] to know more about microservices architectures and its value to your organisational setup.

Sep 24 2018
Sep 24

Software and the internet have metamorphosed the world and its industries ranging from shopping to entertainment to banking. It is no longer something that just supports a business. Instead, it has become an integral part of every part of a business. Organisations interact with their customers through software that is delivered in the form of digital service or application and on all kinds of devices. They also leverage software to enhance operational efficiencies by transforming every part of the value chain. This is where DevOps plays a key role.

Illustration showing a man protruding out of a computer with an envelope in his hand


DevOps is having an astronomical role to play in the rapid IT service delivery mechanisms. And when it comes to Drupal development, DevOps can be instrumental in streamlining project delivery involving Drupal. Before we traverse deeper into how Drupal can benefit from DevOps, let’s look at this terminology called DevOps.

Evolution of DevOps

Illustration showing venn diagram explaining DevOps model


Sometime between 2007 and 2008, when IT operations and software development communities were vocal about some of the calamitous level of dysfunction in the industry, DevOps started to coalesce.
 
Developers and IT/Operations professionals had separate goals, separate department leadership, separate key performance indicators, and, most often than not, they worked on separate floors. As a result, isolated teams were only concerned about their own fiefdoms, long hours, botched-up releases and dissatisfied customers.

People like Patrick Dubois, Gene Kim and John Willis pioneered the evolution of DevOps model

‘There must be a better way’ was the notion that propelled the two communities coming together and talking about betterments in software deliveries. People like Patrick Dubois, Gene Kim and John Willis pioneered this conversation.
 
Therefore, what began in online forums and local meet-ups is now a significant theme in the software zeitgeist which is probably what brought you here!

What is DevOps and how does it work?

Illustration showing an infinity-shaped spiral explaining DevOps
"DevOps represent a change in IT culture, focusing on rapid IT service delivery through the adoption of agile, lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach"

DevOps constitutes Dev which refers to software application development and Ops which denotes IT operations. DevOps is not a framework or a workflow but a culture that is overtaking the business world.

Gartner states that “DevOps represent a change in IT culture, focusing on rapid IT service delivery through the adoption of agile, lean practices in the context of a system-oriented approach. DevOps emphasizes people (and culture) and seeks to improve collaboration between operations and development teams. DevOps implementations utilize technology — especially automation tools that can leverage an increasingly programmable and dynamic infrastructure from a life cycle perspective”.

Development and operations teams are not siloed under a DevOps model. Sometimes, these two are teams are combined to form a single team where the engineers work across the entire application lifecycle ranging from development and testing to deployment and operations. Thus, engineers wind up developing a range of skills which are not limited to a single function.

Quality assurance and security teams may become more firmly incorporated in some DevOps models with development and operations and throughout the application lifecycle. When security becomes the point of focus for everyone on a DevOps team, this is sometimes called as DevSecOps.

These teams leverage practices for automating processes that have been, historically, manual and sluggish. They make use of tech stack and tooling which assist them while operating and evolving applications rapidly and reliably. These tools also help engineers autonomously accomplish tasks like deploying code or provisioning infrastructure thereby enhancing team’s velocity.

Benefits of DevOps

Infographic showing a man running and bullet points describing benefits of DevOpsSource: Algoworks

Incorporating DevOps into the business workflow brings in a lot of merits.

High velocity

Using DevOps, move at high velocity so that you can build digital innovations faster, adapt to altering markets better and grow more efficacious at driving business results. For instance, microservices and continuous delivery allow teams to take ownership of services and then swiftly release updates.

Scalability

Infrastructure and development processes can be operated and governed at scale. Automation and consistency assists in governing intricate and changing systems effectively and with less risk. For instance, infrastructure as a code assists in handling the development, testing and production environments in a repeatable and more efficacious manner.

Faster delivery

Enhance the frequency and pace of releases so that you can build innovate and improve your projects quicker. The faster you can release new features and fix bugs, the quicker you can respond to needs of customers and develop a competitive advantage. For instance, continuous integration and continuous delivery are the practices that can automate the release process right from the build stage to the deployment phase.

Reliable delivery

Quality of application updates and infrastructure alterations can be ensured so you can reliably deliver at a faster pace, thus, providing a positive experience to the end users. For instance, continuous integration and continuous delivery can be leveraged for testing each of the alterations and ensuring that it is functional and secure. Monitoring and logging practices assist you to be apprised of performance in real-time.

Security

DevOps model can be adopted without compromising on security by using automated compliance policies, fine-grained controls and configuration management mechanisms. For instance, defining and then tracking compliance at scale is possible using infrastructure as code and policy as code.

Collaborative efforts

More effective teams can be built as the DevOps model stresses on values such as ownership and accountability. Developers and operations team collaborate closely, share responsibilities, merge their workflows.

Best practices for the adoption of DevOps model

Infographic showing a downward spiral shape describing best practices and stages of DevOps adoptionSource: Cygnet Infotech

There are significant practices that help businesses to implement DevOps model in the best possible way and get the most out of it.

Performing small updates frequently

These updates are more incremental in nature in comparison to the occasional updates performed under traditional release practices. They assist teams to address bugs quicker as the teams can easily identify the last deployment that resulted in the error. Even though the cadence and size of updates may vary, the DevOps model helps in deploying updates more often than the firms who use traditional software development practices.

Using microservices architecture

Making use of microservices architecture helps firms in making their applications more pliable and allow faster innovation. Decoupling large, intricate systems into simple, autonomous projects is possible with microservices architecture. Applications are divided into many individual components or services where each of the services are scoped to a single purpose or function. They are operated independently of its peer services and the applications as a whole. Such an architecture minimises the coordination overhead of updating applications. When each of the services is paired with small, agile teams, businesses can move more swiftly.

Leveraging continuous integration and continuous delivery

Combination of microservices and enhanced release frequency might lead to numerous deployments which can pose operational hurdles. Hence, DevOps practices like continuous integration and continuous delivery help in resolving these issues and allow businesses to deliver faster.

Making use of infrastructure as code

Infrastructure automation practices like infrastructure as code and configuration management allows you to keep computing resources elastic and responsive to frequent alterations.

Monitoring and logging the workflow

Use of monitoring and logging allows the engineers to track the performance of applications and infrastructure thereby reacting swiftly to the issues.

Implementing DevOps model for Drupal development

A table with rows and columns describing a DevOps Dashboard TemplateDevOps Dashboard Template | Source: Smartsheet

The DevOps movement is leading the way forward for higher quality Drupal projects, quicker delivery, happier team members, and satisfied clients for projects of any scale. A digital agency used a Drupal development process to outline key pieces to a reasonable, DevOps-based workflow irrespective of the hosting platform or the different tools you choose to use.

The DevOps movement is leading the way forward for higher quality Drupal projects, quicker delivery, happier team members, and satisfied clients for projects of any scale

The agency maintains a pre-configured Drupal 8 install profile that lives on Github which is also mirrored on Packagist. This helps in kickstarting all the new projects with a working theme, pre-configured content types, Media bundles, Paragraph bundles and other elements.

A solid local development workflow is integral to any continuous workflow environment. Developers build new features or fix bugs on their local machines and the alterations are pushed to Github for triggering several actions. The agency experimented with DrupalVM and Lando which offered easy, repeatable processes for enabling developers and contractors to easily spin up a local environment matching production environment.

For this agency, the build code for each project like composer.json and any custom modules or theme reside in Github. Every time a pull request is made, their code is automatically deployed to a continuous integration server and to a live web environment.

For incorporating modern DevOps techniques, it needed a programmable hosting platform to let developers and other systems like continuous integration server to automate and interact with the platform. It worked extensively with both Acquia and Pantheon hosting which offered a different set of tools.

It leveraged continuous integration server called Circle CI for automatically spin up and test a new version of the site every time the developer introduces a new functionality or a bug fix to the git repository.

Automated functionality tests are another important part of DevOps strategy which this agency used to a great extent. Each time a commit is pushed, a complete version of the site spins up on CircleCI which runs through a series of automated Behat tests for verifying key functionality. CircleCI automatically notifies the hosting environment if the tests pass thereby spinning up a new branch and a new copy of the site. When the Github pull request is submitted on that branch, the final CricleCI build is triggered. When the tests are successful, the code is automatically combined with the production site.

Future of DevOps

A bar graph showing statistics on DevOps

According to a Capgemini report, 60% of the companies have opted for DevOps model or are planning to do so eventually. That means DevOps is being widely accepted as a key component of a business strategy. As DevOps continues to grow, some of the future possibilities that are expected to transpire along with the increase in DevOps adoption is being outlined here.

Perpetual growth of DevSecOps

Much in the same way, DevOps has the objective of inculcating continuous delivery in the business workflow, DevSecOps expands this to include security. Looking forward, this trend of incorporation of security into the DevOps pipeline will make businesses more inclusive with security tools and practices becoming part of the early development cycle.

DevOps and IoT

Increasingly, hardware manufacturers working on IoT devices would see software as a significant component of their project. This comprises the integration of DevOps into their business workflow making it absolutely compulsory to have people perpetually work on both hardware and software designs.

Monitoring to become the new testing

At the current and future scale, it is a formidable task and impractical to test all conceivable scenarios at the end of the product cycle. Rather than doing this, it is much more worthy to monitor for live issues and rectify them in short cycles. Testing puts a limitation on what you may find as it required you to think of certain problems to look out for.

But, monitoring will bring up issues as they happen. Adoption of monitoring will permit companies to understand the way their software runs in real situations thereby offering quick information about their systems.

Kubernetes to become standard for cluster computing

More companies will join the project and offer services on top of their operating systems. Moreover, extensions will be made for running applications in the cloud. Many of the major cloud providers are starting to provide Kubernetes as a service. Even a serverless Kubernetes will be on offer where nodes are managed by the cloud provider thereby creating another level of abstraction and simplicity for the developers. This general advancement within Kubernetes will lead to an enhanced adoption of advanced monitoring, logging and metric studying within companies.

Removal of (server) operating systems as we know them

This trend links back to Kubernetes becoming a main operating system for the cloud and clusters/containers that means operating systems would be replaced by the ones that can run containers in a Kubernetes cluster. Furthermore, operating systems for hosts will face implications from containers as in these new environments they will no longer have a host.

Conclusion

Continued growth of DevOps into new industries is opening doors for incorporating new departments such as security, enhancement in product monitoring and the standardisation of Kubernetes for cluster computing. DevOps and its accompanying benefits will become the norm as the integration of more departments into the beginning of the product pipeline would transpire and a rise in monitoring would improve solutions and designs.

DevOps strategy would have a positive impact on Drupal development as well and improve the project timeline and delivery. Opensense Labs strongly believe in the digital innovation and can help you provide amazing digital experiences through Drupal development.

Tell us how you want us to be part of your digital transformation journey at [email protected].

Sep 21 2018
Sep 21

A game of soccer is not shorn of any fanfare among the soccer lovers when the so-called English Premier League brings together the greatest players in the same team. And when two legendary players of different nations play together for the same franchise, fans often find it an arduous task to pick the champion of the champions. Choosing the best CMS for your business between Drupal and Sitecore puts you in a similar junction.

Illustration showing a task sheet and icons representing pencil and loudspeaker


Drupal and Sitecore are the leading CMSs in the market and that reflects in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management 2018. Apparently, both are amazing as the content store for websites and that puts digital businesses in a dilemma to choose best of the best breed. Here, we have put several parameters in place and did a side-by-side comparison. Let’s see who comes on top.

A Brief Exploration of Drupal and Sitecore

Before we dive into the comparison part, let’s quickly define the two content management systems.

Drupal

Logo of Drupal with a drop-shaped icon

An open-source CMS, Drupal is absolutely free to use which is maintained by a community of volunteers and sponsored contributors across the globe.

It comes with various modules and integrations out-of-the-box. It is powering some of the world’s biggest and most intricate websites and is a praiseworthy choice for firms that need a solution offering impeccable and complex integrations.

No wonder, it is on the upward direction in the usage statistics as can be witnessed in the graphical representation below.

Graphical representation of Drupal usage statistics with different coloured linesDrupal Usage Statistics from BuiltWith

Sitecore

Logo of sitecore with an circle-shaped red-coloured icon

Sitecore, a closed-source or a proprietary CMS, provides some amazing marketing automation tools out-of-the-box.

It is a good contender for enterprises that are considerate about content personalisation, journey orchestration, and marketing.

Like Drupal, it is perpetually rowing upstream despite heavy competition in the CMS market and has made a mark for itself as can be seen in the graph below.

Graphical representation showing usage statistics of Sitecore with different coloured linesSitecore usage statistics from BuiltWith

While both the CMSs are continuously proving to be quintessential when it comes to their respective growth and business adoption over the years, market share shows a different picture. Market share, with a bulk of the share in the pockets of Wordpress, has a strong contender in Drupal. W3Techs statistics delineates that Drupal leads the market share as compared to Sitecore.

Infographics showing percentage of market share with the help of horizontal bars

Comparing Drupal vs Sitecore in Different Perspectives

Doing a side-by-side comparison of Drupal and Sitecore on different metrics would portray a better picture of who wins the battle when to comes to being the best of the best.

Features and Functionalities

Metrics

Drupal

Sitecore

Content Management

Excellent content management

Excellent content management

Security

Highly secure

Highly secure

Decoupled and headless approach

Decoupled presentation layer available

Decoupled presentation layer available

Performance and Scalability

With a smaller footprint, it is more scalable and offers high performance

With larger footprint, it is relatively low on scalability and performance metrics

Multilingual site

Great support for multilingual sites

Great support for multilingual sites

Accessibility

Better features for web accessibility

Relatively less features for web accessibility

Multisite

Multisite functionality available

Multisite functionality available

Responsive web design

Fully responsive

Fully responsive

1. Content Management

Drupal has a much more customisable backend as compared to Sitecore. The default Drupal content administration view is stupendous. It can be further customised for optimising the content editors’ user experience.

Drupal allows the implementation of custom workflows for the content teams thereby ensuring that governance standards are met. It makes sure that all the content is posted and approved as per the norms of the organisations’ existing content practices.

For instance, with the release of Drupal 8.6, Workspaces module, an experimental module, has been included. So, when a large package of content, let’s say hundreds or thousands of items, have to be assessed and deployed at once, Workspaces module offers intuitive UI to do so.

Drupal 8.6 workspaces module in action with cursor moving in different directionsWorkspaces module in action

On the contrary, while Sitecore's current backend is tremendously functional, the user experience leaves quite a bit to be desired. Sitecore Director of User Experience, Niels Handberg, showcased the Future of Sitecore Content Management User Experience at the Sitecore Symposium 2017.

A man standing on a stage with a vacant chair placed in the cornerSource: Delete Agency

Upcoming editions of Sitecore such as Sitecore 9.1 will have hugely improved content authoring experiences and content management tools. It will have options for advanced workflows in specific areas or content types on the site. It will allow users to configure systems for approvals, notifications, and translations on multiple content items.

Inference: Drupal and Sitecore have been truly consistent with their approach of providing an excellent content management to the users and have been continuing to inculcate more improvements.

2. Security

An extensively researched whitepaper by the University of Washington titled “Is Open Source Software More Secure?” signifies the high-level security that open source software offer. It states that open source does not pose any significant roadblocks to security but rather reinforces best security practices by involving many people who can expose bugs swiftly.

Drupal offers fine-grained access over what content can be created, modified, updated and deleted and by whom. Although, as an open source CMS, it is a highly integrated system, it is also immensely security-focussed CMS. Drupal allows you to build securely integrated platform and has a suite of security modules to choose from.

Dedicated Security Team of Drupal is committed to address security vulnerabilities and build patches to ensure top-of-the-line safety.

Moreover, adhering to Drupal’s coding standards also helps keep security risks at bay.

In the 2017 Cloud Security Report by Alert Logic, Drupal was reported for the least number of web application attacks.

Tabular column showing security attacks in different CMSsSource: Alert Logic

Sucuri’s Hacked Website Report also showed that Drupal was the better performing CMS in terms of security as compared to leading CMSs like Wordpress, Joomla, and Magento.

graphical representation showing statistics on infected websitesSource: Sucuri

Sitecore enables you to create users and user roles with fine-grained access to any part of the site an administrator chooses.

It is built on .Net which means that whenever a .Net patch is released, all Sitecore sites will be updated automatically without any user intervention. And since Sitecore sites are designed to minimally integrate with other systems, the risk of outside security flaw creeping into the site gets reduced.

It offers extensive documentation on safeguarding one’s environment. Clients would have to coordinate with vendors in order to make sure that security patches are installed instantly.

Inference: Both Drupal and Sitecore are highly secure platforms.

3. Decoupled and Headless Approach

Decoupled Drupal offers multi-platform capabilities, awesome frontend experience, and marketing agility. So, a large enterprise with a presence of an awful lot of digital properties to govern benefits a lot with Decoupled Drupal’s Create Once Publish Everywhere approach.

Flowchart showing the different between Coupled and Decoupled DrupalSource: Acquia

Sitecore, with its decoupled approach, can automatically serve content in the format that is best-sized and suited for a user’s device. Sitecore originated as a headless CMS. But it has never marketed itself as headless as it has always separated content from the presentation and thought of headless as a commodity.

Inference: Both the CMSs can be a superb choice as the decoupled or headless CMS.

4. Performance and Scalability

The Drupal effect on high-performance websites is huge and can be very meritorious.

  • Drupal modules like BigPipe and Redis helps in the advanced cache optimisation.
  • Memcache API and Integration module help in the database optimisation.
  • Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation module keeps a tab on your front-end performance.
  • Blazy module provides the functionalities of lazy loading
  • Fast 404 module handles 404 errors on websites.
  • CDN module helps in the integration of Content Delivery Network for Drupal websites.

Also, Drupal scales with your needs to help sites cope with a colossal amount of traffic. High-traffic websites like The Grammy Awards, NBC Olympics, Time Inc., NASA and many more are efficiently handling spikes in web traffic. Drupal can manage a voluminous amount of visitors, content and Drupal users.

Sitecore encounters a challenge in order to attain high performance and scalability but its recent large-scale deployments have shown that it can be addressed. With a large footprint, it requires a large hosting infrastructure to manage it.

Illustration showing server configuration setup in sitecore with relevant icons

For attaining high scalability, Sitecore’s documentation recommends that separate servers can be assigned for individual tasks like content delivery, reporting, processing/aggregation and more.

The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management Systems, Q1 2017 report states that while Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) may ease off operational pains but large feature set add intricacy to operations.

Inference: Drupal has a clear edge over Sitecore in terms of website performance and scalability.

5. Multilingual Site

Drupal’s out-of-the-box language handling abilities deliver value to the firms who need localised digital experiences thus saving time and money in the process. Building multilingual sites is faster and easier with Drupal with the support for natively installing 90+ languages.

Four core modules in Drupal for language handling, interface translation, content translation, and configuration translation allow full translation of every part of a site. You can swiftly develop a customised site in any language. Or, you can build an intricate multilingual web application with dynamic, language-based displays using various admin languages and translation workflows.

Drupal installation showing different language options


Sitecore XM natively governs the multilingual content and the translation workflow. It also integrates with translation services thereby enabling content creators to write in their native language and translate it globally.

Sitecore allows each language to have its own version history. Every field on a template can be marked as unique to a specific language. Or, they can be shared across all the languages. Items can be pushed through the workflow for incorporating the translation process. When done properly, a site won’t require software alterations for supporting new languages.

Sitecore setup showing different language options


Inference:Building multilingual sites are well-supported by both the CMS.

6. Accessibility

Both Drupal and Sitecore are accessible platforms but Drupal has better features out-of-the-box like the default support for Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA).

Drupal 8 comes with several accessibility tools out-of-the-box with modules like Block ARIA Landmark Roles, Siteimprove, CKEditor Abbreviation and much more available to offer better experiences.

Sitecore needs designers and frontend developers to develop an HTML prototype which is split into components, tested, and rebuilt in the Sitecore system.

Both Sitecore and Drupal can be built and tested as per the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards but with Sitecore, it might be time-intensive.

Inference: Drupal has a slight edge over Sitecore when it comes to ensuring accessibility standards.

7. Multisite

The multisite feature of Drupal helps in governing multiple sites across your organisation, brands, campaigns and geographies on a single platform. It allows users to quickly and easily create and deploy multiple websites.

Drupal’s multisite functionality enables you to share a single Drupal installation consisting of core code, contributed modules and themes among several sites. So, managing the code is easier as each upgrade only needs to be done once.

Illustration showing Drupal logos to describe multisite setup

Sitecore allows you to share content across multiple sites for a consistent experience on all of them. A default Sitecore installation defines a single published website but this single Sitecore installation is capable of publishing multiple websites with each site having its own properties.

For instance, you can define a new Sitecore site to be your published public-facing website or to be used by content editors for accessing the content management system.

Sitecore interface showing multisite setup


Inference: Multisite functionality is at the heart of both the CMSs.

8. Responsive Web Design

The out-of-the-box mobile-friendly features of Drupal 8 creates quite the buzz with the words like ‘mobile-friendly’, ‘responsive’ and ‘squishy’ associated with it. Above all, it is designed with a mobile-first approach.

Drupal 8 offers responsive administration and toolbar for the content editors and mobile-friendly core themes for the themers. It also comes with core modules like the Breakpoint module and the Responsive Image module for the site builders. With the Web services in the core, it is also great for application developers for developing native mobile applications.

Sitecore is mobile responsive and display-agnostic. Its device detection module allows users to automatically detect and optimise content for different devices thereby giving the option of previewing the content on different mobile devices.

Also, the geoIP detection package helps in personalising the content based on the physical location of the user.

Inference: Mobile-friendly features are prevalent in both Drupal and Sitecore.

Content Editor’s Eye View

Metrics

Drupal

Sitecore

Editing Interface

Good editing interface

Good editing interface

Drag and drop functionality

Drag and drop feature available

Drag and drop feature available

Granular editing

Granularity while editing possible

Granularity while editing possible

Grouping of the content

Better grouping of content

Relatively less flexible while grouping of content

Layout configuration

Excellent layout configuration options available

Excellent layout configuration options available

1. Editing Interface

Drupal offers excellent editing options. One of the options is to use the full edit mode where any content item can be easily edited using CKEditor - WYSIWYG HTML editor.

Drupal full view edit mode showing the editing of an article


Another option is to do in-place editing with the Quick edit module where specific items are chosen to be edited as shown here.

Title of the article being edited using Quick edit module of Drupal


In Sitecore, content editing is managed by Sitecore Experience Platform and Sitecore Experience Accelerator. Sitecore Experience provides editing tools namely the Content Editor and the Experience Editor.

The Content Editor offers fine-grained control over the content elements organised as objects in a content tree. Editors can choose an item for editing its fields. The Editing UI is by design resembles that of Microsoft Windows and provides easy usability transition for Windows shops.

Sitecore interface showing options for content editing


Sitecore’s Experience Editor enables in-place editing where, like Drupal, content editors won’t have to leave the page to edit a content item.

Sitecore interface showing options for in-place editing


Inference: Editing Interface offered by both the CMSs is similar and efficient.

2. Drag and Drop Functionality

Adopting an intuitive feature like drag and drop interface is quite popular with Squarespace and Wix offering a lot of those features.

Drupal comes with Panels module which can enable drag and drop functionality. Another Drupal module, Stacks, can help content editors build beautiful pages without any code.

Sitecore Experience Accelerator offers a UI which can be leveraged to drag and drop various reusable elements onto the page like text, video, image, JS widgets and many more.

Inference: Both the CMS excel at drag and drop feature offering.

3. Granular Editing

In Drupal, monolithic content is broken up with the help of Paragraphs module that allows end users to select on-the-fly between predefined paragraph types independent from one another. The paragraph type is any unit of content such as a text block, slideshow, image etc. Entity Construction Kit, another Drupal module, offers an alternative solution to edit with more granularity and reuse.

Drupal module paragraphs in action with options for granular editingParagraphs module in action

Sitecore allows the content to be broken up into smaller pieces instead of one monolithic body. This, again, offers more granular control and reuse of content.

Inference: Granularity while content editing is possible with both Drupal and Sitecore.

4. Grouping of content

Drupal offers flexibility in the way display of grouping of its content is done. It is because of its highly structured content and the Views module as part of its core.

Drupal’s Views module in action with options for grouping of contentViews module in action

In addition to basic filtering, Views can also filter on context like determining the logged-in user, knowing what parameters were passed into the URL and many more.

Views also display a grouping with elements of multiple disparate data sources with a common element like the grouping of blogs written by authors from a particular set of magazines. It is possible to filter the search results further by a number of elements constituting author, tag, field etc.

Sitecore displays a grouping of content items using its Search utility. Search results can be displayed in multiple view types constituting image view, list view, and grid view. It can be filtered down further by numerous elements like the author, tag, field etc.

search utility option of Sitecore described with labels


Inference: Drupal offers more power in the grouping of content than Sitecore.

5. Layout Configuration

Drupal provides the Layout module that helps in the provision of author-controlled layouts across several devices. It does so by decoupling layouts from themes created by the developer.

Layout Drupal module interface with horizontal layers from top to bottom


Also, the experimental Layout Builder module in the recent release of Drupal 8.6 supports per-display customisations for defining layouts with dynamic sections. It also helps in creating one-off blocks for a specific layout that won’t show up in the global block list. This is essential for things like a promotion that is only visible in the single landing page.

Another Drupal module, Display Suite, lets content editors place the fields like paragraphs, images etc. in the required region of the page. It can, then, choose from several predefined layouts for any content type.

Display suite drupal module interface with different options


Also, Drupal’s Panels module lets the user select layouts without ever leaving the page.

Panels drupal module interface with different options


Sitecore does not let users do in-page layout editing but it does offer a wide array of multi-column grid layouts where each of the columns can be customised.

Sitecore also provides a tool called Splitter for creating row regions and customise columns where any layout can be customised with CSS.

Sitecore splitter tool interface with vertical columns


Inference: Layout configurations options are excellent in both the CMSs.

Developer’s Eye View

Metric

Drupal

Sitecore

Skillset

Knowledge of PHP, Symfony, Twig, and YAML essential

Knowledge of C# and ASP.NET essential

Development in Drupal needs proficiency in HTML, CSS and JavaScript for the frontend and backend requires object-oriented PHP and MYSQL as the database. Drupal, typically but not necessarily, runs on LAMP stack with Linux as the OS and Apache as the web server. 

Knowledge of Symfony and the dependency injection design pattern is required for the Drupal backend. For theming, understanding of Twig is required and YAML should be known for the configuration of themes, distribution and modules.

Since Sitecore is friendly to Microsoft shops, it requires developers to have proficiency in .Net library, in particular, C# and ASP.NET in addition to HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Microsoft SQL Server or MySQL covers the database part and the application server is IIS.

Inference: Both are completely different tech stack and very efficacious as well.

Hosting and Deployment

Metrics

Drupal

Sitecore

Hosting

Hosting-service agnostic

Typically hosted by Microsoft Azure

Deployment

Easy deployment

Relatively complex deployment

Drupal is hosting-service agnostic which can be deployed to any hosting service that supports PHP-based web applications. It stores the site configuration data in a consistent manner. It is easy to move configuration between environments like development, test and production environments.

Sitecore solutions are typically hosted by Microsoft Azure. To aid in deployment to Azure, Sitecore comes with an Azure toolkit consisting of ready-to-run command scripts, performance optimisation configurations, security essentials and many more. 

Inference: Being hosting-service agnostic, Drupal does the better job in this category.

Marketer’s Eye View

Metrics

Drupal

Sitecore

Marketing capability

Allows integration with best-of-breed third-party marketing tools

Comes with integrated marketing capabilities but third-party integrations not possible

Web personalisation

Drupal modules available for incorporating web personalisation features

Comes with integrated web personalisation features

E-commerce

Drupal commerce module helps in setting up e-commerce sites

Sitecore commerce helps in setting up e-commerce sites

Although Drupal core does not come with integrated marketing and analytics functionality, It does integrate well with major marketing automation platforms like Marketo and Pardot. Thus, Drupal gives power to marketing teams to choose tools that work best for their organisation.

Moreover, the Rules module helps in creating deep, personalised user experiences without the intervention of developers. Also, Acquia lift connector module provides integration to Acquia lift service incorporation best web personalisation strategies into the website.

Google Analytics module incorporates high-level analytics and reporting capabilities into Drupal.

Google analytics drupal module interface with different options

For businesses, who are in need of setting up an e-commerce site, open source module Drupal Commerce suite of modules offer a great platform.

Sitecore comes with integrated marketing and analytics capabilities in its core. It allows users to easily set up marketing campaigns and campaign analytics. For instance, you can track the number of visitors on your site and the level of engagement of the traffic.

Sitecore marketing analytics interface with different options


Also, Sitecore uses a rules-based interface to let digital marketers target content to specific users under certain conditions. With a feature called Engagement Plans, it can employ actions and triggers upon specific actions that are being met. Moreover, it manages Experience Profiles to track user behaviour.

Sitecore also offers dashboards and reports for monitoring page views, conversion rates, user engagement etc. which can be used for analysis.

However, the Forrester Wave: Web Content Management Systems, Q1 2017 report states that Sitecore’s practitioner’s tools like testing, optimisations, customer data profiles etc. for marketing needs do not compete against best-of-breed tools.

Sitecore also offers commerce capabilities by integrating with a suite of applications which is called Sitecore Commerce which is available for additional licensing costs.

Inference: Sitecore has in-built marketing analytics and personalisation capabilities which is not there in Drupal. But Sitecore’s inability to integrate with other wonderful marketing tools available in the market makes a strong case for Drupal’s third-party integration capabilities.

Business Constraints

Metric

Drupal

Sitecore

Industry-wide adoption

Relatively more market share and industry-wide adoption

Relatively less market share and industry-wide adoption

Business costs

Being open source, it is free to use

Incurs licensing costs and is priced very high

Vendor lock-in Vendor-agnostic Not vendor-agnostic
Bar graphs showing market share of drupal and sitecore in different coloursSource: Similartech

Whether it is Top 1 million sites, Top 100k sites or the top 10k sites, Drupal has a lead over Sitecore. This is because Sitecore’s pricing is high as stated by Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management 2018. In comparison, Drupal and its contributed modules are absolutely free to use. However, Drupal involves costs for implementation and hosting like Sitecore.
Drupal has a plenitude of hosting options at virtually every price point.

Being an open source platform, Drupal is vendor-agnostic. In contrast, Sitecore, being a proprietary CMS, lands you in vendor lock-in incurring high costs.

Inference: When it comes to right decisions regarding business costs and efficient CMS for the digital business, Drupal beats Sitecore by a country mile.

Community Presence

Metric

Drupal

Sitecore

Community size

Larger community

Smaller community

Drupal community is gargantuan with more than millions of people across the globe of all the skills and backgrounds contributing towards the betterment of Drupal core.

With such a large community, the Drupal project is perpetually under a vast peer review with innumerable independent developers working on the project across the world. Peer-reviewed, community-created patches are rapidly built for Drupal and its modules. The community’s ethos of teamwork and volunteerism drive digital innovation and it keeps on working towards the integration of Drupal with new, trending futuristic technologies.

On the flip side, Sitecore has user forums for developers to support each other. But the comparatively smaller size of community makes it difficult to gain access to qualified developers.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management 2018 stated that Sitecore has a reputation for intricacy and relatively long implementation and deployment times. Some customers have complained about insufficient support resources from Sitecore during design and deployment stages. Also, inconsistency has been witnessed in implementation quality from its partners.

Inference: With a robust community presence, Drupal far exceeds in this category against Sitecore.

Conclusion

Drupal and Sitecore have been compared against various perspectives and both the CMSs have apparently grown over the years with loads of features to offer.

Technical comparisons have shown that Drupal and Sitecore are both content store backed object-oriented framework. However, Drupal’s ability in integrating with amazing third-party marketing tools and web personalisation tools should be considered which can be way better than what Sitecore offers as part of its integrated system.

Unlike Sitecore, Drupal is hosting-service agnostic and is relatively easier to deploy. No wonder, Drupal has witnessed more industry-wide adoption as compared to Sitecore.

More importantly, Business costs are a huge factor where Drupal, being open source, beats Sitecore by a big margin since Sitecore is priced very high.

Finally, Drupal, with a presence of an active community, provides seamless module extensions, quick mutual support, and rapid response to security threats. Unlike Sitecore, Drupal is vendor-agnostic and its smaller footprint ensures more scalability than Sitecore.

Choosing a CMS for a digital business involves business demands and strategies that state what’s best for their future endeavors. It is important to look at this analysis in terms of your organisational needs and make a decision accordingly.

At Opensense Labs, we have been pioneering in the Drupal Development and can help you transform your digital presence. Ping us at [email protected] to make the right decision vis-à-vis CMS selection.

Sep 13 2018
Sep 13

A sportsperson is rewarded for his anticipatory calls which he does to judge the next move of his opponent. When done right, it can make a world of difference in deciding the fate between a marvellous triumph and a drudging defeat. A business enterprise is not much different which has to rely on its decision-making whenever it has to choose between technologies for their projects. Choosing Drupal for your next web development project can be the most significant decision for your organisation.

Illustration showing a bulb being picked up through a machine from the stack


No matter where you are today, your next step is crucial to take you to the leader’s position of the table or even slide down the bottom of the bottle. And when it comes to projects involving web development, selecting the right CMS in the incipient stage becomes really important. So, how can you transform the whole digital experience of your next project by choosing Drupal as the content store?

Why opt for Drupal?

As a technology professional, you seek for a reliable, safe and flexible web content management for creating the features that you want for your project and leave out weighty features. Drupal as an out-of-the-box web content management tool and a customisable platform allows business and technology leaders to power digital innovation.

Every time you come up with a significant business goal of achieving preeminence and ponder over Drupal’s ability in building what you want, the answer is nearly always ‘“yes”. With Drupal’s horizonless potential accompanied by native functionalities and module extensions, there is no limit to imagining what you can do with disrupting technologies without deranging your business.

Security

With a proven record of being the most secure CMS and application framework, Drupal beats the big players in the CMS market by standing resilient to critical internet vulnerabilities. Thanks to the Drupal Security Team for actively validating and responding to security issues.

Bar graph showing the statistics on Drupal securitySource: Sucuri

You can enable a secure access to your Drupal site as it has the in-built support for salting and repeatedly hashing account passwords when they are stored in the database.

It also supports the enforcement of strong password policies, industry-standard authentication practices, session limits, single sign-on systems.

Drupal offers granular user access control to give administrators full control over who gets to see and who gets to modify different parts of a site.

It is possible to configure Drupal for firm database encryption in the top-of-the-line security applications.

Drupal’s Form API ensures data validation thereby preventing XSS, CSRF, and other malicious data entry.

Drupal limits the number of times login attempts are made from a single IP address over a predefined time period. This helps in preventing brute-force password attacks.

Drupal’s multi-layered cache architecture helps in mitigating Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and makes it the best CMS for some of the world’s highest traffic websites.

Notably, the functionalities that Drupal has to offer addresses all of the top 10 security risks of Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).

No wonder, a report from Sucuri shows that Drupal is the best-security focussed CMS when compared to the likes of Wordpress and Joomla. If internet security is one of your top priorities, Drupal is your best bet.

Scalability

If you aspire your site to be amongst the busiest or if you already are so popular and are trying to cope with a colossal amount of traffic to your site content, Drupal can scale with your needs.

Infographic showing the statistics on the scalability of NASA website with a tablet showing the site of NASANASA, powered by Drupal, manages peak loads efficiently including 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Coverage
Source: Mobomo

The scalability that Drupal provides supports the most content-rich sites and experiences. No matter if you have one or over a thousand content contributors, Drupal can manage a voluminous amount of visitors, content, and Drupal users.

Content Workflow

Drupal’s magnificent tools make it easy for the content authors to create and publish content on the site. Authentication and permissions bring in efficacy in the editorial workflow and previews show how exactly your content will look on different devices.

Your content team can assess, edit and approve content from mobile devices anytime and anywhere.

Drupal also allows the creation of content with a WYSIWYG editor. You can even perform in-place authoring where you just have to browse the page, click on the content and edit right there. All the alterations and revisions are trackable.

You can see what stage your content is in - from creation to review to publication - and it helps in handling user roles and actions automatically.

Drupal administration interface showing the content state as unpublished


Content tagging and taxonomy is a great feature of Drupal where it helps in defining content elements, tag content on the basis of attributes, create a relevant taxonomy for content to make it searchable.

To make content authoring as easy as it can be, Drupal can be a lovely choice for your next project.

Multilingual

Out-of-the-box support for language handling helps you to deliver localised digital experiences thereby saving time and money. Drupal 8 core comes with 4 core modules for enabling translation of every content on the site.

Homepage of Al Jazeera in Arabic languageAl Jazeera Media Network, built on Drupal 8, produces news content seamlessly in English and Arabic languages.

Not only does Drupal give configuration and content translation workflows, it also gives an interface language of administrators and content producers. Thus, it enables the business organisations to speak in the language of their customers, 

Without the need for any additional components, Drupal 8 can be installed in over 90+ languages.

Once you install Drupal, languages packages can be safely and automatically downloaded and implemented without hampering your customised translations.

So, if you are in the need of quickly building customised sites in any language of your choice or an intricate multilingual web application with dynamic, language-based displays, Drupal is a praiseworthy option.

Content-as-a-service

If you want to allow your front-end developers to create engaging customer experiences, Drupal’s content-as-a-service approach lets you think outside the page-based mentality.

Flowchart showing the workflow of Coupled and Decoupled Drupal with rectangular boxes


Drupal’s CaaS solution helps in delivering infinitely reusable, future-proof content by decoupling the back and front ends where-ever useful. Separating the backend from the frontend also helps the frontend developers change the look and experience of the sites in a snap.

Moreover, front developers can build better experiences with Drupal’s presentation-neutral content and RESTful API and leverage tools like Angular, Ember, Backbone and more.

Ingestion of content from third-party content, for instance, from aggregators and syndicators, to bring content into your Drupal environment is possible which can be pushed to any channel.

With Drupa’s CaaS capability, content is easily consumed by other websites and application that you choose.

Web content is no longer pushed to a web page to viewed through a desktop browser. Go for Drupal’s content-as-a-service approach if you want content flexibility in your pursuit of delivering an ultimate digital experience.

Mobile-responsive

In this day and age, almost everything is happening on-the-go. Website development is not far behind.

Infographics showing the statistics on mobile responsive sitesSource: ArachnidWorks

Drupal enables the development of responsive sites and web applications to deliver optimal visitor experiences to the online visitors.

By supporting the best practices of responsive web design approach, Drupal helps in ensuring an impeccable content experience to the users every time and on every mobile device.

Pick Drupal for mobile-friendly and fully responsive sites and web apps.

Speed

Business projects do not end in perfection through dilatory strategies. If you are a digital marketer or anyone looking to incorporate celerity in business workflow, you know how the word ‘speed’ matters.

Drupal’s pliable platform allows digital marketers and developers to surmount the logjam and delay thereby running a steadfast and agile team.

For ensuring a continuous delivery of web development projects, Drupal can be a wonderful option.

Third-party integration

Outside of Drupal, there are plenty of great technologies that can be an astounding asset to your website.

Drupal integrates seamlessly with a variety of marketing technologies and business applications. This allows you to leverage the merits of the best set of tools out there outside of Drupal.

Drupal’s API-first approach helps in connecting content to other sites and applications thereby making content more vibrant and powerful.

If you are someone who wants to flex with the awesome third-party tools, Drupal gives you the liberty to do that flexibly.

Content architecture

The flexibility that Drupal has to offer for creating the right content architecture is immense and that shows in its ability to enable that using the Admin Interface or even do it programmatically.

You can exhibit apt content for each context with the help of stupendous display mode tools and Views. It constitutes a wide array of media types.

It provides a reposeful user experience by offering customisable menus and creating paths to content across several devices.

Drupal is the answer for the flexibility in the content architecture.

Multisite

When you have a plethora of business, ventures, it calls for multiple websites for different segments of your digital firm.

Drupal allows you to administer multisite setup across your enterprise, brands, geographies and promotional campaigns on a centralised platform. This helps in providing a faster and simple way of creating and deploying multisite ecosystem.

Business-driven

Nobody likes to be dictated how to do things in a business. And Drupal understands that. It does things as the business demands.

It helps in creating a solution that supports your business requirements. Thus, it paves the foundation for boundless solutions.

Drupal is your sure-shot choice to sway things your way as your digital business demands.

Perfect tech stack

Drupal comes with a modern LAMP technology stack including Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP to meet the requirements of fast-paced, agile and flexible organisations who are committed to building a next-generation digital platform.

Drupal is your perfect CMS with a strong stack foundation.

Robust community presence

Thousands of organisations build solutions with Drupal and in the process build Drupal itself. That’s the beauty of being an open source software.

From design to system architecture, Drupal experts make their valuable contributions back to the community. The Drupal community across the globe shares its knowledge on the right ways of doing things.

If you have a question, just drop in your queries and the active community will always have someone waiting with an answer.

Lead by modern web standards, you can create innovation for clients, the community and the world.

Big players

Business leaders like Tesla Motors, Pfizer, the Government of Australia, Grammy, Rainforest Alliance, The Economist, Oxford University and many more across the planet are powered by Drupal.

So, when it comes to the question of who is using Drupal, there is no dearth of big names in the tech industry. Join the league!

What value does it bring to your business?

The Drupal Values and Principles emphasise the culture and behaviour that each member of the community has to adhere to. These principles guide both the technical and non-technical decision-makings and show how contributors and thought leaders can support the Drupal community and the project.

The illustration below shows the values and the principles that Drupal has been offering over the years to the business enterprises around the world.

Illustration showing columns of values and principles of DrupalSource: Dries Buytaert’s blog

Creating impact

Drupal values have been instrumental in creating the sort of impact to the business enterprises that serve a great purpose in their growth. It has been a force to reckon with when it comes to developing software that is easy, accessible and secure to be leveraged by everyone. Choose Drupal for the impact performance!

Fostering togetherness

Drupal has been committed to building a learning environment thereby fostering togetherness. It does so by putting everyone in the community on the pedestal through collaborative decision-making, provision of encouragement to others to get them involved. In this pursuit, it lets everyone to take leadership challenge in order to take the community forward. Drupal is your go-to option for a collaborative business workflow.

Targeting excellency

In order to attain excellence in a web development project, Drupal allows you to perpetually reassess and embrace the changes as it comes making your project as great as it can be. Go for Drupal if excelling in your project endeavours is your agenda.

Better treatment

Drupal community strives to negate any sort of intolerance towards others. It is committed to understand each other well and give constructive animadversion thereby staying optimistic. It is a wise decision to opt for a CMS that professes to treat others with dignity and respect.

Relishing what you do

Who does not want to have fun while working on a project? Drupal firmly stands by its perspective to let its community enjoy while tinkering and innovating something unique with Drupal. Want the amalgam of innovation and fun to be incorporated into your project? Drupal is the answer.

What’s new about Drupal?

September 5, 2018 marked the commencement of a new era in this digital age. Being a pioneering content store, Drupal community, in its efforts towards making Drupal more and more wonderful, unveiled a major upgrade to Drupal 8.

Drupal 8.6, the new upgrade, comes with an improved user experience for the digital marketing and the content editing teams in addition to simpler installation and more stable upgrades for technical teams.

Considering Drupal can lend your content authors a whole new experience. This new upgrade has added support for remote media types that streamlines the embedding of Youtube or Vimeo content in your videos.

Moreover, it has made rapid strides with the quotient of ease of use. For instance, Workspaces, experimental Drupal module, offers sophisticated content staging capabilities.

The Layout Builder, another experimental Drupal module, is proving to be the saviour for site builders by allowing the creation of layouts with dynamic sections, thus, creating more opportunities for custom layouts.

Before the release of Drupal 8.6, downloading and installing it was an intricate and time-intensive process. But now, you can have an out-of-the-box experience by installing Drupal in minutes using the new Umami demo profile. This is especially great for showing enormous capabilities of Drupal right out of the box to the prospective clients.

Website of Umami food magazine with images of food on a plate and spoons


These are some of the highlights that act as the stepping stone for a whole lot of exciting stuff that is about to transpire in the Drupal platform. Drupal 8.6 is stupendous and the road ahead looks sparklingly bright.

The Bottom Line

While choosing the best platform for the governing the cornucopia of content that your site possesses may seem like an arduous task and why not? After all, it is your public-facing website that needs to be built with the utmost care.

Amidst the growing demands of businesses to improve their workflow with the incorporation of emerging technologies, Drupal has been able to stay relevant and useful and is still growing to be even better.

Selecting Drupal as the CMS of choice can act as the harbinger of success for your future endeavours. Opensense Labs has been cultivating a robust culture with its partners and is always ready to assist you to build a great digital experience with Drupal development.

Contact us at [email protected] for enabling a digital transformation of your business using Drupal.

Sep 07 2018
Sep 07

Nothing is permanent as every cloud has a silver lining. People come and go in your life. Some may call themselves your neighbour, well-wisher or a even a friend. But only some leave an indelible imprint on your mind. These people continue to stay in your life either physically or even in your memories. The space of macro trends in technology is also a volatile one where one or the other tech marvel glows bright and others may see a downward spiral.

Illustration representing macro trends in technology with a giant bulb and a lot of people working around it


Webbmedia Group’s 2016 Trend Report says that emerging technology breakthroughs are outpacing the evolution of public policies and discussions vis-à-vis ethics. It further states that our evolutionary responses to the technologies, that is pick-and-shovel for us to understand, is either to ignore them or to fear the worst. So, what does the macro trends in the tech industry look like in 2018?

Unwrapping macro trends

A macro trend refers to the pervasive and persistent directional shift of a certain phenomenon on a global scale. For instance, urbanisation, automation or the altering demographics are some of the examples of macro trends.

Macro trends help in zeroing in on the listicle consisting of all the things that would not fade away soon. Although they may attain a point where they are fully realised and are not considered trends but just the characteristics of technological fraternity.

Macro trends help in zeroing in on the listicle consisting of all the things that would not fade away soon

Longevity is usually seen as a significant characterisation of trends. Mega trends are the most pervasive and insistent phenomena. Megatrends, as defined by the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies, are developing trends that help in predicting “the probable future - express what we know with great confidence about the future. Megatrends are certainties.” A phenomena like global warming come under the category of megatrends.

Right down at the end of the table are the fads - widespread but with a short spell lasting a few years or even less. Pokemon Go, an augmented reality game, reached unprecedented fame in 2016 but people are highly unlikely to be hunting down Pikachu in 2030.

Microtrends fall somewhere between fads and macro trends that are influential and last a few years. For instance, flexible workforce where a firm retains minimal staff and gets the work done mostly with external contracts is an example of micro trend. Inherent caveats to such microtrends, most often than not, become apparent in practice thereby leading to a trend in the opposite direction.

Macro trends in the tech industry

In an ever-evolving technological landscape, it is worth witnessing the macro trends in the tech industry to understand its progress and the path ahead.

Continuous Delivery

For superfast project deliveries, Continuous Delivery has been instrumental in handling software development. In addition to this, it has also been bearing fruit in enabling Evolutionary Architectures. Evolutionary Architecture is a terminology, created by Thoughtworks, that stresses on supporting incremental, guided change as a first principle across various dimensions.

Infographics showing continuous delivery deployment pipeline through cylindrical and rectangular shapesSource: Logigear
For superfast project deliveries, Continuous Delivery has been instrumental in handling software development.

With a cloud platform and nice automation techniques, software architecture can be treated as code - infrastructure, servers, interconnections, services, and networking that are defined and governed through version controlled text files. This helps in achieving architectural leaps that were never possible before.

Drupal factor in Continuous Delivery

Like ship of theseus, a thought experiment that questions whether a ship fundamentally remains the same object if its components are replaced, we can replace parts of our system until the entire thing is new. Thereafter, we can keep moving forward as necessary or strategic.

For instance, Drupal development can garner tremendous positives through agile development methodology. Agile manifesto was formulated in 2001 with the objective of implementing Continuous Delivery. Agile process uses incremental and iterative approach to govern project development.

Homepage of Service NSW website with a logo in red and white


Service NSW portal is an initiative established by the NSW Premier for offering a centralised point of transaction for the Australian citizens with government agencies. In combination with Agile methodology, the Drupal development of the portal was completed within the stipulated timeline of 6 months that was agreed upon before the project started. 

Microservices

Microservices architecture style constitutes a collection of small, autonomous services where each of the services are self-contained and implement a single business capability.

Microservices has been a buzzword in the recent years among the web chefs as it comes up with a whole lot of benefits:

  • Autonomous deployments: Update a service without redeploying the complete application and rollback or roll forward an update during mishaps. Fixing bugs and feature releases are more manageable with fewer challenges.
  • Autonomous development: Building, testing and deploying a service would require a single development team which leads to continuous innovation and faster release cadence.
  • Small teams: Teams can lay their emphasis onto one service thereby streamlining the understanding of codebase with smaller scope for each service.
  • Isolation of faults: Downtime in one of the services won’t affect the entire application which does not mean that you get resiliency for free.
  • Tech stack mixture: Technology that is deemed most suitable for a service can be chosen by the teams.
  • Scalability at granular levels: Independent scaling of services is possible.
Infographics showing applications of microservices with logos of companiesSource: Logentries

It does have a set of caveats that is needed to be considered like:

  • Intricacy: More moving parts are there in microservice application than the equivalent monolithic application.
  • Development and testing: Developing against service dependencies would need a different approach and testing service dependencies is challenging particularly when the application is evolving rapidly.
  • Dearth of administration: The decentralised approach to building microservices may result in so many different languages and frameworks making it harder to govern.
  • Network congestion and latency: Usage of granular services can lead to more interservice communication and if the chain of service dependencies gets too elongated, additional latency can be an issue.
  • Data integrity: Data consistency can be an issue with each microservice responsible for its own data persistence.
  • Governance: Correlated logging across services can become an arduous task.
  • Update issues: If not for a careful design, several services updating at a given time  could lead to backward or forward compatibility.
  • Team skill-set: As the highly distributed systems, microservices need to have a team with right skills and experience.

Apparently, microservices have a great potential but it has to cover a long journey still. Businesses would find it a formidable task to migrate from a monolith to microservices. It is difficult to decide when to split services as it needs a good underlying platform and wonderful DevOps practices.

Drupal factor in microservices

A presentation held at DrupalCon Vienna 2017 showed an awesome and easy way of integrating Drupal 8 in a microservices architecture. With Symfony components, Composer to govern external dependencies and astounding results of the WSCCI initiative, Drupal 8 proved to a useful content store.

Flowchart representing Drupal and microservices use case with boxesSource: Drupal.org

It demonstrated the delegation of asynchronous work from Drupal to a bunch of very reactive applications written in Go with the help of some RabbitMq queues. Elasticsearch was used as a common data storage between services and REST endpoints were exposed where the external services could notificate back to Drupal.

Moreover, methods of connecting websocket server to push and pull messages between services were displayed and Ansible and Docker were used for running all these services in a controlled and replicable manner.

Machine Learning

Machine learning, a method of data analysis for automating analytical model building, is a branch of artificial intelligence. It is based on the notion that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and take part in decision-making with minimal human intervention.

Infographic explaining machine learning through graphs and relevant iconsSource: PwC

Towards the path of productivity

Machine learning is on a roll with astronomical metamorphosis in the Gartner Hype Cycle, down the “peak of inflated expectations” through the “trough of disillusionment” to the “plateau of productivity”.

Business enterprises are beginning to consolidate all the different proofs of concept that has popped over in the recent years. With tools, platforms and services on one side and inflated expectations propagated by media and artificial intelligence (AI) on the other side infiltrating market, several questions are being pondered over. How can AI benefit an organisation? What skills does an in-house team need? What software, tools and platforms would be the right fit for a business? These are the right set of questions to move forward in the direction of the “plateau of productivity”.

Machine learning is on a roll with astronomical metamorphosis in the Gartner Hype Cycle

An intelligent approach to development

With hyper-advancement of machine learning, curiosity ignites interesting question - How will it affect the job of software developers who have always written explicit instructions for computers, though, at accentuating levels of abstraction?

It is too soon to tell. There have been a superabundance of attempts at higher order languages where human developers just have to elaborate their intent and an ML/AI system conjures up implementation code. Although not far-fetched but these techniques are a long way-off.

Interestingly, hurdles plaguing other technologies may be improved with the help of ML. For instance, take a look at architecture review for an existing suite of enterprise systems. There might be highly intricate interactions between systems and components, sophisticated data access patterns and relationships etc.

Instrumenting these systems and then applying ML would provide better insight to do enterprise architecture in an improved way. Insights like “apply the strangler pattern here”, “couple these two related systems”, “remove this flaky old system” etc. can prove to be a smart way of business development.

Drupal factor in machine learning

So, how can you personalise web content experiences on the basis of subtle elements of a person’s digital persona? Standard personalisation mechanisms point to content which is based on a user profile or behavioural patterns.

Deep-Feeling, a proof-of-concept project, uses machine learning techniques to provide improved content recommendations to users. A presentation in Drupalcon Baltimore 2017 used the Instagram API to access a person’s stream-of-consciousness and filtered their feeds through a computer-vision API.  This was used to detect and learn subtle themes about the user’s preferences.

[embedded content]


The presentation focussed on establishing an idea about the sort of experiences that the user deems fit to be worth sharing. It was, then, used to match the user’s characteristics against their own databases. In this proof-of-concept, they used Acquia Lift service and Drupal 8 to recommend travel experiences on the basis of sort of things that a person shares.

On the Cloud

AWS defines cloud computing as “the on-demand delivery of compute power, database storage, applications, and other IT resources through a cloud services platform via the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing”.

Infographic showing cloud trends in 2018 with relevant iconsSource:iMicron

Complications in Cloud

Today, more than ever before, cloud is much more complicated than an edict from the Chief Technology Officer to “put everything in the cloud”. With AWS featuring so heavily, is that an indication of its maturity? Or is that the resultant of Amazon’s explicit strategy to out-compete other cloud platforms based on features? It’s a mix of both but many retail enterprises are dodging AWS as they see Amazon as a competitor and have started following a strategic decision-making as to forbid using their services.

Today, more than ever before, cloud is much more complicated than an edict from the Chief Technology Officer to “put everything in the cloud”.

There is a discernible growth in confidence in Azure and Google Cloud platform with both maturing as platforms and their messaging having a firm resonance with the buyers. There is a plenitude of choice in cloud but with new data protection laws such as the EU’s GDPR coming into play, it has complicated the situation. Organisations are finding it difficult to identify which cloud will support their regulatory and compliance obligations.

Feature parity

Another trend that can be witnessed is the use of feature parity as an objective while performing a cloud migration, product redevelopment or legacy system upgrade. It is hardly a good idea to simply reimplement a 10 or 15 year old system - bugs and all - using latest technology.

Often the excuse tends to be that “we do not want to confuse the business”. Or, there are concerns about changing the process or calculations but the output is, most often than not, a long, sluggish, big-bang delivery with superabundance of risk. Stakeholders are often not happy with a project that is late, exceeds budget, and does not deliver anything new for the business.

Instead, thought leaders in the IT should be more eager to raise question on whether the logic written more than a decade ago is a right fit for today’s business workflow. Also, they should provide their users more credit for being able to absorb a new and overall more capable system. Organisations should be closely examining the features that they really need rather than recreating a complete feature-set on a new platform.

Betterment in platform-thinking

There is a wave of ‘platform-thinking’ doing rounds which is basically deliberate encapsulation of useful capabilities and business functions into self-service, reusable platform components. As the technology and business platforms gains new features, it enables the business enterprises to speed up time-to-value.

The rise of platforms is becoming a significant latest trend. Whether it is public platform like AWS and Azure or the private ones like Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes, Cloud has given organisations new options for infrastructure deployment.

Container management

Google Cloud states that “containers offer a logical packaging mechanism in which applications can be abstracted from the environment in which they actually run”. 

The containerisation trend has been creating an ecosystem where all of our tools now work with containers. And in some ways, containers, are the new POSIX, the latest universal interface. Other significant trends like microservices, evolutionary architecture, cloud-by-default work tremendously well with containers.

Not long ago, big players in the industry were engrossed in the conversation involving topics of GIFEE - Google’s Infrastructure For Everyone Else. Kubernetes is just a Google-style infrastructure that can be leveraged by everyone. Google pushed hard and put in a lot of resources with the objective of getting people onto the Google cloud offering. Eventually, Kubernetes became the default container platform. Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration system for automation of deployment process and scaling and governance of containerised applications.

Moreover, Kubernetes has been becoming more accessible to run at scale. Running resilient, production clusters is becoming easier with improvements in the core Kubernetes software. In addition to this, Kubernetes is coming up with better tooling and highly active ecosystem. Most of the big cloud providers have started offering Kubernetes-based hosting.

Virtualisation

When the VMware virtual machines came into the scene in 1999, it was a slight hint towards virtualisation long-term impact on revolutionising all aspects of software. Virtual machines are used in everything ranging from developer workstations to Google-sized data centres. Docker, Kubernetes and all those today’s super exciting cloud technologies are the resultant of virtualisation.

The Drupal factor in Kubernetes

At a conference held in the Great Indian Developer Summit Bangalore 2018, a demonstration showed the orchestration, powered by Kubernetes, that provides a simple way to leverage the scalability and power of Drupal.

Flowchart representing Drupal and Kubernetes use case with circles and boxesSource: IBM Developer

A Drupal site was set up using Kubernetes and Postgres by splitting the services into containers. It involved:

  • Configuring an app that ran multiple containers in Kubernetes
  • Running a website hosted via Kubernetes
  • Using Kubernetes-persistent volumes to govern Drupal configuration between container restarts.
  • User interactions with the Drupal web interface
  • Drupal container using its persistent volume to store website date but not content
  • PostgreSQL container using persistent volume to store the database contents.

Data streaming

The world is expecting real-time analytics. It is a de-facto thing that we have to accommodate as we design systems. We savour the merits yielded from an event-based streaming architecture like loose coupling, high performance, autonomous components and scalability. But the need for streaming has been driven by the analytics requirement, that means, you just cannot meet this need without streaming.
 
Maturity in event-driven architecture is associated with rapid rise in data streaming. These systems are now a run-of-the-mill thing and well understood. Also, new techniques like using streams as persistent storage of enterprise facts are seeing a steady rise. Streaming is here to stay!

Blockchain

Forbes defines Blockchain as “a public register in which transactions between two users belonging to the same network are stored in a secure, verifiable and permanent way. The data relating to the exchanges are saved inside cryptographic blocks, connected in a hierarchical manner to each other. This creates an endless chain of data blocks -- hence the name blockchain -- that allows you to trace and verify all the transactions you have ever made.”

Infographic showing statistics on Blockchain with relevant iconsSource: Dot Com Infoway

This technology holds the promise to alter industries. Even though the conversation is often surrounding financial opportunities, it has lot more to offer in government, healthcare, supply chain, content distribution and many more. However, many blockchain technologies are still immature and unproven which needs to be unregulated.

Blockchain technology holds the promise to alter industries

Pragmatic approach to blockchain requires a clear understanding of the business opportunity, immense capabilities and the caveats, a trust architecture and the necessary implementation skills. Before kickstarting a distributed-ledger project, your team should have the cryptographic skills to understand the possibilities. Identify the integration points with existing infrastructures in addition to monitoring the platform evolution and its maturation. Be very cautious while interacting with vendors.
 
Today, Ethereum smart contracts and the Corda distributed ledger are praiseworthy options to consider.

The Drupal factor in Blockchain

Chainfrog has been working on blockchain technology since its early stages. They exhibited a use case where user data like communication history, addresses or the profile data will be available to users in a big enterprise.

Logo of chainfrog with an image of frog


Rather than making an HTTP call everytime a new user is added, Chainfrog proposed to remove the middleman, in this case, API, and adopt a peer-to-peer immutable ledger. 

Whenever a new user would be added to the Drupal system, Chainfrog’s blockchain based solution ‘Blockbinder’ will help in recording everything in a data table. This , thereby, ensures that all the Drupal installations inside a firm would synchronise their user data within 30 seconds of any new addition in one of their installations.

Conversational platforms

Conversational UI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) are often in the scheme of things when it comes to recent innovations in the tech industry. The foundational example is the Amazon Echo.

Infographic showing statistic on conversational platform with a partial circleSource: Artificial Solutions

For designing a device with no screen, Amazon started considering the development of conversational UI. Carrying on a conversation with a device or chatbot is not anymore reserved for the likes of Alexa, Cortana or Siri. With the help of APIs and third-party services to do the heavy lifting, these capabilities could be leveraged by device makers and enterprise developers.

Conversational platforms are driving a paradigm shift in which the burden of translating intent shifts from user to computer.

The Drupal factor in conversational platforms

Chatbot API, a Drupal module, can be leveraged to integrate a bot in the site. It is an extra layer that falls between your Drupal installation, NLP and various chatbots and personal assistants. It can work with systems like Dialogflow, Alexa, Cisco Spark Microsoft and Twilio.

Immersive Experience

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are moving towards the mainstream adoption. Businesses showing interests in VR beyond gaming and also novel applications of AR to improve productivity. The technology is still developing and needs specific skills such as 3D modelling but organisations are preparing itself for this new wave of interaction.

Infographic showing statistics on AR and VR with circlesSource: MDG Advertising

In the near future, VR and AR will be mainstream capabilities that businesses need to build, buy or rent. VR and AR would allow natural interactions between people and the digital world.

The Drupal factor in Immersive experiences

The demonstration shown in the video depicts a shopper interacting with the AR application. The mobile application of Freshland Market (a fictional grocery store), built on Drupal 8, guided the shopper through the lists while shopping.

[embedded content]


Another demonstration shows a decoupled React VR application on top of Drupal 8. The Drupal site of Massachusetts State University (a fictional university) stores all the content and the media that is going to be featured in the VR tour.

[embedded content]

Internet of things and Digital Twins

Internet of things (IoT) has been revolutionising the way we see connected world. Basically everything we see around us can be connected through internet. Almost!

One of the key trends in the IoT in the recent years is the digital twins. Forbes defines it as “a virtual model of a process, product or service. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations”.

Illustration showing a digital twin model in the form of a hexagonSource: Deloitte University Press

John Vickers, NASA’s leading manufacturing expert and manager of NASA’s National Centre for Advanced Manufacturing says that “the ultimate vision for the digital twin is to create, test and build our equipment in a virtual environment”.

For instance, GE’s digital wind farm paved new ways of improving productivity. GE uses the digital environment to inform the configuration of each wind turbine before the construction commences. Its aim is to generate 20% gains in efficiency by assessing the data from each turbine that is fed to its virtual equivalent.

The Drupal factor in IoT

A session held at DrupalCon New Orleans 2016 showed how Drupal and internet of things and come together. It showed a demonstration that used a barometric pressure sensing, GPS-enabled wearable armband connected to the internet. It could, then, display an icon to provide the weather forecast for the current location.

Conclusion

While the planet Earth keeps on revolving around the sun, not only the climate and year changes with that but the people and their needs as well. And so happens technological innovations and, thus, macro trends listicle go on adding and subtracting the name of technologies every few years.

The macro trends in technology shown in this blog post are the key mentions that are being witnessed in recent times and will continue growing. Drupal, as a stupendous content store, keeps scaling itself with a robust community presence that makes it relevant and useful in the times of tech innovations.

We, at Opensense Labs, keep following our everlasting approach towards keeping pace with new inventions. We can give your business a digital transformation that it deserves with the help of our experts who have years of experience in Drupal development.

Contact us at [email protected] to develop Drupal-based projects using such futuristic technologies that are doing rounds in the macro trends.

Sep 03 2018
Sep 03

You may have left for an outstation trip leaving the house door open. Or your city's waste management department may need to know if the trash cans in a locality are full to the brim. Also, carbon dioxide emissions from factories may have to be monitored remotely. All such situations call for Internet of things that gives you the power of connectivity to control and monitor seamlessly. Integration of IoT with Drupal’s robust content management framework can be highly effectual in facilitating the business workflow of your organisation.

a blue cloud connected with twelve other clouds with the sign of headphones, settings, computer, wifi, mobile, gaming


It’s great to witness the changes from the pre-internet era to this world of connected people through all sorts of technological advances. Websites are an ultimate medium of offering a great digital business experiences to the users. 
Drupal is one notch higher than the rest and its flexibility has made it possible to incorporate benefits of a futuristic technology like IoT into your websites.

Evolution of Internet of Things

It is interesting to see such an innovative piece of technology steadily taking centre stage. But how did something like IoT came into being? First ever IOT device burst into the scene when a  toaster was created for the INTEROP Conference in 1989 that could be controlled over the internet. 1991 saw the first ever website going live.

In 1993, a Trojan Room Coffee Pot, created by University of Cambridge, could monitor the pot levels and send the data to the server. It wasn’t until 1993 when the term ‘Internet of Things’ was first coined.

A discernible evidence of the growth of IoT, which was being seen as a force to reckon with, was seen during 2006 to 2008 when the European Union realised the potential that IoT had to offer to the world. A European IoT conference was held to discuss the enormous possibilities of enabling IoT.

Thus, around 2008-2009, IoT took a new avatar as this was seen as the birth of a new era with more things connected to the internet than the people as was stated in a report by Cisco. In 2011, Internet of Things made it to the list of Gartner Hype Cycle for the emerging technologies.

Graphical representation highlighting internet of things in the list of emerging technologies in 2011Source: Gartner

In 2017, Gartner mentioned IoT platform in its list of Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. We will see how Drupal can be efficacious in building an IoT platform later in the blog.

Graphical representation showing IoT platform as part of the emerging technologies in 2017Source: Gartner

Although both the IoT and the website saw the emergence almost at the same time, websites have seen a massive growth. Drupal can lay the perfect foundation for an IoT platform.

The Architecture of the Internet of Things

Gartner defines IoT as the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.

Prime characteristics of the Internet of Things can be described as below:

Six characteristics of IoT written in a pie chart listed as; 1. Anything any device, 2.Anyone anybody, 3. Any service, any business, 4. Any path any network, 5. Anyplace anywhere, 6. Anytime any contextSource: International Journal of Engineering Science and Computing
  • Network accessibility, compatibility, and interconnectivity: Amazing connectivity features of IoT help in providing network accessibility which basically means getting on a network. It also lends compatibility which gives the common ability to consume and produce data. Moreover, it provides interconnectivity that permits anything to be catenated with the global information and communication architecture.
     
  • Adhering to the constraints of things: It can provide things-related services by adhering to the constraints of things. For instance, privacy protection and semantic consistency between physical objects and their associated virtual things.
     
  • Heterogeneous devices: IoT devices are characterised by their heterogeneity. They can interact with other devices and service platforms through different networks.
     
  • Scalability: Devices that need to be governed and that communicate with each other will be greater than the ones connected to the internet. Handling the data generated and their interpretation for application purposes is even more pivotal in such cases.
     
  • State of devices: It is characterised by dynamic changes in the state of devices. For instance, it can either be connected or disconnected depending upon the conditions. Furthermore, the context of devices like location and speed can very different too.
     
  • Security: Safety of both the personal data and the physical things are of paramount importance. Security paradigm that scales with the deployment of endpoints, networks and the data that moves across all of it needs to be taken care of.
IoT architecture comprises of 4 key layers of technologies that form the pillar of support for the IoT.
Architecture of internet of things showing 4 different layersSource: International Journal of Engineering Science and Computing
  • The lowermost layer consists of smart objects incorporated with sensors. They provide the IoT devices with the characteristic feature of interconnectivity by allowing real-time data collection and processing between the physical and digital worlds. For instance, they can come in handy in measuring and recording temperature, pressure, air quality, humidity etc.
     
  • The second layer comprises gateways (microcontrollers, microprocessors etc.) and networks ( WiFi, GSM etc.). An enormous amount of data produced by sensors needs a transport medium in the form of high performing gateways and networks.
     
  • The third layer forms the management service layer which has the functionalities like the management of devices, analytics platform, process modeling and secure handling.
     
  • Finally, the uppermost layer signifies the application layer which is the amalgamation of the first, second and third layers put into practical use.

Applications of the Internet of things

Infographic showing percentage of IoT usage in different industriesIndustry-wise use of IoT

Internet of smart environment

Infographic showing statistics on the usage of internet of smart environmentSource: ZDNet

Keeping your environment safe and future-secure has been streamlined by IoT. Be it air pollution monitoring, forest fire detection, weather monitoring, checking water quality, controlling river floods, and protecting wildlife, IoT can be applied to a great effect. For instance, Bigbelly’s solar-powered trash can alert sanitation crews when it is full.

Internet of smart agriculture

Bar graph showing the market value of internet of smart agriculture from 2015 through 2020Forecasted market value of smart agriculture worldwide from 2015 to 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars) by Statista

Farmers and agriculture engineers can leverage the benefits of IoT for efficient farming. IoT smart devices allow you to monitor greenhouse gases to maximize the yield, control humidity and temperature levels in the compost, locate and identify animals grazing in the open pastures, monitor offsprings in the animal farms, etc. For instance, WaterBee is a smart irrigation system which helps in collecting information on soil content to help reduce water wastage.

infographic showing statistics on internet of smart agricultureSource: Telefonica

Internet of smart energy

Infographic showing statistics on internet of smart energy and environmental threatsSource: Telefonica

Controlling the flow of energy from wind turbines, controlling AC-DC power supplies, and optimising the performance of solar energy plants are some of the advantages of using IoT in the smart energy consumption. GE wind turbines use sensor and grid data to reduce costs of producing clean energy and increase electricity production.

Internet of smart cities

Infographic showing statistics on internet of smart citiesSource: Smart & Resilient Cities

It can be used in the cities for monitoring material conditions in buildings, smart fire management systems, weather-adaptive lighting in the streets, intelligently sending a warning to take diversions in case of any unexpected event on highways, and real-time monitoring of parking space availability. OnStar’s automatic crash response uses sensors to detect vehicle crash and send alerts to the concerned authorities.

Internet of smart health

infographic showing internet of smart healthSource: Moschip

IoT smart devices can be highly useful in smart surveillance of patients, controlling conditions inside a freezer which store vaccines, and fall detection of independently living elderly people. Shockbox can be fit inside a helmet which uses sensors to detect any collisions.

Internet of smart lifestyle

infographic showing statistics on internet of smart lifestyleSource: PWC

Smart living is possible with IoT as it allows the appliances to be remotely switched on and off, detects window and door openings, monitors home safety through cameras and home alarm system, and monitors water supply consumption. Belkin Echo Water uses sensors to track water usage in a household.

Business importance

infographic showing business benefits of internet of thingsSource: Samsung

IoT can be highly effective for your business growth with a superabundance of advantages. Some of the most important benefits include:

Better customer service

Attracting new customers, reward the new loyal and regular ones, and understand the behaviour of people in and around your premises can be really useful. Connected devices help in making that a reality. For example, Amazon Dash Button helps you in ordering your favourite products with a simple click.

Efficacy in business functioning

Efficacious functioning of business is of utmost importance. Internet-connected devices have the ability to gather and assess data and share them with other devices. Sisense enabled bulb connects to the Sisense analytics platform which can be programmed to change colour to reflect performance on certain metrics. So, if the daily sales target is met, the bulb can show a green light.

Remote business functioning

Business chiefs may have to travel places to supervise the progress of a project. IoT helps them in remotely turning an equipment on and off and monitor the activity in the office irrespective of their physical location. Rolls Royce, one of the leading automobile manufacturers, has raked in a lot of money through business insights they have generated from clients through remote monitoring.

Easily track inventory

Keeping track of business workflow can be streamlined. Your business might be dealing with a plenty of raw materials, components, and finished products which can turn out to be difficult to keep a track of. The internet-connected system of sensors enables in tracking down each stage of business workflow whether it is in the factory or a warehouse. RFID chips can help track inventory movements across a supply chain and within the garments store itself.

Saves business costs

IoT can help cut business costs through proper monitoring of usage of organisational spaces. Business organisations may lead a tough time in monitoring empty conference rooms with air-conditioners turned on. Connected devices let you control and monitor usage levels. Magnet 360, which helps businesses use the Salesforce platform realised that their system needed an upgrade. Through sensors, that could analyse air flow, they could cut down energy cost by up to 70 percent.

Consistency in production quality

Connected devices can help monitor the quality of production quality for manufacturers. In 2016, the manufacturing industry has spent $178 billion in IoT. Eaton provides on-line partial discharge sensors that perpetually monitor the insulation integrity of the medium-voltage equipment. This helps in identifying low-level capacitive discharge activity prior to insulation failure thereby optimising productivity.

Drupal and Internet of Things Incorporation

Smart wearable

DrupalCon New Orleans 2016 had a session which talked about bringing Drupal and internet of things together.

Logo of Drupalcon New Orleans 2016 with a crown-shaped icon


It showed a demonstration that used a barometric pressure sensing, GPS-enabled wearable armband connected to the internet. It could, then, display an icon to provide the weather forecast for the current location.

[embedded content]

The armband, which was tethered to iPhone, used mobile data to send latitudinal and longitudinal data to a ThingSpeak channel(an API for the Internet of Things). It, in turn, sent this data over HTTP to the Drupal 8 site to track the location of a ship. When the Drupal 8 website received this authenticated POST data, it created new location nodes, updated the map and table that is built with Views, and altered a block on the sidebar to show the matching icon of weather in the current location of the ship.

A presentation at DrupalCamp Oslo 2015 had a number of demonstrations to show how Drupal can be integrated with IoT technology.

Logo of Drupalcamp Oslo 2015 with skyscrapers in the background


Offline Status Checker

One of the first use cases was the Offline Status Checker. It was a simple demo where ESP8266, WiFi microchip with full TCP/IP stack and microcontroller capability, and a LED light was used. If the maintenance mode on Drupal 8 site was toggled to turn it on, LED light glowed red and if the maintenance mode was turned off, then the light glowed green. Basically, front page of the Drupal 8 site was queried to verify if the site is online.

Toggle maintenance mode with a TV remote

Another demo in the same presentation was called ‘Toggle maintenance mode with a TV remote’. A microcontroller received a infrared signal which was programmed to recognise on/off buttons of a TV remote. That means, it recognised only the on/off button and when it did, maintenance mode on the Drupal site was toggled.

Monitoring temperatures using Raspberry Pi

In addition to these, Raspberry Pi was used to remotely monitor temperatures and post them as nodes. Raspberry Pi, small and affordable computer used to learn programming, had a sensor attached to it to sense temperature every 3 minutes and send it to an endpoint using an API key. This API key was valid for one user and for every valid key, Drupal site allowed the posting of the node.

Arduino board integration

Arduino board, which senses the surrounding by receiving the inputs from sensors and controls lights, motors and other actuators, was integrated to a decoupled Drupal site in another demonstration. So, addition of new node of a picture of dog was recognised by Arduino board which, in turn, toggled the maintenance mode of decoupled Drupal site.

Future of Internet of Things

Predictions 2018: IoT moves from Experimentation to Business Scale, a report by Forrester, compiled some interesting facts about the internet of things and its steadfast growth.

Voice-based services would be the key part of business plans to be rolled out in the coming future.

Also after passing GDPR, the European Commission will issue guidelines to encourage the use of this technology and facilitate their the economic growth. This is because only 45 percent of data and analytics decision-makers at US organisations say they have commercialised their data while only 35 percent of those at French organisations and 38 percent of those at German enterprises do so.

Deployment of business processes that requires local data analysis close to the connected devices to enable these processes would take momentum.
 
Those who have been building industrial IoT platforms would exit the IaaS business.
 
There will be the danger of more IoT-related cyber attacks both on endpoint devices and on the cloud backplane as hackers set out to compromise systems to extract sensitive data.
 
Maturation of IoT and blockchain tech giants would drive blockchain adoption in the coming years.

Conclusion

Internet of things can bring the world closer. Amalgamation of Drupal and IoT can lead to something unique with Drupal’s flexibility in content management and IoT’s seamless connectivity between devices.

Reach us out at [email protected] to get the best of the internet of things and Drupal for your enterprise.

Aug 31 2018
Aug 31

Travel down the memory lane and think of your favourite restaurant you used to visit often. You might cherish the memories of sheer brilliance in the ambience as you walked in but never had to venture out to the back of the restaurant. The back of the restaurant houses items accessible to people working there and the main hall is for customers to experience the services. Decoupled Drupal almost has a similar paradigm. Well, almost!

Illustration showing a headless man wearing red checkered shirt , bow tie, and a hat


With Decoupled Drupal, a website visitor won’t be involved in a direct interaction with Drupal just like customers do not interact with the people working in the back of the restaurant. The visitor will see pages built using Javascript frameworks with Drupal as the content store. 

How can such an arrangement be remarkable for the marketers’ efforts to make innovative marketing strategies and witness resounding business growth?

Diving Deeper

You may call it headless, decoupled, web services or API-first but for a marketer, understanding such terminologies can prove to be testing times. So, first and foremost, how different are traditional CMS, headless CMS and decoupled CMS from each other?

Flowchart showing the workflow of Coupled and Decoupled Drupal with rectangular boxesSource: Acquia
  • Traditional CMS: In a traditional CMS, content creation can be done by the users through an editor which could be stored in a database (the backend). This content is then served to a frontend rendering layer which is firmly coupled to the backend.
  • Headless CMS: In a headless CMS, content creation can be done by the users through an editor which can be stored in a standalone database frontend by APIs. This content is retrieved by a completely separate frontend rendering layer through those APIs.
  • Decoupled CMS: A decoupled approach of content management is a blend of traditional and headless CMS. Content creation can be done by the users through an editor which can be stored in a database. This content can be served flexibly either through the existing frontend rendering layer or retrieved by a completely separate frontend rendering layer via APIs.
A decoupled approach of content management is a blend of traditional and headless CMS.

Therefore, in a decoupled architecture, the content is exposed to another frontend system by the Drupal backend such as native mobile applications, digital signage, conversational UIs or applications developed using JavaScript.

So, that’s about the basic difference between the traditional approach and the decoupled approach of content management systems. What does decoupled Drupal do to a marketer’s strategy and how is it beneficial for them?

Capabilities of Decoupled Drupal

The things that decoupled Drupal is able to accomplish can prove to be a harbinger of a new era of successful business with its astonishing capabilities.

Multi-platform capabilities

A large business enterprise with a presence of an awful lot of digital properties to govern and update can benefit to a mammoth extent with decoupled Drupal as a backend. Being a content repository, decoupled CMS enables you to serve dynamic content to a plethora of places ranging from mobile apps and voice tech platforms to IoT devices and futuristic technologies down the road.

Awesome frontend experience

Traditional Drupal architectures have some design circumscription that can forbid designers and frontend developers from delivering a modern design system that could offer a spectacular user experience.
 
Facilitation of usage of external design systems can be enabled by decoupled Drupal. In such an architecture, Drupal is solely doled out to compiling data, passing that on to an external design system and giving control of the markup to that system. This makes sure that your content will present daintily across platforms.

Marketing agility

It’s a strenuous task for the marketers to update and redesign digital properties rapidly keeping in mind the ever-evolving customer expectations. In addition to this, there is an astronomical investment of quality time and resources across design, development and marketing departments.

Customer experience is evolving at a blistering pace!

Traditional Drupal architecture could take ample amount of time to make updates and redesigns. This is because modification has to be performed at both the backend and the frontend leading to the dependence of marketers on both the developers and designers for the completion of the project.
 
By the time you would bring together your development team, zero-in on design, and finally agree on the way forward, proposed changes would already look outmoded. Customer experience is evolving at a blistering pace!
 
Streamlining the upgrades to the backend without impacting the user experience on the front end is a monumental advantage of decoupling your Drupal CMS. As a result, making design and UX alterations to the frontend can be easily done independently from the backend.

Benefits of Decoupled Drupal for Marketers

Traditional CMS approaches can sometimes prove to be a thorn in the marketer’s flesh while looking to build a robust business. Decoupled Drupal has a lot to offer to a Marketer’s strategy which can be seen through the eyes of organisations who have benefitted from innovative marketing strategies.

Shore up sales and revenue

At the end of the day, your marketing strategies should rake in huge profits that spells the success of your long-drawn methods. Adopting anything, for that matter, into your business workflow involves a whole lot of speculations about the sort of impact that it would have. Adopting decoupled Drupal can prove highly lucrative for an organisation. The Kuusamo-based Ruka, one of the popular ski resorts in Finland, has made incredible strides in terms of their financial growth with the implementation of decoupled Drupal.

The online presence of Ruka was reeling under the challenges of bad user experience, a dearth of mobile support, increase in manual labour due to missing integrations. Even the minutest of alterations to the online store needed software development.

Homepage of Ruka with an image of a bicycle near a river


To achieve the best possible user experience, React was used to rebuild the frontend of the online store with Drupal 8 and Commerce 2 taking the responsibility of content management.

The entire project was carried out using the principles of Scrum framework which changed the composition of the team fluidly as per the needs of the project.

The remodelled Ruka online store turned out to be more user-friendly than ever before thereby significantly simplifying the maintenance process. Betterment in the usability enhanced the volume of mobile transactions by almost 30%. Moreover, 12% increase was established in the total amount of web sales in comparison to the time when the older site was in place.

Relay the right message to the customers

It is of paramount importance that marketers keep up with the customer expectations. To do that, they need to serve the right message, on the right device, and at the right time.

Princess Cruises, one of the premiere cruise lines in the world, brought in innovation to their marketing landscape with the incorporation of decoupled Drupal. They went on to fundamentally alter the way their guest accesses information while onboard their ships.

[embedded content]


Every guest relied on the mobile phones to instantly avail information, buy items and inform the management about anything. So, it paved the way for the transformation of Princess experience with the launch of [email protected] It is a mobile application designed specifically to enable guests in planning their day planner and activities, assess the ship’s itinerary, scan through restaurant menus and book shore excursions on-the-go.

The digital experience had to be reliable when the ships are sailing different parts of the globe. Thus, it needed a centralised way of governing content across multiple channels and touchpoints for offering a uniform experience on mobile and digital signage onboard the ship.

Princess Cruises chose decoupled Drupal approach to relay content across several touchpoints and channels. Princess Cruises could create content once and publish everywhere thereby connecting every passenger to [email protected], and hence Drupal.

Faster time to market

Continuous delivery of a product is every marketer’s numero uno need. Delivering quality products faster to the market is very essential and when it comes to the rebuilding of a site, business implications creep in. Challenges like production downtime had to be coped with while revamping an entire site.

A decoupled CMS strategy can be a wonderful solution for a website that is in dire need of a change. Legacy.com, a global leader in online obituaries, which chose to rebuild its site using decoupled Drupal with the help of a Drupal agency.

Homepage of Legacy with a person holding a framed photo


To fulfil the needs of an enterprise-grade publishing platform, decoupled Drupal helped in incorporating highly customised and lightweight JavaScript-based frontend. So, the page structure deployed was a progressively decoupled architecture with Drupal administering and rendering the layout or skeleton of the page architecture.

The frontend development was taken care of by the in-house team at Legacy.com and the Drupal agency managed the Drupal development to finish the project in a record 4-month delivery timeline.

Entice new customers to come on board

Acquiring and retaining customers requires a lot of customer-centric planning. Marketers have to perpetually work on keeping existing customers engaged and simultaneously attract new customers to come on board.

Making every interaction with the customer interesting, quick, and engaging is a significant approach for marketers. Powdr Corporation, one of the largest ski resort operators in North America, wanted to offer each brand in the Powdr family the sort of flexibility needed to enable customised web experiences for users.

Marketers have to perpetually work on keeping existing customers engaged and simultaneously attract new customers to come on board.
 
Homepage of Powdr with a woman enjoying snow


The major hurdle for Powdr was to handle all of their digital properties across multiple sites and at the same time giving each resort the power to show their uniqueness as a brand. It chose a decoupled Drupal architecture to kickstart its flagship site along with resort sites.

Each of the resort sites used Drupal as the content repository that exposed content for consumption by its preferred JS framework in the frontend. This gave frontend designers flexibility and helped in customising their approach for each of the brands in the Powdr ecosystem.

Powdr’s adoption of decoupled Drupal provided an engaging experience to the customers and brought the beautiful mountain ranges to different screens and devices. The launch of the revamped site resulted in 50% of the users entering into a purchase path directly from the homepage.

Build user engagement

Marketers need to make sure that the business site keeps the user engaged for a longer time. A good quality content coupled with a website that has an appealing design and could withstand high traffic is every marketer’s important part of the wishlist.
NASA, an independent agency of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, took the decoupled route to redesign their site with the help of an agency. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Drupal proved to be the perfect match for meeting the content needs of both NASA and the public with user-driven APIs, dynamic host provisioning, scalability and security.

Homepage of NASA with images of earth from space and other space objects


The website of NASA is deployed in several AWS availability zones and governs almost 500 content editors updating over 2,000 content every day. On an average, it receives approximately a million page views a day. It has handled peak loads of nearly 40,000,000 page views in a single day with a record-shattering  2,000,000+ concurrent users during NASA’s 2017 Total Solar Eclipse coverage.

Scope for future enhancement

Having the flexibility to think of more ideas and bringing those ideas into life by being able to easily add them to the website is a huge boost for marketers. New requirements always pop up in the marketer’s mind that could be added to the site for more customer engagement. The decoupled approach gives that freedom and flexibility needed to keep improving the public-facing site.

Hoorooh Digital launched a fully decoupled Drupal 8 site for Boreal Mountain Resort with the help of an agency. The site’s prevailing objective is to get the skiers to the mountain faster which is the sort of philosophy that acted as the driving factor for the site’s redesign and development.

Homepage of Boreal mountain resort with a man skating downhill on a snowy surface


The website of Boreal Mountain Resort offered a stupendous scalability. It was possible to  add and configure new updates like weather reports and conditions easily within the decoupled system. Thus, as the site matures, it would retain a dynamism and liveliness that will assist in bringing those lovely mountain pictures even closer to the keen adventurers.

Conclusion

With its continuous effort towards becoming more and more API-first, Drupal has brought a broad smile on a lot of marketers’ faces with its astounding capabilities. Decoupled Drupal can bring colossal change to the organisations who are in need of improved digital experiences and digital transformations.

At Opensense Labs, we have been in the constant pursuit of getting the wheels turning by providing amazing digital experiences with our expertise in Drupal development.  Reach us at [email protected] and apprise us on how you want us to build your ultimate digital profile using decoupled Drupal.

Aug 29 2018
Aug 29

You might have to scratch your head to reminisce about the worst things transpired in your life as you try to keep them at bay. Few corking good moments spent with your best friend will be indelible for the rest of your life. A good experience stays with you for a long time. It is much the same way with the websites. A great user experience with the website not only makes it alluring to the online visitors but establishes the camaraderie between them. Drupal can be a wonderful platform for you to provide an amazing digital user experience.

Illustration showing different people with different thoughts and blue background


Let’s dive into an example case straight away to see how a website can influence user experience. Skeleton screen is a blank version of a page where information is incrementally loaded. To keep your online visitors engrossed during slower load times, skeleton screen animation can be really useful.

A Gif showing the difference between page loading feature on two mobile screens side by sideSource: Tandemseven

Understanding the user experience

A good experience stays with you for a long time

How to explain user experience design to a layman? User experience stresses on establishing a deep understanding of users, their needs, what they value, and their limitations.

We often stumble upon the usage of words UI and UX almost happening interchangeably but other than the ‘I’ and the ‘X’ at the end, there is a major difference.

In short, UI is how things look whereas UX is how things work. Also, UX is a process and UI is a deliverable. Difference between the UX design and UI design can be summarised as depicted in the illustration below:

An infographic showing difference between user experience and user interface with an image of human brain at the centre


User Experience Honeycomb represents the qualities that should be at the heart of your UX design ensuring that users find value in what you are offering to them.

The qualities or facets of the user experience shown in the hexagonal depiction given here can be explained as follows:

A honeycomb shaped representation of different elements of user experienceSource: Semantic Studios
  • The website should be able to deliver value to the users. For instance, the UX should advance the mission for non-profits and contribute to the bottomline and alleviate user satisfaction.
  • We must ask ourselves whether our products and services are useful.
  • Usability is of paramount importance even though the interface-centered methods and perspectives of interaction between human and computer do not address every aspect of website design.
  • Our brand identity should get more desirable in our pursuit towards building a robust online presence
  • We should emphasise on building a navigable website with findable objects to help users find what they need.
  • Making our website more accessible to differently-abled people which is the ethical thing to do.
  • There must be credibility in what we offer to users and they should be able to trust and believe in our offerings.

Important tips to improve user experience

To create a good User Experience, a well-planned methodology is required. You would have to think of every possible way a user can interact with your website so that you can strive to improve that interaction.

To create a good User Experience, a well-planned methodology is required. 

With the rapidly changing digital marketing landscape, your website might seem to be in need of redesign and look outmoded. Some of the simplistic ways to improve your website in order to keep up with pace of changing UX needs are laid down below:

  • Using white space makes your content more legible and helps the online visitors to focus on the elements surrounding the text. White space around the text and the titles enhances user attention by 20 percent.
  • Page speed hugely influences UX. Sluggish page load can prove to be an interrupting experience for the users and frustrate them to the core. Most often than not, users just do not have time to wait. Even if the page loading time has a 2-second delay, the website abandonment rate can reach up to 87 percent.
  • Using attractive calls-to-action (CTA) that are marked with an action word enables the easy navigation on your site and the users can easily  get to where they want. More than 90% of the users, who read your headline, would also check out CTA.
  • Using hyperlinks on your page is extremely helpful to grab the attention of the reader. Visual cues like underlined text and different coloured text makes it easy to identify.
  • Using bullets helps the users to get all the information they want quickly and precisely. They will be able to quickly understand benefits, how you solve their problem, and the key features of a product or service.
  • Wise usage of images on your website to support the content can allow a visual break for the users from the text. You need to make sure that they are relevant. Like using an actual image conveying your brand and its services instead of a stock photography can create a connection between the user and the brand.
  • Including well-designed and written headings based on what your potential customers are seeking can be useful. For instance, including keywords in your title can help in targeting your message and getting the attention of right audience.
  • Maintaining website consistency is tantamount to a great UX. Heading sizes, colouring, button styles, design elements, font choices, illustration styles, photo choices etc. should be should themed in a way that your website design is coherent between pages and on the same page.
  • Optimising your site to handle error 404 (page not found) can prove fruitful. Error 404 can frustrate a user and make him rethink spending time browsing your site.
  • Making your site fully responsive should be of top priority. Mobile responsive and mobile-friendly site makes it easy to navigate and works well across platforms from desktops to handheld devices. 57% of users won’t recommend a business which does not have a mobile responsive website.

Take away 50+ User Experience Tips and make sure the user has the best experience on your website

How is Drupal 8 great for an amazing user experience?

Drupal 8 has been a leading CMS when it comes to a powerful and an astounding user experience. Let us look at what makes Drupal 8 so spectacular for designing a compelling user experience for your website.

Responsive web design

Responsive websites are a must-haves nowadays to work well on any screen size. Drupal 8 helps in building websites with responsive web design approach out-of-the-box with some help of contributed modules. Also, there are several Drupal themes that help in creating a responsive design.

Web personalisation

Personalising the content on your website helps in making users to view the content in which they are interested. Web personalisation can be done on the basis of demographics of the user, login time and date of the user, gender, device details of the user etc.

Acquia Lift Connector, Drupal module, offers integration with the Acquia Lift service with an improved user experience for personalisation, testing and targeting the frontend of website directly.

Performance optimisation

A fast-loading speedy website significantly contributes towards the betterment of user experience, usability and engagement. Drupal 8 is one of the most efficient CMS for enabling enhanced page speed.

Caching is an important feature that you can configure for enhancing your website speed. Drupal modules like Internal page cache, Dynamic page cache, BigPipe, Redis, Varnish, and Memcache API and Integration offers different sorts of caching methods to meet the requirements of your website.

Page speed can also be accentuated by disabling unwanted modules or those which are seldom used. Drupal 8 also helps in optimising images for better performance.

Multilingual capabilities

Drupal 8 core comes engrained with multilingual capabilities. It lets you translate content, site interfaces, language, and configuration out-of-the-box. For instance, you can translate the content of your website into a particular language on the basis of user’s geographical location.

Social media

Connecting with friends in one of the biggest pluses of social media elements. Social media can also be a powerful marketing tool. Incorporating social media elements into your website allows users to share the experience, that they had with your website, to the world.

Drupal offers a suite of modules to help you. Easy social, a Drupal module, lets you add share buttons to your nodes.

Another Drupal module, OneAll Social Login, allows you to register and login to the Drupal website using existing accounts on social networks.

A/B testing

A/B results help in determining how well is your website performing and how can you improve it further. Drupal 8 offers modules to carry out A/B testing.

For instance, A/B Test JS module lets you perform A/B and multivariate testing via JavaScript and exposes a UI for creating tests.

Webform A/B Testing module helps in setting up A/B tests consisting of various webforms for determining the most effective one. It tracks how many times a webform has been shown to users and also how many users have responded by completing the form.

How is Drupal Community striving hard to improve the admin UX?

With a highly active bunch of Drupal enthusiasts in the Drupal Community, the objective of making Drupal more and more better for everyone is an everlasting thing. While Drupal is great for improving user experience for online visitors, site administrators are not to be left out. The Admin UX User Study group in the Drupal Community has come up with great insights in a research done on further improving admin UX.

Being new to Drupal may prove to be an arduous task for the content editors to get along with the administrative interface that the platform has to offer. The Admin UX User Study strives to make betterments to the Drupal admin UI with the objective of making it an amazing platform for site administrators.

Findings of Admin UX study

Key focus of the research was on content editors who are responsible for putting great content on the site. Survey was conducted to understand what content editors love about Drupal and where do they find it challenging.

Most of the respondents in the survey said that Drupal is flexible, customisable and lets them have control over their content.
When asked about the challenges, the survey gave some interesting insights. Many content editors opined that a lot of intricacies are due to the UI provided by the paragraphs  and panels.

More hurdles were centred around searching for documentation, content editing UI, understanding jargon and technical terminologies, and media management. There was also a mention of complexities with content editing interface while adding content translation to the mix.

Efforts to improve Admin UX

With a highly active bunch of Drupal enthusiasts in the Drupal Community, the objective of making Drupal more and more better for everyone is an everlasting thing.

logo of drupal gutenberg with an icon of dropletInterestingly, among the things that Drupal Community is trying to achieve, the responses made by the content editors were already being worked upon. For instance, Drupal Gutenberg project aims to revolutionise publishing experience through a modern UI which is based on Wordpress’s Gutenberg project.

Also, configuration changes like minimising the user permissions for editors, offering access to an admin menu with limited set of options, and customisation of some of the default widget settings are being worked upon. That is, configuring a role for content authors out-of-the-box and altering some of the Drupal’s default configurations can offer a wonderful content editing experience.

Success story

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which helps people to cope with natural and man-made disasters, chose Drupal for delivering a powerful user experience. The new digital platform was designed for dependability during critical times.

Homepage of Federal Emergency Management Agency with an image of a smartphone showing the different options


Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides up-to-the-minute details on several important facts during emergencies. The old version of FEMA.gov was not a dependable site with outmoded navigation features and slow page load speed that made it difficult to be accessed during critical events when traffic spikes.

Knowing the significance of delivering a reliable digital experience for users, FEMA wanted a user-friendly and highly resilient site with the provision of more meaningful communication. It also had to cope with traffic spikes and also be scalable at the same time.

A smartphone showing the website of Federal Emergency Management Agency


Project challenges

Primary concern for the design team was creation of a friendly and functional design and user interface. By holding a series of user focus groups, they got the much needed feedback which indicated that the existing site was too convoluted, it was difficult to find information, and some of the content were outmoded. The site also did not support smartphones and tablets.

The existing system did not support swift and efficacious communication. Most often than not, the site experienced overloads and very slow page load times especially during emergencies when it is most needed. It was not resilient and was not able to consistently deliver a high performing experience. In addition to these issues , there was difficulties with content editing.

Project outcome

To address these challenges, FEMA chose Drupal as the their preferred content management system. To handle the large-scale rebuilding of the site where thousands of pages had to be reviewed, updated and migrated to the new site, development and testing was done in iterative process. This helped in easily scaling the project and making adjustments and reorientations.

The website of FEMA.gov turned mobile friendly and could be accessed from devices ranging from desktop to mobile devices. It also paid special attention to accessibility for those users requiring assistive technologies. The new site architecture minimised the number of clicks that was needed for accessing information thereby making navigation and retrieval faster and simpler. Technical design solutions were implemented that were in accordance with Section 508 compliance standards.

After the launch of the new site, not only it proved cost-effective but provided value to the users. It offered better access to critical disaster-assistance details, higher interactivity and accessibility, cross-platform compatibility and the ability to rapidly and dependably disseminate key content in multiple languages.

Being open source, Drupal-based architecture assisted with the improvement of performance and enabled FEMA to provide the public with swift access to data that could be modified in real-time, if needed. With the mobile-optimised version of FEMA.gov, that has enabled enormous amount of information on-the-go, user experience and the over user satisfaction has improved as well.

Conclusion

Offering the best digital user experience is the goal of every digitised firm. With right means of implementation and Drupal’s amazing features, building a site with a great UX should be cutting through a piece of cake. 

Talk to our Drupal experts for developing a Drupal-powered website with best website design implementation for your business. To improve your website’s user experience, contact us at [email protected]
 

Aug 28 2018
Aug 28

Content touchpoints are proliferating at a fast clip as consumers keep on marching towards vibrant and distinctive means of interacting with content. Internet of Things (IoT), conversational UI, digital signage and devices that are powered by machine learning algorithms among others are adapting to our characteristics to disseminate content accordingly. To cope up with such mushrooming milieu of consumer experience, API-First Drupal is well positioned for entire digital ecosystems.

An illustration showing a huge laptop and people working around it

Drupal can do almost anything to be the powerhouse of your digital business. But to leverage the benefits of technologies outside of the Drupal context, API-first approach could be a perfect choice.

Understanding API-first approach

So, what is meant by API-first? It refers to the interaction between a central web service and several other applications to enable the two systems to exchange information over a network. Not only is this exchange limited to websites but extends to mobile apps, Internet of Things devices, and wearables. Using API-first Drupal basically refers to the decoupling of the front end and utilising a different technology for the presentation and the theming layer.

Illustration showing a cloud shaped graphical icon and the word API First written below it

API-first approach is the interaction between a central web service and several other applications to enable the two systems to exchange information over a network.

In short, API-first Drupal allows:
  • Integrations that are not defined in Drupal/PHP code
  • Full decoupling
  • Progressive decoupling where Drupal serves overall page and certain parts of the page offer JS-driven interactions

The key advantages that Drupal has are that it is a free and open source from end to end unlike other API-first content-as-a-service options like Contentful. Thus, all layers constituting accessing and retrieving data, exposing and consuming that data through software development kits (SDKs) are free.

How does API-first approach work in Drupal?

So, how can someone go about getting data out of Drupal without using the theming layer? Such an arrangement is not new. Even though Drupal has worked as a services layer in several applications for years, evolving internet trends have put in a lot of emphasis on names such as headless, decoupled, and API-first. Developers have seen more use cases for Drupal as a web service for the mobile applications and JavaScript frameworks skyrocketed.

Flowchart explaining API-first Drupal workflow


Drupal as a backend is very tightly coupled to its presentation layer which means that taking that out of equation would mean a heavy loss. Everything including forms, control over layout, feature of previewing a content, and other great features of Drupal would be lost. Other challenges include introducing an extra point of failure, sacrificing the improved performance optimisation capabilities of Drupal 8, and loss of in-place and in-context editing. So, most importantly, organisations must know the benefits that outclass the losses by adopting decoupled Drupal approach.

Web services, as a developing technology, offer so many flavours but the one that stands out as the winner is the RESTful API. Representational State Transfer (REST) allows communication between devices like computers, phones, banking systems, televisions and IoT devices connected to a network by using the standard HTTP protocol. It is the leading API approach of choice for Web services because of its widespread acceptance across the web. Furthermore, Drupal is also enabled for non-RESTful approaches like GraphQL.

Various contributed modules allow you to add web services to a Drupal installation without the need for writing code. For instance, Developers can use Services module and the RESTful Web Services module to configure a server for enabling the Drupal installation to push or allow data that is to be pulled as needed with the help of REST API. No matter whether the action is push or pull, Drupal is the services layer. Using the content management platform of Drupal, it is possible to add content, user, and permission systems but the information is sent outside the context of Drupal.

Drupal 8 core has out-of-the-box REST API that allows operators to interact with content entities like taxonomy terms, nodes, users, and comments.

How is Drupal moving towards becoming more API-first?

With API-first Initiative at the forefront, Drupal 8.0 was shipped with a built-in REST API which spelt the beginning of Drupal’s transformation as an API-first platform. Since then, subsequent releases in Drupal 8 has introduced remarkable web service API improvement.

Drupal is perpetually moving towards offering a more robust API-first ecosystem.

Significant market trends paved the way for endorsing this strategy which comprised of incorporation of other technology solutions, increase in the adoption of JS frameworks, snowballing of new devices and digital channels among others.

Although Drupal 8 was launched with a basic REST API, Drupal community has been contributing with new REST API features in further releases of Drupal. For instance, Drupal community is working on shipping Drupal modules with web service APIs instead of depending on a central API module in the further releases of Drupal.

With JSON API becoming increasingly common in the JavaScript community, there has been a tremendous work going on for making JSON API Drupal module as part of the core in the upcoming releases.

Also, GraphQL module has been gathering steam in its adoption and is an important component of API-first Drupal. It is also being envisioned to be added in the Drupal core(not formally decided).

OAuth 2.0 module, which is helping developers in building more secure decoupled Drupal architectures, is gaining grounds to be included in the Drupal core.

Not only these, several modules are being developed with API-first approach such as Open API, Lightning API, Consumers, etc. Drupal is perpetually moving towards offering a more robust API-first ecosystem.

logo of contenta cms with a smile emoticon inside a box


Contenta, Drupal distribution, is a great example of incredible strides that Drupal has made in its pursuit of becoming more API-first. Contenta helps in offering modern API capabilities out-of-the-box with JSON API. It can feed content the JS-driven websites, mobile applications, TV and even mythical fridge application.

Whether it is single application development or multi-channel publishing, Contenta has it all to be a Create Once, Publish Everywhere CMS.

logo of reservoir with a cylindrical shape containing blue boxes

Reservoir, a minimalist distribution for decoupling Drupal, is doing great rounds. Being a flexible and simple tool for building content repositories for any application, it helps in modelling content, governing content, and interacting with that content through HTTP APIs.

Packed with API-first modules like JSON API module and OpenAPI, helps in accelerating decoupled Drupal implementations.

Drupal and its competitors

The biggest advantages that Drupal has over its headless competitors are that it can be:
  • a terrific CMS for content editors to give them control over the presentation of their content.
  • a rich headless CMS to allow developers build large content ecosystems in a single package.

Headless CMSes lag behind in the areas of in-context administration and in-place content editing. They are short of full-fledged editorial experience integrated into their front ends where they serve content. In-context governance and in-place editing are not possible if they do not expose a content editing interface linked to each front end which is why coupling is required.
Another significant focus lies in the display and layout manipulation to for the success of digital marketers. Drupal plays a vital role in controlling the appearance of content in a layout structure. In contrast, headless CMSes are not adept with the display an layout settings. Editorial tools, like in-place editing and in-context governance, that enable this need to be incorporated into the front end.

Moreover, content editors and digital marketers consider the state of published content. Especially for unpublished content, accessing end-to-end preview system is a must-have for editorial workflows. But in headless CMSes, to allow endless preview like setting up a new API endpoint would require developers to skip significant hoops.

These drawbacks can be handled in some use cases where the application requires less editorial interaction and is more developer-focussed. Keeping everything aside, headless CMSes do not have the toolkits for content authors. This is where Drupal sets the standard high.

Flowchart representing the difference between API-first Drupal and other headless CMSes


Don’t jump into any conclusions as these drawbacks does not mean to say that headless is unimportant. Both the headless and traditional way of content management is important which is what Drupal excels at. Drupal is awesome for both content editors and developers alike.

Drupal is awesome for both content editors and developers alike.

API-first Initiative has been an absolute wonder towards advancement of existing and new web services efforts. This has streamlined the use of Drupal as a content service and more optimal for developers. Drupal Community has been constantly working towards the improvement of great developer experience through web services like JSON API and GraphQL and also through tooling to accentuate headless application development similar to the Waterwheel ecosystem.

Drupal is awesome for both content editors and developers alike. In spite of this, there are some limitations. You must adopt a coupled Drupal front end for editing and manipulating the front end without having to involve a developer thereby focussing on editor or assembler experience. Also, if you do not need the involvement of editors, Drupal can still be relevant.

Adding decoupled applications and keeping Drupal as a coupled website is a huge advantage. Such an architecture where it is simultaneously coupled and decoupled make it a great platform for both content editors and application developers. That means, your content repository should be public-facing website with an astounding set of editorial capabilities and also a centralised point for collection of applications which makes it developer-friendly.

With Drupal perpetually powering more and more websites, it is also being extracted to its  full potential in order to serve content to other backend systems, native applications, single page applications, and even conversational interfaces simultaneously.

Digital transformation stories

API-first Drupal can work wonders for so many industries. Let’s go through some success stories.

Powers a swarm of devices

Let’s look at how API-first Drupal can power presentation devices on a major cruise line. Cruise ships look forward to make the experience of their passengers as best as possible. Passengers get to know the information about events, security and locations on the ship through daily newsletters.

For Princess Cruises, a major cruise line, the choice of digitising this newsletter was a perfect option for improving guest experience. It was using Drupal for its shipboard intranet due to its flexibility, dependability and an engaging open source community. Their IT team was already adept with Drupal. So, Drupal was an obvious choice for developing a newsletter app.

Homepage of Princess Cruises with a couple strolling around a ship


The daily newsletter was built as a full-fledged onboard passenger application that was customised for the interests of passengers. They could find event details, information on ports visited, current weather, menus, and stateroom account details. The application altered the ways passengers tried to find information on the ship thereby providing unique experience for the passengers.

Moreover, they realised that, with Drupal as services layer, they could do more with it as they did for the smartphone app. They used Drupal to power free video-on-demand service as well as digital signage sending content to hundreds of screens around the ship. The company implemented the system on other ships too and could deploy within a month’s time. With the response of passengers exceeding the expectations, they rolled it out half the fleet.

Progressively Decoupled Drupal

Weather.com needed a digital ecosystem to cope with unpredictability. Before the company moved to Drupal, its digital properties were relying on hundreds of origins servers powered by different data servers. They wanted a progressively decoupled Drupal and to architect a new Presentation Framework to produce interactive experiences on a page rendered by Drupal.

Homepage of The Weather Channel with the image of India Gate in New Delhi


Considerations revolved around accommodating diverse performance and caching requirements. On an average page,  there are several caching and time load needs across each of the content sections. With a strategy involving a progressively decoupled Drupal, the weather channel built a new presentation framework breaking pages into different sections. Each of the sections, as referred to as a component, lived in its own subdirectory. The metadata about component was declared by a JSON file to the Drupal.

These directories were ingested into panel panes by Drupal. These panes were exportable and reusable and could be developed by the frontend developers without much engagement from the backend. The weather channel, with progressively decoupled Drupal, could specify regional content, pushed uniform content, and personalised content that were not cacheable and needed to be rendered on the client side.

Hence, progressively decoupled Drupal strategy allowed the large weather company to address the diverse technical requirements and needs of their sites. JavaScript developers were able to keep working on JS and editorial teams focussed on creating pages without the need of extensive development involvement.

Conclusion

With Drupal as a services layer is a practice that fast approaching towards maturity and enabling unthinkable digital ecosystems. While there are diverse set of applications of API-first architectures, moving towards an API-first solution may seem intimidating. At Opensense Labs, we can assist you to tie the knot tightly and connect you with the Drupal experts who have years of experience in Drupal development.

Drupal is a very complete system that can handle almost anything you need done. Have a conversation with our panel of experts at [email protected] to make your vision of digital experience come true.

Aug 24 2018
Aug 24

Ever felt so intrigued by the movie that you were watching in a cinema hall and were completely immersed in it? Not only sometimes it can make you reminisce about instances from your own life but let you identify yourself with the characters in the film. You can start feeling like you are part of the film only to realise in the end it was just a film after all. Immersive experiences can happen in a spectacularly made film. To take the immersive experience to the next level, virtual reality is the answer.

Illustration showing a man wearing virtual reality headset with graphical icons hovering over his head and virtual reality with at the top

“If they struggle with this because they are more visual learners, he asks them to put on their virtual-reality headsets for an excursion, say, to ancient Egypt.” - Washington Post

Virtual reality has seen a surge in the 2010s with 92% of the respondents surveyed in the United States in 2017 aware of this term. Another survey in 2017 reveals that 47% of the respondents love the feeling of entering into the new world through VR. Such is the growth of VR that wide array of possibilities have opened up in different fields for its implementation. Drupal, which keeps itself relevant to futuristic technologies, offers a superb content management platform for building virtual reality solutions.

Before we delve into Drupal’s greatness in VR-based futuristic solutions, let’s decode the term ‘virtual reality’.

Defining moment

You probably must have seen some wacky headsets using VR technology. So, what is a virtual reality? Gartner, research and advisory firm, states that “VR provides a computer-generated 3D environment that surrounds a user and responds to that individual’s actions in a natural way, usually through immersive head-mounted displays and head tracking”.

It further states that in the VR-based application, “gloves providing hand tracking and haptic (touch sensitive) feedback may be used as well. Room-based systems provide a 3D experience for multiple participants; however, they are more limited in their interaction capabilities”.

Entering a whole new world without ever setting a foot there is one of the stupendous merits of VR. But how did something like this burst onto the scene?

Tracing the trodden path

Evolution of virtual reality can be traced as far back as the 1800s. Charles Wheatstone’s vision of creating a three-dimensional effect led to the invention of Stereoscope whose methods sowed seeds for modern-day products.

Infographics showing the history of virtual reality with green and black background


It was in the 1960s when VR devices actually started to come into the picture through head-mounted displays (HMD). Discoveries like Sensorama and The Telesphere Mask paved way for first HMD in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull.

Co-founder of Visual-programming Lab (VPL), Jaron Lanier, is often credited to the coinage of the term Virtual Reality in 1987 which is also believed to be popularised in the same period.

Subsequent discoveries have led to the advancement of VR technology in the 21st century. VR has seen a rise in the commercial availability through products like Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Sony’s PlayStation VR, Google Cardboard, Microsoft HoloLens and HTC Vive.

Working Principle

Immersive experiences created by virtual reality can transport you to as far as the moon to as deep as the ocean. So, how does it work? Commonly, VR relies on headsets which are also known as the stereoscopic display for building immersive experiences using two small screens for each of the eyes. These headsets are referred to as head-mounted displays (HMDs).

Accelerometers and position sensors that are found within the HMD gives required inputs for making the experience responsive. Users can also wear VR gloves that help in tracking their hands and simulate textures and objects.

Binaural microphones are used for simulating 360° sound which is used to record the way refraction of sounds happen around human head and ear. These microphones are combined with ambisonic or 3D audio that responds on the basis of where a person is looking for making the experience even more realistic.

What is the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality?

Whether it’s the term ‘reality’ that tails these two technologies or the immersive experience that they offer, VR and AR do sound similar. The perennial question that haunts many web shenanigans is vis-à-vis the difference between them.

Virtual Reality Augmented Reality Creates an interactive 3D world effect where objects have a sense of spatial presence Altered form of reality where content superimposes real-world surroundings

Essentially, augmented reality, a precursor to a fully immersive VR experience, is an altered form of reality where content superimposes user’s real-world views. On the contrary, VR lets the user feel like they are in an entirely different world. So, whatever you see and experience in VR is different from what’s actually in your surrounding.

Applications of Virtual Reality

‘The Matrix’, 1999 science-fiction film, shows a VR simulator where human beings are placed within some sort of suspended animation. They are unknowingly trapped in a program called The Matrix.

Can something like that really happen? It’s debatable and let’s suffice to say that there are different possibilities that can bring a world of betterments in various sectors. Let’s look at some of them.

Healthcare

A study conducted by Duke University shows that paraplegic patients regained some control over their bodies by moving simulated limbs using VR. This was so helpful that many patients got upgraded from full paraplegics to partial paraplegics.

Tourism

Visit Wales created VR videos in 2017 to promote tourism in Wales and encourage travellers to visit the country. These videos included beautiful scenes of water bodies, dolphins, birds, and other wildlife that Wales has to offer. 85% of the people who watched these videos indicated that they would visit the location that was shown.

Marketing

Volvo’s EX90 experience helps users to go for a virtual ride in a car. This may not completely replace a test drive, but would definitely intrigue more people to visit the automobile store to see the car in person.

Journalism

From the New York Times VR films for VR journalism to the Guardian’s 6X9 project that explores solitary confinement, there is no end to the different ways it can be used.

Sports

NextVR has worked on the US Open tennis tournament and many boxing matches in addition to a live Coldplay gig.

Construction

Iris VR allows architects to take their clients on a VR tour of the building design before building them thereby enabling vital opportunities for feedback and changes.

Gaming

Yokey Pokey, A VR arcade, has 42 headsets including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear, and Playstation VR with about 30 gamers simultaneously able to play at peak times.

Drupal and Virtual reality: Use cases

There are future technologies like blockchain, augmented reality, Interplanetary File System etc. that are blowing horns in full volume letting us know that they are here to stay. Being one of the leading content management systems, Drupal leads by an example when it comes to innovating with technologies outside of its periphery. The Drupal community has been constantly engaging itself with experimentation using such technologies by leveraging Drupal’s astounding content management platform.

Well, for the starters, there is no end to the interest and the passion that web chefs in the Drupal Community show to the innovative technologies. They embrace them with open arms and that was pretty evident in the DrupalCon Los Angeles 2015.

[embedded content]


A 360° group photo in virtual reality was organised that made it possible to walk through the Conventions Center in LA and be a part of the community virtually.

There are many use cases that delineate amazing possibilities with Drupal and virtual reality.

Virtual Postcards

DrupalCon Nashville in 2018 had a plethora of exciting stuff to talk about. One of those things was the out-of-the-box use of VR to scan guests with 3D/VR postcards. Two iPads were used to scan visitors using itSeez3D, mobile 3D scanning application, who were interested to explore VR.

Illustration during a man with buildings the background and ‘Nashville and Bust’ written at the top


In the background, the models were delivered to an endpoint that would get the OBJ file. It would, in turn, upload it to a Drupal 8 site, powered by Drupal distribution Contenta CMS, and compose it into a small virtual postcard.

VR editor

DrupalCon NashVille 2018 also unveiled a VR editor built using Drupal as the backend and React as the frontend. This VR editor can be used to merge 360° photographs, sounds, and annotations into immersive experiences. These immersive experiences could be delivered in the browser on mobile devices using a VR-capable device and on desktops with VR hardware.

Logo of EditVR with shades of blue, green and pink in the background


A 360° VR tour of Carrol Etchen’s shop complex near Clear Lake, Iowa, was created using EditVR. It shows a collection of cars, trucks and tractors in a farm hall with icons depicting information about the objects and takes you to the next hall through arrow icons to explore more about the shop.

Two vehicles kept inside a car shop with icons denoting 'Antique collection’ and 'Back of shop’ overlaying themSource: Four Kitchens

WebVR

WebVR, a JavaScript API, uses VR headset like Google Daydream and a VR-capable device like Google Pixel for building immersive 3D experiences in the browser.

In a presentation given in Decoupled Developer Days in 2017, Drupal’s power in the content modelling in combination with virtual reality technologies was demonstrated. They exhibited an alpha Drupal-backed WebVR editorial studio through a model of a JSON-API compliant Drupal API. Waterwheel model and React were used to interface Drupal APIs and render dynamic experiences.

Flowchart showing a VR model consisting of 'Experience’, 'Scenes’ and 'Components’Flowchart depicting a VR model

The WebVR model consisted of information icons, ambient sounds, initial scene for VR tour, references to the scenes, coordinate system (X,Y,Z) etc. In this model, Drupal was, basically, used to consume data. So, entities like information icons and scenes were pulled from Drupal, rendered, and patched back to Drupal.

Drupal’s mastery in giving content editors the freedom of creativity and its greatness in content governance was on full display.

For instance, you can roam around the 360° visuals, look at the paintings on the wall with an information icon adjacent to it telling the user what that object is. You can drag and drop an information icon and place it over a different object. Or, click on an information icon hovering over an object and change the description of the object to make it relevant. Thus, Drupal’s mastery in giving content editors the freedom of creativity and its greatness in content governance was on full display.

A wooden shelf with some items and a whiteboard with an information icon describing an itemSource: Four Kitchens

For optimising performance, WebVR experiences should be focussing on reducing the discomfort for the people by maintaining a consistent and high frame rate. This can, otherwise, give them motion sickness.

And in case, users do not have a VR-capable device, use Progressive Enhancement. This means you must assume that the user is using a keyboard, mouse, touchscreen and other such traditional input without any access to a VR headset. Also, you should be adaptable to changes in input and headset availability at runtime.

VR tour of University 

One of the important aspects of content strategy for higher education websites is allowing the prospective students to take a digital tour of the university. Universities can use VR tour to build cross-channel experiences.

A Drupal agency developed a decoupled React VR application on top of Drupal 8. The Drupal site of Massachusetts State University (a fictional university) stored all the content and the media that will be featured in the VR tour. Media and position hotspots could be directly uploaded by the site administrators within the Drupal backend. The React frontend pulled in data from Drupal using JSON API.

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For instance, if a student would want to explore more about the university, he can take a virtual tour inside the 4 walls of his room. All he has to do is place his phone in a VR headset which would then allow him to wander the university campus, see the buildings, and view images, videos, program resources within the context of the tour.

How the future of virtual reality looks like?

Peter Rubin, Author of Future Presence: How Virtual Reality Is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life, said in an interview to The Verge in 2018 that for VR “to become a culturally accessible mainstream consumer technology, you’re looking well past 10 years. People are working on taste and smell, though those are probably the last pieces of the puzzle that will click into place. People working on brain-computer interfaces. People that are working on anything you can imagine”.

In a Bloomberg interview, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg resonated with similar thoughts saying that “VR is a good candidate to be the next major computing platform.” He thinks that it will take more time to get traction but is optimistic that VR could be a primary form of communication technology in the near future.

“Virtual reality is a good candidate to be the next major computing platform”- Mark Zuckerberg

Virtual reality is going to see a rapid shift in their adoption by the enterprises. By the year 2022, the market size of virtual reality and augmented reality is forecasted to increase by mammoth levels as can be seen in the graph.

Bar graph forecasting market size of virtual realitySource: Statista

By 2025, Gaming would be miles ahead as the leader of the market revenue through VR adoption followed by healthcare and engineering.

Illustration showing several icons denoting industries adopting Virtual Reality and 'Future of VR by 2025’ written at the topSource: Fullestop

Conclusion

Walking up from a dream may sometimes be the most upsetting thing when you realise that the world you were in just seconds ago is just a dream after all. It's everyone’s wish to escape from the reality and go into your own dream world. While you may not be able to go into the oblivion once and for all, virtual reality can let you enjoy dream world every now and then.

VR has a lot offer with a scope for implementation in a wide variety of sectors. Using the power and flexibility of Drupal for delivering content in combination with VR frameworks, possibilities of VR applications can be thrown wide open.

After all, who couldn't use a break from reality? Engage with our Drupal experts to know how we develop Drupal-based projects. Ping us at [email protected] to build futuristic solutions like VR.

Aug 21 2018
Aug 21

The term ‘Migration’ accompanies itself with manifold thoughts into a person’s mind. A politics aficionado may talk about refugees who have migrated to another country for a new lease of life. On the flip side, a bird watcher would be keenly keeping track of migratory birds. In this digital age, a business analyst may think of challenges that come with the upgrade of the Drupal-powered website to a newer version.

Drupal.org website is powered by Drupal 7 and has not been upgraded to Drupal 8 yet! So, what’s the challenge?
a golden jumping from a transparent water pot to right to a bigger pot


For a website to be a high performing space, it is imperative to upgrade to the stable release of the content management system like Drupal. With Drupal 6 already having reached its End of Life in 2016, Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 have been the go-to versions for businesses. 

Drupal 8 would be supported by the community at large for a long time to come even after the Drupal 7 is no longer a community supported release on Drupal.org.

Therefore, upgrading to Drupal 8 would be a significantly important business decision with future in mind. But the trials and tribulations for a website in production have to be pondered over while migrating from Drupal 6 or Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.

What should you know before migrating to Drupal 8?

Ever since Drupal 8 was launched, it has been a commendable CMS with stupendous flexibility, enhanced scalability, and accentuated web performance. This has been the driving factor for the businesses wanting to migrate to this improved version of Drupal. Being built around newer technologies like Symfony and Twig, migration process from Drupal 6 or Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 can be attained successfully.

Upgrading to Drupal 8 would be a significantly important business decision with future in mind.
Illustration showing logo of Drupal 8 and the word ‘Drupal’ with numbers 5,6 and 7 floating aroundSource: Mobomo

Migration process is not a pushover with issues surrounding data migration and module shifts. It is, therefore, a good approach to be better prepared beforehand to reduce any sort of trouble later on after migration.

Complete theme revamping

After the migration, the site is going to look a lot more different in Drupal 8 than what it originally looked like in Drupal 6 and Drupal 7. This is because the themes and templates that are used in the older version are completely different. So, migration would lead to enormous amount of rework on themes.

Information architecture advancement

The efficacy in building more future-focussed applications would be facilitated by the move to migrate to an advanced architecture. It may seem like an astronomical task in the beginning but it is the perfect way for you to assess your existing information architecture. 

Updating the information architecture would not mean that the older version goes obsolete. Instead, it would spell the duplication of your older version into Drupal 8 and performing the fixes based on the new needs. For instance, it allows you to analyse the fields and modules that may not be in use for a while and improve the ones not performing well or even remove them completely.

More emphasis on native OOPS feature of PHP

Object-Oriented Programming (OOPS) concept has also been an integral part of Drupal integrated with the design system. Drupal 8 promotes OOPS features by putting more focus on its importance. Modules, themes, nodes and users are some of the Drupal components that fit the description of an ‘object’.

Increased focus on Drupal 8 core and mobile-first approach

Unlike contributed modules in Drupal 7, core functionalities have been emphasised in Drupal 8. Also, the user interface and the user experience in Drupal 8 are designed to meet mobile user’s needs for maintaining the mobile-friendliness.

Major Issues while upgrading from Drupal 6 or Drupal 7 to Drupal 8

Migrate, Drupal module, comes with the Drupal 8 core which gives a flexible framework for migrating content. But there are certain issues that creep in during migration that needs to be managed.

The trials and tribulations for a website in production has to be pondered over while migrating from Drupal 6 or Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.
Illustration showing a man standing and a lot of obstacles ahead of him


What are the major hurdles that have to be taken care of during migration? The primary considerations that have to be handled are listed below:

1. SEO migration

Site migration can lead to a temporary loss of traffic as the search engines would need time to update its index accordingly. Thus, even if some SEO tags or URLs are missing after migration, it can lead to negative impact on website’s SEO rankings. 

2. Content migration

Challenges may be faced during content migration. For instance, duplication of content might happen or you might notice some missing content. Moreover, in case, content is using some of the fields created using custom modules, field type will have to be created so that migration is successful.

3. View

One of the major issues that transpires while migrating is the unsuccessful translation of a Drupal core module called Views. It requires an upgrade path for any views that are defined in a Drupal 6 or 7 site and you need to manually create views in Drupal 8 after migration.

Views are entity-based in Drupal 8 and have an entirely different architecture. Most of the functionalities are same but there have been major improvements done related to cache and security.

4. Custom module

Custom modules would have to be rebuilt post migration.  Modules in Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 were based on APIs, hook and helper function provided by Drupal core but in Drupal 8 all the modules are based on Symfony. Most of the hooks and helper functions have been replaced with services and development is mostly based on OOPS principles. There isn’t any sort of backward compatibility in modules and that is why they have to be rebuilt in Drupal 8.

5. Contributed modules

In case, contributed modules provide an upgrade path, data stored by Drupal 7 version of that module is also migrated to Drupal 8. If the Drupal 8 port is not available, then a functionality has to be built or the module has to be ported to Drupal 8.

6. Themes

PHPTemplate has been replaced by Twig as the default templating engine in Drupal 8. So, themes would have to be rewritten after migration.

All the PHPTemplate files have to be replaced with the Twig files which means that developers can no longer write custom PHP code in templating files. Preprocess have to be written to modify the rendered output.

7. Node translation

Challenges can be faced during migration of a multilingual site to Drupal 8. Translations in Drupal 8 are stored in completely different way than in Drupal 7 and Drupal 6. Even the Drupal community is working actively on resolving issues in translation migration. To be on the safer side, one should be ready to migrate translation manually or add content again.

8. Specific websites factor

There will be issues with specific websites whose underlying built is not available for Drupal 8. For instance, ecommerce websites that are built on Drupal distribution Commerce Kickstart, which is not on Drupal 8, won’t be able to upgrade. On the contrary, a social intranet developed using Drupal distribution Open Social, which is available on Drupal 8, will be able to upgrade.

This is how we check Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 compatibility!
We have designed a Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 estimation tool that minimises manual audit effort to a great extent. All you need to do is to install our module called Drupal 8 upgrade estimate and get a quick report to better understand what you want.

Technical Issues

There are some more technical issues that are specific to Drupal 6 to Drupal 8 migration and Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 migration. What are they?

Migrating from Drupal 6 to Drupal 8

  • Aggregator categories would not be required to be migrated.
  • Changing the variable "filter_allowed_protocols" would require entering it into services.yml file.
  • Taxonomy term reference field settings have to be manually edited
  • Fields may not be visible on the edit form and the node view after the migration.
  • A web page may only load a few times which will seem like a broken theme
  • The menu_primary_links_source and menu_secondary_links_source variables are not migrated.
  • New modules and themes in addition to admin theme (if there is one set) must be enabled before proceeding with the migration.
  • Revisions of translated nodes are still not migrated.
  • Fields grouped by the Profile module in Drupal 6 won’t be grouped in Drupal 8.
  • The combination of selected user values and the current allowed values will comprise the “allowed values” setting of the resulting field in Drupal 8.
  • Drupal 8 core does not support PHP filter
  • A date could be interpreted differently due to time zones issue
  • URL aliases won’t work until language on new Drupal 8 site is enabled

Migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8

  • Taxonomy term reference field settings have to be manually edited.
  • Migration of id column from Drupal 7’s ban_ip not successful
  • Issues with comment types can be seen.
  • Drupal 8 core does not support PHP filter
  • Issues with plain text fields can be observed

Case Studies

An actual Drupal upgrade case study would depict the challenges occurred and the measures taken to tackle them.

Drupal 6 to Drupal 8

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is an international non-profit organisation. Their website was built on Drupal 6 which was in dire need of an upgrade.

The ADAA organisation wanted to incorporate a rich and modern user experience, better security and a brand image modernisation. So, in 2015, they opted for a brave decision as to choose Drupal 8, which was on the cusp of its official release, over Drupal 7.

Homepage of ADAA with a man standing in the mountainous area and a sun rising


The efficaciousness of Drupal

Drupal 8 was selected for its extensive support towards accessibility standards. It was more suited to meet their intricate requirements in comparison to other content management systems like WordPress and Joomla.

Project challenges and countermeasures

After the migration was performed, the new website encountered two issues for the word-go. First and foremost, the cornucopia of legacy content that was required to be imported and re-cast in the new, restructured format was a herculean task. 

Although the existing import module at the time worked for most of the content that it supported, some key areas created issues while manipulating media files. Thus, the module was extended with custom methods that allowed to enable the export process to be performed with an absolute efficacy.

Secondly, delivering an administrative interface, that could enable structured content to be edited logically, was a formidable task. This led to significant investment in new tools and difficulties in adapting to the new Drupal 8 framework. The hurdle was overcome successfully and new modern features could be delivered rapidly and effectively.

Drupal 7 to Drupal 8

SUNY Oneonta, member of the State University of New York, had public-facing site which was operated on the base of a Drupal 7 installation. The site did not adhere to best practices or standards in coding, theming or the architecture.

Interruptions in the services, downtimes, and the difficulties while migrating key pages into the responsive Drupal environment proved troublesome in the college’s recruitment efforts.

Homepage of SUNY Oneonta with a building and a tree in the background


Taking a plunge into Drupal

Previous website neither had a stable environment nor addressed the underlying architectural drawbacks. Being Drupal savvy, SUNY Oneonta were eager to migrate from their existing setup in Drupal 7 to Drupal 8.

Project objectives

The most important objective was to revamp their public-facing website and leverage the capabilities of Drupal 8.

  • Retain the existing Drupal 7 website design and upgrade to a functional responsive design
  • Retain most of the Drupal 7 navigation structure
  • Ensure that there is very less or no downtime in addition to flexibility for future enhancements
  • Betterments in the workflow, underlying architecture, user experience, translatability and accessibility
  • Launch the website at the stipulated time frame of 5 months

Project outcome

The results were staggering with faster performing site, on-point informative content and much better search results. In addition to this,

  • Adhered to the project budget with the retention of current brand and general site design.
  • Reduction in the count of content types from 21 to 10 in addition to the number of nodes from 3000 to less than 1100.
  • Usage of views and other such standard Drupal implementation methods for the listicles involving items and featured content.
  • Reduction in the redundancy of template file functionality
  • Enhanced flexibility for permitting future alterations to the website content and structure.
  • Test content and some published content purged
  • Site was built on the basis of accessibility standards set by Federal Section 508 Standards and New York State Policy NYS-P08- 005 in addition to being fully responsive across screens.

How will the upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 happen?

Drupal community is working on the upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9. How will that transpire exactly? Old systems will be deprecated instead of being removed by encouraging the module maintainers to update to the new systems. That is, the modules and custom code will stay in working condition. More innovation will lead to more deprecated code in Drupal 8.

Over time, maintenance of backwards compatibility would become more intricate. Thus, point will be reached when too much of deprecated code is there in Drupal 8. At that time, deprecated systems will be removed and released as Drupal 9.

So, Drupal 9.0 should be almost similar to the last release of Drupal 8 excluding the deprecated code. Upgrading from Drupal’s latest version to Drupal 9.0.0 should be as streamlined as the upgrading of minor versions of Drupal 8 (eg. Drupal 8.5 to Drupal 8.6). Therefore, Drupal 9 offers a clean slate to innovate more swiftly.

Conclusion

Upscaling the digital business involves continuous improvement of online presence. One of the significant business decisions comes with the upgrading of website from the existing content management platform to its latest and improved version.

Drupal 6 or Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 migration is a worthy choice. Nonetheless it is challenging and involves migration issues that would require a lot of developmental effort. Businesses looking for a great future can benefit a lot by this brave decision which may look troublesome at the start but is essentially meritorious.

We provide upgrade assistance and help in understanding whether or not to migrate a business site to Drupal 8 or not. Contact at [email protected] to migrate to Drupal 8.

Aug 14 2018
Aug 14

Possibly the greatest ever digital signage advertising was created for British Airways which had it all. The advert, connecting to live flight information, displayed a child pointing up to the sky as an aeroplane flew above him. This was so cleverly done that the advert showed the flight number and its destination as well.

What a great blend of entertainment and education using the latest technologies!
A big screen shows a child pointing his fingers upwards while a plane flies in the skySource: British Airways

The digital signage system is scalable and its usefulness can be extracted to a great extent like digital menu boards for restaurants or the interactive digital movie posters for movie theatres. Drupal has the power to be a remarkably scalable digital signage solution for different sorts of organisations thereby reducing costs, speeding up time to market, and building engaging experiences for the people.

Digging Deeper Into The Terminology: Digital Signage

Digital signage refers to a centralised content dissemination platform for serving digital content on screens. It can be leveraged to display information through television programming, menus, advertising and other messages.

It can be seen in the form of digital signboards, billboards, and other such display devices for displaying visual information. It is connected by a content management system like Drupal that sends the digital content to be displayed. The information displayed can be anything ranging from static data and charts and graphs to images and video streaming.

Digital signage is a centralised content dissemination platform for serving digital content through television programming, menus or advertising on screens.

It can be commonly seen in outdoor marketing campaigns to display promotional content. Moreover, industries that rely on real-time information delivery to its employers or customer such as stock exchanges, airports, and sports stadiums can use digital signs to a great extent.

Digital Signage Can Be Used In Awesome Ways

Its uses can be seen through the eyes of organisations to understand the different ways it can be implemented. Some of the biggest brands have harnessed its immense potential.

Netflix, one of the largest over-the-top media service providers, carried a promotional campaign that relied on the humbled animated GIF. Instead of using a long video clip, they opted for reaction-based clips which were just a few seconds long. These videos were tied into the events that were actually happening around the globe.

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Swedish pharmacy Apotek Hjärtat developed a controversial billboard using a built-in smoke detector. Every time a smoker passed by, the billboard would cough loudly at them before displaying a series of products to help people stop smoking. Although it turned heads, questions were raised whether such an overt messaging is effective or not.

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Coca Cola’s Small World Machines Initiative had a grand ambition and offered a live link between India and Pakistan. Coke machines were placed in both the nations where people could interact with one another through the screen like touching hands, drawing peace, love, and happiness symbols together.

[embedded content]

A Trio Of Major Merits Through Digital Signs

Enormous possibilities of digital signs are pretty evident with so many big brands using them to a great effect. Using digital signs can prove beneficial in many ways.

  • Enhances customer engagement: People love colourful and moving images rather than static images which help in enhancing user engagement.
  • Makes a good impression: Content can be updated remotely within seconds. For instance, such quick updates can help retailers to form a good impression and adjust to customer demands without having to deploy employees or new signs printed.
  • Revs up revenue: Digital signs can help increase your sales and revenue. In 2014. Taco John deployed digital menu boards and witnessed a 12% increase in sales.

How Can Drupal Be The Perfect CMS For Digital Signage Solutions?

Well, it all boils down to the CMS that would be relaying digital content on to the screen to attract people. Drupal is one of the big players in the content management systems that can be the perfect fit for creating digital signs.

Content Creation

Your CMS should allow the content creation to be done intuitively and support all the common file types. Drupal comes with intuitive tools for content creation, workflow and publishing for streamlining content authoring.

Remote Access

With Drupal, on-the-go team members can assess, edit and approve content from mobile devices to keep content and promotional campaigns flowing on to the screens regardless of where they are and what device they are working on.

Content Revision

Drupal helps in enabling a swift and simple way to track all the alterations and revisions which is a must-have if you have multiple editors and need to handle a history of content changes.

Content Workflow

Drupal allows you to administer custom, editorial workflows for all the processes involved in the content production. It lets you view the stage your content is in - from creation to assessment to publication.

User Controls

Authentication and user permissions in Drupal helps in handling editorial workflows efficaciously and previews show how the content will look on screen before the content editors would finally approve and relay them on to the screens.

Content Scheduling

Drupal has the provisions for scheduling the content at your own convenience. It is possible to schedule a campaign to be published at a certain time. In case, a campaign is no longer required or outmoded, it can be unpublished as well.

Security

Drupal is one of the most secure CMS platforms among the leading players like Wordpress, Joomla and Magento. In a report published by Sucuri called Hacked Website Report, Drupal turned out to be the least vulnerable to security attacks in comparison to Wordpress.

Scalability

Your CMS should be able to grow with you and accommodate more screens. Drupal is a highly scalable solution with high traffic sites like Grammy, NBC Olympics, University of Oxford and many other renowned names performing astoundingly well even during the busiest of times.

Support And Maintenance

Drupal is an open source solution and you can rest assured that the Drupal community comprises of numerous vendors who are adept at providing round the clock support and maintenance.

At Opensense Labs, we have designed the Bucket and on-the-go models of support and maintenance services. We offer support in the day-to-day operations. Our support hours run parallelly with business hours but are extendable as per your needs.

Use Cases

The University of Iowa, which is powered by Drupal, kicked off a Drupal Digital Signage Service to offer new digital capabilities inside the campus.

Drupal’s flexibility in content management and delivery in combination with Intel Compute Sticks, mini-computers that serve each screen or sign, proved rewarding. This helped in offering wireless connectivity to the Drupal-based content as it is relayed on to the screens in real-time.

Three girls looking at a screen showing building architectureSource: University of Iowa

The digital signs provided key information for students like the time at which a bus would arrive or leave, emergency alerts, advertisements for student groups, computer lab availability, university news, and events etc.

The University reported rapid adoption of the service as many colleges and divisions within the University used the free and user-friendly solution on several screens. Stakeholders used templates and drag and drop tools and widgets for customising and governing the screen content.

The University’s move to expand the use of Drupal to digital signs proved beneficial in many ways. An IOWA NOW news story stated that “the backend is incredibly user-friendly. It’s the same system our websites run on, and so very intuitive. The web-based platform allows us to update information and slides from anywhere and anytime”.

Being an open source software, Drupal incurred no licensing fees. Hardware costs were lower too. Thanks to the project team’s discovery that the digital signs could be run on small, energy-efficient compute sticks. Moreover, wireless connectivity eliminated the expense of data ports and cabling.

People standing at the sides of the screen showing the pillars and the word IOWASource: University of Iowa

The Drupal Digital Signage system, rather than using a webpage, used a specialised software application. This made the displaying of content as simple as plugging the URL of a sign into a browser. Users were granted access permissions for specific signs and by utilising templates and a drag-and-drop interface, they could display the content or widgets in numerous regions of the screens. That content, displayed on the screen, could also be shared with other units.

Furthermore, the digital signs, being accessible to all screen-reading technologies, saved staff time. Being easy to learn, training time got reduced.

Content editors only needed to enter news or events into a familiar interface. The content would go to both their websites and digital signs simultaneously without having to perform double entry.

Another use case can be seen through Open Y Drupal distribution which was developed by the YMCA of Greater Twin Cities. The objective was to build a platform that would enable all YMCAs to operate as a unified brand through a common technology. Open Y, built on top of Drupal 8, helps in delivering a multi-channel experience for websites, mobile applications, digital signage and fitness screens.

Homepage of Open Y with people planting saplings in the background


The website of Open Y allows customers to schedule personal training appointments, make online donations to their local YMCA, or look up for monthly promotions. Leveraging the merits of Drupal 8’s API, Open Y integrates all of their systems with Drupal. This comprises its integration with Open Y’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and eCommerce partners but also stretches to fitness screens and wearables like Fitbit.

So, Open Y can use Drupal as a data repository to relay content such as alerts or promotional campaigns to digital signage screens, connected fitness consoles and fitness tracking applications. It, thus, puts Drupal at the core of its digital platform to offer seamless and personalised experiences to its members.

logo of drupalcon vienna 2017 with an icon shaped like a drop in the middle


The web-integrated digital signage system for displaying content was demonstrated in a session in DrupalCon Vienna 2017. In this system, the  Open Y Drupal distribution was used to serve as a proxy between resources that would provide information about the scheduled activities. In addition to this, it was leveraged to govern the content and to supplement it with both the marketing content and time and location sensitive messaging.

Future Of Digital Signage

According to the statistics given by the Statista, the statistics portal, the digital signage market worldwide was valued at 19.61 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 and the display market was estimated at 6.07 billion U.S. dollar in 2015.

Future of digital signage is bright as is for Drupal and together they can work wonders.
Graphical representation showing bar graphs for market value of digital signageSource: Statista

This number is going to see a significant rise by 2023 as the market value is poised to reach 32.84 billion in 2023. Digital signage technology is not just here to stay but grow multifold.

Conclusion

Digital content distribution can surely be taken to next level by making it engaging through digital signage solutions. Drupal can be the perfect choice of CMS for relaying content on screens.

We provide Drupal services with top-of-the-line expertise. Contact us at [email protected] to explore Drupal as a superb platform for building digital signage solutions thereby providing a whole new level of customer experience.

Aug 09 2018
Aug 09

“Great Scott!”, exclaims the scientist in the renowned science fiction trilogy ‘Back to the Future’ which hit the cinema screens in 1985.  This exclamation by the scientist, who travels 30 years into the future in his flying car, is suggestive of remarkable inventions by the homo sapiens which is a colossal conundrum to solve in the present world set in this motion picture.

An illustration showing the rear view of a red car with fire on the road and a text ‘The future is now’ at the bottom

 

Drupal has been revolutionising the web application development with its flexibility in integrating with futuristic technologies

Since the first ever website, invented by British Scientist Tim Berners-Lee, went live in 1990, the tech enthusiasts have been looking at the enormous technological advancements in the years that followed. In a similar fashion, Drupal has been revolutionising the web application development with its flexibility in integrating with futuristic technologies.

What is Drupal doing with the futuristic technologies to give you the “Great Scott!” moment?

Futuristic Technologies: Strategic Trends with Broad Industry Impact

As stated by Gartner, an intertwining of people, devices, content, and services is known as an intelligent digital mesh. Digital firms are supported by enabling digital models, business platforms, and a rich, intelligent collection of services.

Intelligent: With AI seeping into virtually every other technology, well-defined focus can allow more dynamic autonomous systems.
Digital: Amalgamating the virtual and real worlds in order to create an immersive environment.
Mesh: The connections between a growing set of people, business, services, devices, and content for delivering digital outcomes.

An illustration showing emerging top 10 strategic technology trends for 2018 with different icons for each technologyTop 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018  by Gartner
Intelligent digital mesh is the intertwining of people, devices, content and services

Immersive experiences, digital twins, Artificial Intelligence, conversational platforms, Blockchain, continuous adaptive security among others, as depicted in the illustration above, form a foundation for the next generation of digital business models and ecosystems.

Beyond Websites: Integration of Future Technologies and Drupal

Drupal is among the front-runners when it comes to content-heavy websites. With new discoveries happening outside of Drupal, it is only better to leverage the benefit of Drupal’s flexibility to incorporate next-generation technologies.

Artificial Intelligence

An area of computer science which stresses on the creation of intelligent machines that can work and act like humans, Artificial Intelligence has been the talk of the town ever since it burst onto the scene. How can it be leveraged for your Drupal websites?

Chatbots

There have been several phases in the way humans interacted with the computers. First was the Terminal Interface which involved the use of command line or DOS prompt. The second phase was the Graphical Interface which used visual representations of programs, files, and actions. The third wave is the Conversational Interface which allows users to interact with the computers using a natural language.

Chatbots, powered by artificial intelligence technologies, are wonderful for your website as they offer conversational UI and can hugely benefit your enterprise. Drupal offers a useful set of modules that can help in the integration of chatbots in the website thereby providing a conversational interface to the users.

Facebook Messenger Bot module, created by The White House, gives you the tool for developing chatbot on a Facebook Messenger Platform.

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Chatbot API, another Drupal module, can be used to incorporate a bot in the site. It is an additional layer that falls between your Drupal installation, your Natural Language Processing (NLP) and your various chatbots and personal assistants. It can work with systems like Dialogflow, Alexa, Cisco Spark Microsoft and Twilio.

Digital voice assistants

While chatbots are primarily a text-based medium, digital voice assistants can be more human-like with the ability to talk like a human. For instance, Google Duplex, the latest entrant in the scene of digital voice assistants, can provide lifelike conversation thereby having a human-like chat and booking hotels on your behalf.

A big screen showing two images - one of google duplex logo and another of an icon representing a human phonecaller


Alexa, an integration module for Amazon Echo services, allows Drupal to respond to Alexa Skills Kit requests. The demonstration given below shows that by indulging in a casual interaction with Alexa, the shopper is able to preheat the oven, add the ingredients and cook the food without even looking at the phone or laptop.

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When the shopper provides a verbal query, this input is converted into a text-based request which is then sent to the Freshland Market Drupal 8 website (a fictional grocery store). From there, a coupling of custom code and Alexa module respond to the Amazon Echo with the requested information.

Cognitive Search

Forrester, research, and advisory firm, defines cognitive search and knowledge discovery as “the new generation of enterprise search solutions that employ Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning to ingest, understand, organize, and query digital content from multiple data sources”.

Green Logo of microsoft cognitive services with an icon representing a human brain

Azure Cognitive Services API module allows Drupal to leverage the benefits of Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services. It helps in exposing machine learning APIs and allows developers to incorporate intelligent features like detecting emotion and video, understanding speech and language, and recognising face, speech, and vision.

Augmented Reality

Gartner defines Augmented Reality as the real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements integrated with real-world objects. It is this “real world” element that differentiates AR from virtual reality. AR integrates and adds value to the user’s interaction with the real world, versus a simulation.

A Drupal agency developed a chatbot prototype which helped customers to choose recipes based on the health constraints and their preferences. Chatbot provided an interactive experience to the users which helped in avoiding intensive research for the grocery shopping. By integrating AR in Drupal, they tried to take it one notch higher.

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The demo in the video displays a shopper interacting with the AR application. Freshland Market’s mobile application (fictional grocery store), which is built on Drupal 8, guides the shopper to make better decisions while shopping through AR overlays.

It superimposed relevant data like product ratings, price and recommendations over the product items detected by the smartphone camera. By showing the products that are best for her diet plan, the mobile application personalised the shopper’s experience.

Drupal’s web services support and JSON API module assisted in providing content to the mobile application. The Drupal 8 site of Freshland Market stored all the product-related information. So, if the Drupal content for any of the product items is edited to display the item being on sale, it automatically reflected in the content that is superimposed through the mobile application. Furthermore, the location of the product was stored on the site which guided the shopper to the product’s location in the store.

Another use case is the Lift HoloDeck prototype which was developed using commercially available technologies - Drupal (content store), Acquia Lift (web personalisation service), Vuforia (AR library) and Unity (3D game engine).

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Lift HoloDeck team developed a mobile application that superimposes product data and smart notifications over physical objects that are detected on the smartphone’s screen.

Consider a situation where a user informs about his purchases to a coffee shop through his mobile application. Entering a shop, he would show his phone screen displaying “deal of the day”. The application superimposes diet plan, directions on how to order, and product data on top of the beverage. By glancing at the nutritional information, he would order his preferred choice and would get a notification stating that his order is ready to picked up.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is basically computer-generated environments or realities that can be used to simulate a physical world in a specific environment to make it feel real.

Virtual reality can be used to build cross-channel experiences. The demonstration shown in the video below features a student who is eager to explore more about Massachusetts State University (a fictional university). The video depicts that he is able to take a virtual tour directly from the university’s website sitting on his sofa.

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Placing his phone in a VR headset, he can go around the university campus, explore buildings, and look at the program resources, photos and videos within the context of the virtual tour.

The Massachusetts State University’s Drupal site stores all of the content and media that is featured in the virtual tour. Drupal backend helps website administrators to upload media and position hotspots directly. Using JSON API, the React frontend pulls in information from Drupal.

Internet of Things

In the broadest sense, the term Internet of Things (IoT) subsumes everything that is connected to the internet but it is increasingly being used to define objects that can talk to each other. The IoT can be anything ranging from simple sensors to smartphones and wearables connected together. Combining these connected devices with automated systems can help in gathering information, review it and create an action plan to assist someone with a particular task or learn from a process.

DrupalCon New Orleans 2016 had a session which delved around bringing Drupal and internet of things together. It exhibited a demonstration that used a barometric pressure sensing, GPS-enabled wearable armband connected to the internet which could, then, display an icon to provide the weather forecast of the current location.

logo of drupalcon new orleans 2016 showing buildings in the background


The armband, which was tethered to iPhone, sent latitudinal and longitudinal data to a ThingSpeak channel (an API for the IoT) using mobile data. It, in turn, tracked the location of a ship by sending this data over HTTP to the Drupal 8 website. When the site received this authenticated POST data, new location nodes were created. It updated the map and table that is built with Views and changed a block on the sidebar to display the matching icon of weather in the current location of the ship.

Blockchain

Don & Alex Tapscott, authors of Blockchain Revolution (2016) define the blockchain as “an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Chainfrog has been working on blockchain technology since its early stages and devised a use case where the user data including communication history, address and the profile data will be available to everyone in a large organisation.

“Blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

To synchronise and securely segregate Drupal user data, big companies map user registration forms with a centralised company API. These big companies usually have more than one Drupal installations for different departments within the enterprise with a central codebase.

Thus, instead of having an expensive API layer, Chainfrog proposed using Drupal 8 custom module via a distributed ledger for the synchronisation of user data. So, instead of making an HTTP call everytime a new user is added, they planned to adopt a peer-to-peer immutable ledger thereby removing the middleman, in this case, API.

Blockbinder, a product of Chainfrog that helps in connecting existing databases instantly, would keep a tab on user records in a data table whenever a new user is added to the Drupal system. Within 30 seconds of any new addition in one of the Drupal installations, all the installations would synchronise the user data.

At DrupalCon Nashville 2018, we propounded possible use cases for the coming together of Drupal and Interplanetary File System (IPFS). IPFS, which has its working principle based on blockchain technology, is a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol. Centralisation is at the core of Drupal’s workflow in comparison to IPFS’ decentralised nature. We looked for ways to make them work together.

Drupal, which allows content editors to seamlessly produce content, can be entwined with IPFS for an amazing digital experience. From helping archivists to store superabundance of data to helping Service Providers as a global Content Delivery Network (CDN), there are tons of benefits. We presented a use case to make this a reality which can be explored in this video.

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Conclusion

These are some of the frontiers that Drupal has crossed. There are lots of emerging technologies whose potential with Drupal can be explored like..?

Future is bright with lots of new inventions happening in the technological fields to make the world a better space. Digital firms can make significant strides in their online presence by integrating future technologies with their website. Drupal gives a great platform for the businesses to look beyond websites and incorporate emerging technologies to build futuristic websites

Want to know how we develop Drupal sites for our clients and also maintain and support them? Ping us at [email protected] to set the ball rolling and make your website exciting with the incorporation of emerging technologies.

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