Oct 07 2011
Oct 07

I started doing development at C3 in 2009 back in the old warehouse office on 3rd street, and have been riding the wave of Drupal ever since. About a year ago Zack, Matt, and Josh started working on a new project called Pantheon. Since they have officially launched, I wanted to put together a blog post about my experience using the their product and how it has rounded out the development process over here.

The first Chapter Three site built on Pantheon on was our overhaul of the USC Marshall School of Business website, switching them from an aging hand-rolled .NET/ASP to Drupal. It was an interesting case because development had to kick-off a few weeks before Pantheon was ready for even the most beta of beta testers. What this meant was that we were going to have to move everything from our internal SVN-based environment to the new Pantheon environment about one month into the development process.

Smart guys that they are, one of the first things Pantehon built was an importer for existing Drupal sites. I ran a mysqldump of the database and made a tarball of the code and simply uploaded them into Pantheon. After a  few hiccups — one of the perks of beta testing something being worked on in the next room is that your bugs get fixed fast! —  it was working like a charm.

Getting started on Pantheon took some getting used to — for instance, I’d never used git before. Luckily they made it easy to get up and running: all the basic commands were right there. That helped with the initial learning curve and now that I’ve got the hang of it I honestly don’t think I’d ever switch back to SVN. 

Learning git as a side effect was a definite win. It’s just so much faster to use, plus it’s what all of Drupal is built on now. Definitely the way of the future. 

Having the full repository on your desktop is great for peace of mind. Not to mention how easily Pantheon allows you to create backups. This was a real confidence booster before I started on any gnarly piece of development. Going back to a known working state was always just a click away. It might sound cheesy but this probably saved me a few grey hairs.

Having separate workflow environments with the ability to easily push changes and pull content really made a big difference too. Not only does this make sure we’re deploying the “right” way, it also made the practicalities of working with an external owner easier.

For instance, once we got to the point of doing client reviews and QA  I would push the completed work to the “live” area of the site for the client to take a look. Meanwhile I could be shredding code (and more importantly, breaking code) in the dev area without having to worry about confusing the client.

The workflow environments also came in handy when we got to the end of the project. The USC Marshall folks were able to start adding content and doing final launch prep without interrupting my final push of bugfixes. Being able to pull down their live content was also essential for debugging subtle issues with layout and navigation.

Overall I spent about two months working on the site through Pantheon, and it was one of the first real live sites launched on the platform. We are now moving all new sites to Pantheon for development and it is awesome. While I respect our legacy tools, I also can’t wait to ditch them!

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web