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DrupalCon 2015: An Appnovator's POV - Part 1

By kmoll
Jun. 1, 2015

I had the opportunity to attend Drupalcon 2015 in LA – what a great week! The Appnovation team attending this event was Af (Afraaz Ali), Alex Brown, Andre Zvonkov, Tim Millwood and Chad DeGroot attending from the dev team. I even got to meet the famous John Yau, who I've talked to every day for the past two months and had never met.

This is a quick recap of some of the sessions and BoF's (Birds of a feather discussions for you non devs) we attended. DrupalCon is a great place to speak with other members of the community and see what is coming on the horizon so we can make sure we are ready for it. Drupal 8 is on the horizon. It still has 28 (as of last week) critical bugs which means we are getting closer. The talk around the water cooler was to try to get it out by DrupalCon Barcelona, but I think that might be ambitious since the remaining issues are the more complex ones. But either way we are definitely getting closer. There are some great sessions on Drupal 8 if there are devs out there who haven't worked with it much.

My approach to Drupalcon: In previous Drupalcon’s I did my best to attend every session I could. Most of the sessions were good, but they lacked the back and forth discussion I think is really important. That, and the fact that they are recorded and you can listen to them anytime made me attend more BoF’s. I wanted to be more in the discussion than just listening to someone tell me about one particular thing (although those can still be great). I also tried to focus more on DevOp type BoFs as I feel that is an incredibly important field and as web development evolves it’s becoming a must to know.

BoF - Continuous Delivery

Here we talked about what CD is and how it differs from Continuous Integration. Continuous Integration is setting up tools that allow you to more easily make deployments. Most companies use Jenkins as a CI tool as it makes it very easy to setup a workflow where you can easily build your code and launch it on environments. But Continuous Delivery goes a step beyond, where every commit you make triggers the process to checkout the new code, run your tests on it and given that all tests pass, it deploys it right out to production. A lot of the discussion centered on ways where you can set approval workflows so that people can look at them and approve before launching, by giving them a way to do it all with the click of a button. For anyone interested in learning more about this topic, this book was highly recommended in the talk. 

BoF - Docker

This talk I was really interested in as I have been playing around a lot with Docker in my spare time. It’s still a relatively new product, but it’s amazing how quickly it's become widely popular. The BoF was standing room only. The biggest thing that came out of it for me is that there doesn’t seem to be anybody using this in a big way in production. People are still trying to figure out how it works into their current workflows and how they can leverage it to make stabilizing and updating their production environments easier and more predictable. I think the biggest case for developers is to be able to work in environments that don’t just closely match production; they are exact replicas. It will also allow for reducing to nearly 0 ramp up time for developers to set up environments to develop for a project. You now hand them a directory with a Docker file (maybe some Ansible in there too) and in one command they are completely set up with everything they need (Appnovation's Steve Power already has something like this just about done!). This talk was really fun and I think that people were so genuinely excited about this that it led to a really great discussion.

Drupal Personalization:

This talk was given by a panel which included Mike Lamb from Pfizer, as well as the heads of Time Inc, and Interscope records. They were discussing Acquia Lift and how they are leveraging it in ways that allows them to easily identify even anonymous traffic and present content that will be more relevant to what they want. This is obviously a hot topic between businesses that want to deliver more personalized content (and the users who want that) and the people who are concerned about privacy. I am not sure there has been a way to protect privacy as much as some individuals would like, but some of the things they are doing are really making the web a more tailored, personal experience. View the session here

Ansible BoF

Although a lot of people use Chef/Puppet for their server configuration, I think that Ansible is the most developer friendly. It doesn’t require a complicated master/slave type set up and no software needs to be set up on the server. Everything uses SSH and is configured in YAML. It’s easy to learn and very powerful. Jeff Geerling did an amazing visual representation of how Ansible works with a set up of 6 Raspberry Pi’s set up with LED lights that turned different colors as it ran through the servers and configured them. It was amazing. My hope was that I would see exactly how we could integrate that with Docker for setting up containers. The answer is you can have your Docker run your Ansible playbook to configure it, but I haven’t figured out yet if that is the most efficient way to do that. When you run Docker with Docker files, it creates images that are cached so rebuilding is much faster when you run it again. So still looking into that a bit.

Interesting sessions people should check out: I haven’t watched all of these yet since I went to more BoF, but this is my short list of what I am going to catch up on. If anybody watches these and has feedback or comments, let us know.

  • CMI Session -This will be incredibly important in Drupal 8. 
  • This session was given by a big contributor to Entity API: 
  • Composer is in D8 core now, if you aren’t familiar with it, should check this out
  • Drupal 8 Render Pipeline
  • If you are new to OOP and haven’t looked into D8 yet check this out
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