Drupal 8: With Symfony on-board, will it create wonders?

Drupal 8 is in the works, and is scheduled for release towards the end of this year. So, what can you expect from the latest and possibly greatest version of?

In this article, we shall be taking a look at some of the proposed changes, aims and goals behind Drupal 8. Considering the fact that the final release is not going to happen anytime sooner than the next 6-7 months, there aren’t many demos of the proposed changes in action that we can show you. Instead, we will focus on the keynotes delivered by Acquia.

Dries Buytaert, the creator of Drupal, has described version 8 as the CMS’ “boldest release to date”. All in all, the upcoming version of Drupal promises to offer numerous under the hood changes as well as the incorporation of Symfony 2 Web Framework.

The Ideology

The goal behind Drupal 8 itself seems to be a bold move — if descriptions are anything to be believed, Drupal 8 intends to shift away from being a content management system and evolve itself as a unified web-based platform that can help you build web apps and services, not just websites.

Let us, for a moment, focus on the key preamble behind Drupal 8. Buytaert, when describing Drupal 8, was noted as claiming that most organizations often need to run multiple platforms in order to manage their websites. Furthermore, such platforms are not just different pieces of software — they are a diverse galaxy of tools. Some are based in JAVA, others are coded using Python, and others depend on Perl or Ruby, and of course PHP. At the end of the day, a good deal of productivity and efforts are lost owing to such non-standardized technology and tools.

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Drupal 8 aims to pitch itself as a standardized entity to help organizations and users manage all their web development and design related needs. Now, I may be missing something here, but I am finding myself lost with this aim of Drupal 8. True, the idea itself is good, and even noble — but practical? Probably not.

However, Drupal 8 itself is aware of its limitations. As Buytaert admitted, Drupal, as of now, is not an out of the box solution.

Lastly, just as Drupal 7 focused more on usability, Drupal 8 intends to focus on a mobile-first approach, alongside standardized implementations. To quote Buytaert:

“I want mobile to be the big thing in Drupal 8. Drupal 8 is expected to determine Drupal’s future for the next 5 years.”

The Implementation

Drupal 8 entered a feature freeze in February, and it will enter the code freeze sometime in July, if all goes as planned. So far, almost 5000 patches have been submitted for Drupal by over 1000 contributors.

What about feature highlights? The list of planned features includes (but is not limited to) the following:

  1. Support for the mobile web
  2. Support for responsive and adaptive design
  3. Enhanced configuration management
  4. Tweaks to make Drupal better suited for complex sites
  5. Better support and integration with third-party apps
  6. Web Services APIs and cleaner data models

Another interesting thing is that Drupal 8 will incorporate elements drawn from the Symfony 2 Web Framework. Ideally, the goal is to challenge proprietary enterprise web solutions such as those provided by Adobe. Apart from the Symfony Web Framework, Drupal 8 will also have WYSIWYG editing integrated right into its core. To learn more about the Symfony Web Framework and the components that will make it into Drupal 8, check this out!

Just in case you are wondering, the goal behind this Symfony and Drupal combination is to transform Drupal 8 into a must-have tool at the enterprise level. Drupal can cater to your websites, whereas Symfony can help you out with your web applications. Together, both Drupal 8 and Symfony can make a one-stop solution for enterprises.

The Reaction

Naturally, going by the description that we are being provided with, it seems Drupal 8 will be targeting simply the enterprise segment. As already noted, the goal is to challenge the likes of Adobe and Sitecore for a share of the enterprise market base.

And is Drupal gonna see success in this endeavor? Personally, I have a mixed feeling. Drupal surely has the name and fame on its side — everyone knows what Drupal is, and almost every person in the enterprise market has used it at some point of time or the other. The parent firm, Acquia, too can be called a promising enterprise in itself. However, on the downside, Drupal is trying to battle with the wrong opponents here. Both Adobe and Sitecore may not have better products than Drupal 8, but they do have the minds to help them with marketing and sales.

That said, Drupal 8 should project itself not as an alternative to Adobe or Sitecore, but instead as a completely different out of the box solution. Drupal has been known as a Content Management System for the last decade, and whatever version 8 may bring to the table, it will still be called a CMS. As of now, Drupal power a little more than 2% of CMS-powered websites. A wiser choice, in my opinion, will be to target this statistic and attempt to do better than the mere 2%.

Another interesting shade in the picture is Drupal’s insistence to focus entirely on the enterprise niche. Once again, let us turn to Buytaert:

At Acquia we never compete with WordPress. We don’t see them ever. I’m sure the smaller Drupal shops run into them, but in the enterprise we never run into WordPress.

Ehmm… ok.

Now, going by this quote, what does Drupal 8 have in store for non-enterprises? You know, not just bloggers, but medium-sized magazine sites? Probably some of your clients with small- to medium-sized businesses? Design agencies? Not a lot.

The Bottom-Line

Dries Buytaert:

I really think we can say we’ve built the best CMS for enterprise systems. I really think so.

As of now, Drupal 8 seems to be eyeing a total revamp of its architecture in order to gain a dominant standing in the enterprise segment. Apart from Symfony Framework and support for third-party apps, Drupal 8 will have a lot more to help it in its goal.

Considering the fact that Drupal has always been the developers’ CMS, it may very well stand a good chance at giving Adobe and other proprietary firms a run for their money. Plus, with the mobile-first features that will be added to version 8, Drupal surely seems to be getting ready to greet the next year with a triumphant run.

What do you think of Drupal 8? Are you happy with the enterprise-first stand taken by Acquia? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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