Recreating DrupalCon Portland 2022, Demo Magic

With so much time in between DrupalCon Seattle 2019 and DrupalCon Portland 2022, we had to put on a good show to cover the highlights of what we've built and where we’re going with WebOps here at Pantheon.

This year I had the honor of writing our DrupalCon North America booth demo and it felt like a tall order. In the nearly seven years since I joined Pantheon, I've seen just how seriously we take the fun of DrupalCon. 

We want every DrupalCon attendee to see how excited we are to spread the magic of the Internet. And ok, one way we do that is by giving everyone who sits through the 15-minute spiel a screen-printed, on-demand t-shirt.


Even without the t-shirts though, it's our job to convey the excitement we feel about WebOps. Wait, hold on. One of the challenges of this year's demo was conveying succinctly what we mean with this word WebOps.

WebOps in a Nutshell

In short, we think web teams need a WebOps community, distinct from DevOps (that definitionally focuses on the pairing of Developers and System Operators) in order to corral just how complicated it has gotten to operate a professional website. WebOps as a community opens up space to discuss the overlap in problems, notably:

  • How your CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) is mad

  • that your CPL (Cost Per Lead) is up

  • and your CWV (Core Web Vitals) are down

  • because your CDN (Content Delivery Network)

  • (that is only understood by your CTO (Chief Technology Officer))

  • slowed when your CHR (Cache Hit Ratio) tanked

  • as your CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) practice

  • restructured CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) selectors

  • (while updating a CTA (Call To Action)) which

  • broke fragile custom code (in the CMS (Content Management System))

  • that your CIO (Chief Information Officer) needed to comply with

  • the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act)

The wide world of website operations in the 2020s has gotten so complicated that any one person can pick off any one of these initialisms and make a full time job of it. I could decide that all I want to do all day every day is work on Cache Hit Ratios and rarely work cross-functionally. I could, but I won't because we at Pantheon think success for the whole web team requires pooling expertise.

The way we're entering the personalization space with Edge Integrations illustrates how Pantheon's expertise can combine with a given web team to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. And I'm sure nothing like a regular Drupal core update will get in the way.

Automating Updates with Autopilot

But wait. We can't have that ideal cross-functional collaboration if one team member is bogged down in security updates.

Welp, in trying to talk about Edge Integrations a security update has gotten in the way. What a perfect(ly contrived) excuse to talk about our Autopilot feature that can save hours and hours of effort spent updating core and modules. Autopilot takes screenshots before and after applying updates in an isolated Multidev environment. When no pixels move because you updated Webform, or whatever else, that's a good indication that those updates can move on through our Dev, Test, Live deployment pipeline.

Ok, now let's get back to bringing together the whole team to leverage Edge Integrations.

The Decoupled Drupal Docket

And we're derailed, again. Ideal web team collaboration depends on each person on the team having a common understanding of how the site functions. That (often unstated) assumption can get lost if you chop off Drupal's head.

Behind a feature flag we now have in our dashboard the capacity to spin up fresh front-end framework sites powered by the likes of Next.js and Gatsby — to sit in front of Drupal and WordPress (Tell us about your project if you would like to be considered for Early Access). We also know that to succeed together, we all (web teams, agencies, Pantheon, the Drupal community, and more) will need to cultivate and leverage standardization so that no one is stuck reinventing content previewing from scratch.

Speaking of avoiding wheel reinvention, that's especially critical when pursuing personalization.

Intertwining CDN and CMS for Performant Personalization

The approach we are taking to personalization and related use cases connects CMSes to our CDN, so that a webpage tailored for one part of the world or one segment of customers is just as fast as any other page. In talking with our community for years about personalization projects, we’ve repeatedly heard similar stories about bolting on an ill-fitting third-party tool that topples over the website's stack. The people browsing the site get a slow and janky experience as different APIs rewrite the page. The professionals trying to design and develop the site get lost between CMS and "Shadow CMS" tabs in their overburdened browsers.

We see a better way. Watch a recent BoltsNBytes episode for more details on Edge Integrations.

We Make The Internet

Even as Pantheon gives away hundreds of "I make the Internet" t-shirts at DrupalCon, we recognize that making the Internet is a collective effort. There are overlapping teams from individual companies, agencies, open source communities, and more. After a decade in which many web frontiers expanded, thanks to individual disciplines refining their specialties, we at Pantheon see plenty of reasons to bet on cross-functional teams. WebOps is a team sport, and we make the Internet together.

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Topics Development, Drupal, WebOps