How a Global Fuel Company Streamlined 32 Sites Without Multi-site

Kenny Abarca Coto is CEO & Co-Founder of AnexusIT, one of the largest Drupal development shops in Latin America. Read how the Drupal dev firm helped a global fuel distribution company migrate 32 websites to Drupal on a single installation—that didn’t require multi-site.

airplane-taking-off

A FAST COMPANY OUTGROWS ITS INFRASTRUCTURE

For 10 years, one Fortune 500 company has consistently grown faster than Apple.

This year, that company became our client. This global fuel distribution company has 8,000 locations and 2,500 employees worldwide. They’d been managing 32 Drupal sites in an IT-managed, in-house Microsoft Windows environment. It was challenging, and they were eager to streamline by migrating to a single Drupal installation on more optimized infrastructure.

CAN THESE SITES BE STREAMLINED?

When we took over the project, our client had a platform in Windows servers. Fifteen websites had already been migrated over to a single multi-site Drupal installation. They wanted us to finish migrating the rest. Here was the usual process:

  1. Client gave us access to use their development environment, kept on a regular computer on their site.

  2. We logged in through Citrix Remote Desktop.

  3. We used Dropbox to download files.

  4. We used Dropbox again to upload files. (Git would have been too slow.)

  5. Whenever we needed a local environment on our servers, we had to spend 4-6 hours converting the database to MySQL.

We lost hours from authentication problems, Windows server permissions problems, and hacked modules. (Not all Drupal modules can be be used in a Windows PHP environment.) We were always troubleshooting one thing or another.

A REQUIREMENTS WISHLIST:

As much as our client wanted to streamline all 32 sites, they also had specific requirements for control and security:

  • Each site needed its own, individual domain name.

  • All sites needed to share a common codebase.

  • Because the company deals with ISO certifications, security was very important. They needed to have total control over what was uploaded into the certified account.  

The challenge was finding a solution that met their requirements, while also freeing them from system administration.

WHY PANTHEON?

We’re long-time Pantheon users who have optimized our development and deployment process on Pantheon. So even though we weren’t sure Pantheon could work for this use case—we’d heard Pantheon “didn’t support multi-site”—we decided to see for ourselves whether this was true.

Using Pantheon would mean we wouldn’t need to host the dev environment on the client’s local servers, whose complex security firewalls required heavy maintenance and slowed us down.

WHAT WE BUILT

It turns out we didn’t need multi-site at all. Drupal’s Domain Access module solved our problems and offered additional value. It took about 1 month to get the full process in place and to migrate everything to Pantheon Enterprise. All 32 websites are now running on Pantheon.

OUR CURRENT STACK IN PANTHEON INCLUDES:

  • Dev environment: Now our devs use the Pantheon dev environment to work on a given task. When the task has been approved, a single person from our team moves everything to the certified environment, so the client can give the thumbs up before it gets published live.

  • Certified environment: Only an authorized person from our team can move things through the dev, staging, and live environments on the Certified Environment.

THE OUTCOME:

1. 3x FASTER DEVELOPMENT

Before Pantheon, we estimated needing 10 hours to convert the database from MS-SQL into MySQL, plus 5 more hours to log into Citrix and upload everything into Dropbox. Now we can promise—and deliver—more features and websites every month. Pantheon makes us 3x faster. We don’t have to hack contrib modules or migrate from one server environment to the other. At our new, accelerated pace, we’ve been releasing 3 to 5 websites a month. Our client is very happy about that, which makes us happy as well.

2. ADVICE FROM DOMAIN EXPERTS AT PANTHEON

We’ve got plenty of expertise in Drupal, and we’ve been using Pantheon for 2 years. But we still had questions about security, permissions, and the Domain Access module. We’d never implemented this kind of security on our side, so we wanted to get it right. Every single question we had was answered by Pantheon’s support. Our client is very happy with the results.

3. AIRTIGHT CONTROL OVER ENVIRONMENTS

Pantheon allows us to create a script and follow guidelines with ease. Our client really likes being able to have their certified environment completely separate from our development environment. We can use version control like Git—something we couldn’t do on their IIS for security reasons.

4. EASY TO MANAGE

Our client wants to be able to have the Drupal expertise on their side, so we’re training 2 of their developers in Drupal. Eventually, they’ll be able to manage all 32 sites themselves. This wouldn’t have been possible on the old servers. The processes required to migrate code from server to server were too convoluted and time-intensive. Our client loves the way Pantheon manages backups and the development process.

Topics Multisite, Education