php

Drupal startup time and opcache - faster scaling for PHP in containerized environments

Lately I've been spending a lot of time working with Drupal in Kubernetes and other containerized environments; one problem that's bothered me lately is the fact that when autoscaling Drupal, it always takes at least a few seconds to get a new Drupal instance running. Not installing Drupal, configuring the database, building caches; none of that. I'm just talking about having a Drupal site that's already operational, and scaling by adding an additional Drupal instance or container.

One of the principles of the 12 Factor App is:

IX. Disposability

Maximize robustness with fast startup and graceful shutdown.

Disposability is important because it enables things like easy, fast code deployments, easy, fast autoscaling, and high availability. It also forces you to make your code stateless and efficient, so it starts up fast even with a cold cache. Read more about the disposability factor on the 12factor site.

Converting a non-Composer Drupal codebase to use Composer

A question which I see quite often in response to posts like A modern way to build and develop Drupal 8 sites, using Composer is: "I want to start using Composer... but my current Drupal 8 site wasn't built with Composer. Is there an easy way to convert my codebase to use Composer?"

Convert a tarball Drupal codebase to a Composer Drupal codebase

Unfortunately, the answer to that is a little complicated. The problem is the switch to managing your codebase with Composer is an all-or-nothing affair... there's no middle ground where you can manage a couple modules with Composer, and core with Drush, and something else with manual downloads. (Well, technically this is possible, but it would be immensely painful and error-prone, so don't try it!).

Installing PHP 7 and Composer on Windows 10, Using Ubuntu in WSL

Note: If you want to install and use PHP 7 and Composer within Windows 10 natively, I wrote a guide for that, too!

Since Windows 10 introduced the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), it has become far easier to work on Linux-centric software, like most PHP projects, within Windows.

To get the WSL, and in our case, Ubuntu, running in Windows 10, follow the directions in Microsoft's documentation: Install the Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 10, and download and launch the Ubuntu installer from the Windows Store.

Drupal VM 4.8 and Drush 9.0.0 - Some major changes

tl;dr: Drupal VM 4.8.0 was just released, and it uses Drush 9 and Drush Launcher to usher in a new era of Drush integration!

Drush has been Drupal's stable sidekick for many years; even as Drupal core has seen major architectural changes from versions 4 to 5, 5 to 6, 6 to 7, and 7 to 8, Drush itself has continued to maintain an extremely stable core set of APIs and integrations for pretty much all the time I've been using it.

Drush.org homepage
New Drush version, new Drush website!

Using MaxMind's free GeoIP databases with the official Docker PHP image

I recently had to add support for the MaxMind free GeoIP database to a PHP container build that was based on the official Docker PHP image on Docker Hub. Unfortunately, it seems nobody else who's added this support has documented it, so I figured I'd post this so that the next poor soul who needs to implement the functionality doesn't have to spend half a day doing it!

First, you need the PHP geoip extension, which is available via PECL (note: if you can make the PHP project itself use a composer library, there are a few better/more current geoip libraries available via Packagist!). Here's how to install it in one of the php 5.6 or 7.0-apache images (note that 7.1 uses Debian Stretch instead of Jessie... but the instructions should be the same there):

Reverse-proxying a SOAP API accessed via PHP's SoapClient

I'm documenting this here, just because it's something I imagine I might have to do again someday... and when I do, I want to save myself hours of pain and misdirection.

A client had an old SOAP web service that used IP address whitelisting to authenticate/allow requests. The new PHP infrastructure was built using Docker containers and auto-scaling AWS instances. Because of this, we had a problem: a request could come from one of millions of different IP addresses, since the auto-scaling instances use a pool of millions of AWS IP addresses in a wide array of IP ranges.

Because the client couldn't change their API provider (at least not in any reasonable time-frame), and we didn't want to throw away the ability to auto-scale, and also didn't want to try to build some sort of 'Elastic IP reservation system' so we could draw from a pool of known/reserved IP addresses, we had to find a way to get all our backend API SOAP requests to come from one IP address.

The solution? Reverse-proxy all requests to the backend SOAP API.

Apache, fastcgi, proxy_fcgi, and empty POST bodies with chunked transfer

I've been working on building a reproducible configuration for Drupal Photo Gallery, a project born out of this year's Acquia Build Hackathon.

We originally built the site on an Acquia Cloud CD environment, and this environment uses a pretty traditional LAMP stack. We didn't encounter any difficulty using AWS Lambda to post image data back to the Drupal site via Drupal's RESTful Web Services API.

The POST request is built in Node.js using:

Bash logic structures and conditionals (if, case, loops, etc.) in Travis CI

Travis CI's documentation often mentions the fact that it can call out to shell scripts in your repository, and recommends anything more complicated than a command or two (maybe including a pipe or something) be placed in a separate shell script.

But there are times when it's a lot more convenient to just keep the Travis CI-specific logic inside my repositories' .travis.yml file.

As it turns out, YAML is well-suited to, basically, inlining shell scripts. YAML's literal scalar indicator (a pipe, or |) allows you to indicate a block of content where newlines should be preserved, though whitespace before and after the line will be trimmed.

So if you have a statement like:

if [ "${variable}" == "something" ]; then
  do_something_here
fi

You can represent that in YAML via:

Composer and Drupal are still strange bedfellows

More and more sites are being built in Drupal 8 (over 160,000 as of DrupalCon Baltimore 2017!). As developers determine best practices for Drupal 8 site builds and deployment, they need to come to terms with Composer. In one of the most visible signs that Drupal is 'off the island', many modules are now requiring developers to have at least a fundamental grasp of Composer and dependency management.

But even more than that, many developers now use Composer in place of manual dependency management or a simpler tools like Drush Make files.

With these major changes comes some growing pains. Seeing these pains on a daily basis, I wrote Tips for Managing Drupal 8 projects with Composer to highlight some best practices and tricks for making Composer more powerful and helpful.

But many developers still wrestle with Composer, and mourn the fact that deployments aren't as simple as dragging zip files and tarballs around between servers, or checking everything into a Git repository and doing a git push. For example:

  • If I manage my codebase with Composer and follow Composer's own recommendation—don't commit dependencies in my vendor directory, what's the best way to actually deploy my codebase? Should I run composer install on my production web server? What about shared hosting where I might not have command line access at all?
  • Many modules (like Webform) require dependencies to be installed in a libraries folder in the docroot. How can I add front end dependencies via Composer in custom locations outside of the vendor directory?

And on and on.

DrupalCon Baltimore 2017 - participants sitting and waiting to see the opening Keynote
Over 3,000 community members attended DrupalCon Baltimore 2017.
(Photo by Michael Cannon)

During a BoF I led at DrupalCon Baltimore 2017 (Managing Drupal sites with Composer), we identified over 20 common pain points people are having with Composer, and for many of them, we discussed ways to overcome the problems. However, there are still a few open questions, or problems which could be solved in a number of different ways (some better than others).

I've taken all my notes from the BoF, and organized them into a series of problems (questions) and answers below. Please leave follow-up comments below this post if you have any other thoughts or ideas, or if something is not clear yet!

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