Running Drupal in Kubernetes with Docker in production

Update: Since posting this, there have been some interesting new developments in this area, for example:

Since 2014, I've been working on various projects which containerized Drupal in a production environment. There have always been a few growing pains—there will for some time, as there are so few places actually using Docker or containers in a production environment (at least in a 'cloud native' way, without tons of volume mounts), though this is changing. It was slow at first, but it's becoming much more rapid.

It's not me, Google, it's you - from GA to Fathom

tl;dr: I'm now using Fathom for my personal website analytics, and it's easy to self-host and maintain, better for privacy, and can lead to better site performance.

Since the mid-2000s, right after it became available, I started using Google Analytics for almost every website I built (whether it be mine or someone else). It quickly became (and remains) the de-facto standard for website usage analytics and user tracking.

Google Analytics UI

Before that you basically had web page visit counters (some of them with slightly more advanced features ala W3Counter and Stat Counter), and then on the high end you had Urchin Web Analytics (which is what Google acquired and turned into a 'cloud' version, naming the new product Google Analytics and tying it deeply into the Google AdWords ecosystem).

Deploying an Acquia BLT Drupal 8 site to Kubernetes

BLT to Kubernetes

Wait... what? If you're reading the title of this post, and are familiar with Acquia BLT, you might be wondering:

  • Why are you using Acquia BLT with a project that's not running in Acquia Cloud?
  • You can deploy a project built with Acquia BLT to Kubernetes?
  • Don't you, like, have to use Docker instead of Drupal VM? And aren't you [Jeff Geerling] the maintainer of Drupal VM?

Well, the answers are pretty simple:

Hosted Apache Solr now supports Drupal Search API 8.x-2.x, Solr 7.x

Earlier this year, I completely revamped Hosted Apache Solr's architecture, making it more resilient, more scalable, and better able to support having different Solr versions and configurations per customer.

Today I'm happy to officially announce support for Solr 7.x (in addition to 4.x). This means that no matter what version of Drupal you're on (6, 7, or 8), and no matter what Solr module/version you use (Apache Solr Search or Search API Solr 1.x or 2.x branches), Hosted Apache Solr is optimized for your Drupal search!

Hosted Apache Solr - version selection

The best way to get the full PHP version string

Recently, to automate building, tagging, and pushing my geerlingguy/php-apache Docker Hub image (see this issue), I needed to find a way to reliably determine the PHP major.minor.release version string. You'd think this would be simple.

Well, using Docker, I would run the image and then try:

# php --version
PHP 7.3.0-1+0~20181206202713.23+stretch~1.gbp076afd (cli) (built: Dec  6 2018 20:27:14) ( NTS )
Copyright (c) 1997-2018 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v3.3.0-dev, Copyright (c) 1998-2018 Zend Technologies
    with Zend OPcache v7.3.0-1+0~20181206202713.23+stretch~1.gbp076afd, Copyright (c) 1999-2018, by Zend Technologies

That's great; it outputs the version right at the start. But there are a few problems here:

Deploying a React single-page web app to Kubernetes

React seems to have taken the front-end development community by storm, and is extremely popular for web UIs.

It's development model is a breath of fresh air compared to many other tools: you just clone your app, and as long as you have Node.js installed in your environment, to start developing you run (either with npm or yarn or whatever today's most popular package manager is):

yarn install
yarn serve

And then you have a local development server running your code, which updates in real time when you change code.

But when it comes time to deploy a real-world React app to non-local environments, things can get a little... weird.

For most modern projects I work on, there are usually multiple environments:

Install kubectl in your Docker image, the easy way

Most of the time, when I install software on my Docker images, I add a rather hairy RUN command which does something like:

  1. Install some dependencies for key management.
  2. Add a GPG key for a new software repository.
  3. Install software from that new software repository.
  4. Clean up apt/yum/dnf caches to save a little space.

This is all well and good; and this is the most recommended way to install kubectl in most situations, but it's not without it's drawbacks:

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.

Hosted Apache Solr's Revamped Docker-based Architecture

I started Hosted Apache Solr almost 10 years ago, in late 2008, so I could more easily host Apache Solr search indexes for my Drupal websites. I realized I could also host search indexes for other Drupal websites too, if I added some basic account management features and a PayPal subscription plan—so I built a small subscription management service on top of my then-Drupal 6-based Midwestern Mac website and started selling a few Solr subscriptions.

Back then, the latest and greatest Solr version was 1.4, and now-popular automation tools like Chef and Ansible didn't even exist. So when a customer signed up for a new subscription, the pipeline for building and managing the customer's search index went like this:

Hosted Apache Solr original architecture

Original Hosted Apache Solr architecture, circa 2009.

A modern way to build and develop Drupal 8 sites, using Composer

The Drupal community has been on an interesting journey since the launch of Drupal 8 in 2015. In the past three years, as the community has started to get its sea legs 'off the island' (using tools, libraries, and techniques used widely in the general PHP community), there have been growing pains.

One area where the pains have been (and sometimes still are) highly visible is in how Drupal and Composer work together. I've written posts like Composer and Drupal are still strange bedfellows in the past, and while in some ways that's still the case, we as a community are getting closer and closer to a nirvana with modern Drupal site building and project management.

For example, in preparing a hands-on portion of my and Matthew Grasmick's upcoming DrupalCon Nashville lab session on Composer and Drupal, I found that we're already to the point where you can go from literally zero to a fully functional and complete Drupal site codebase—along with a functional local development environment—in about 10 or 15 minutes:


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