How Acquia Enables a Highly Scalable Drupal Digital Experience Platform on AWS
By Jessica Ho, Partner Solutions Architect at AWS
Businesses of all types view customer experience (CX) as a key differentiator of their services. They are increasingly willing to invest in the right tools to enable customer engagement across a wide selection of channels.
A digital experience platform (DXP) is a critical enabler of a complete customer experience solution, delivering content needed to drive meaningful engagement across including web, mobile, kiosks, digital, or voice bots.
Large organizations often struggle to do this, however, because traditional web content management platforms don’t meet today’s enterprise needs. A few reasons why this task can be overwhelming include:
- Visitor traffic that demands highly scalable infrastructure.
- Increased need to comply with security standards and customer data privacy regulations.
- Evolving customer expectations for digital experiences.
Just as IT infrastructure demands have rapidly evolved, the requirements of corporate brands have changed as they expand their digital presence to capture new customers and retain existing ones.
Customers have come to expect digital experiences that are relevant and timely. This expectation requires brands to turn to solutions that go beyond basic web hosting to a full suite of digital experience services.
In this post, I will take a look at how Acquia and Amazon Web Services (AWS) together address these pain points and requirements by offering a secure, resilient, and highly performant solution with the next-generation enterprise digital experience platform, Acquia Cloud Next.
Acquia’s Digital Experience Platform
Ease of use is critical to brands being able to create and deliver personalized customer experiences at scale. Marketers need to respond to emerging events and evolving digital channels with timely content.
A DXP solution must meet IT and InfoSec standards, while also being accessible to marketers and line of business owners. These non-technical stakeholders expect a no-code interface to support rapid content creation and updates without heavy reliance on IT organizations.
Acquia is an AWS ISV Partner with Competencies in Digital Customer Experience and Education. The company’s CTO and co-founder is the creator of the Drupal open-source content management framework.
Since its inception, Acquia has evolved from a managed Drupal hosting provider to a leader in enabling brands to deliver comprehensive digital experiences.
The company’s flagship offering is the Acquia Open Digital Experience Platform, powered by Acquia Drupal Cloud and Acquia Marketing Cloud. Drupal is the core of this experience, supplemented by Acquia’s unified solution to design and manage brand experiences.
Imagine a retailer who owns multiple brands that each need to serve unique content yet still provide a consistent customer experience across sites in terms of design and feel. This is challenging for enterprise customers who often have a fleet of websites to host, and need to collaborate between in-house marketers as well as external agencies with varying familiarity of tools.
Acquia provides the solution to build, run, and manage a portfolio of digital experiences like this. Marketing agencies can quickly onboard to the platform and create content through low-code site building tools, while also complying to brand governance under the approved master design.
During the outbreak of COVID-19, businesses needed to quickly adopt and expand digital presence in response to the pandemic. Acquia DXP was able to shorten time to market significantly and helped companies transform the way they interact with customers.
One apparel manufacturing company who re-platformed to Acquia, for example, was able to set up new commerce experiences and expand from a desktop-focused to mobile-friendly channel in weeks, allowing them to boost conversion rate and address customer needs much faster.
Figure 1 – Acquia digital experience platform.
Acquia Cloud Next on AWS
Acquia Cloud Next enables customers to develop, deploy, and manage Drupal experiences at scale. The platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, built on AWS, takes care of infrastructure provisioning, application scaling, platform monitoring, failover, system updates, and is optimized for the Drupal framework.
This removes the undifferentiated heavy lifting for businesses, allowing critical IT resources to be redeployed for high-value tasks, and offers marketers the autonomy for content creation.
The following advantages enabled by this next-generation platform are key considerations for customers looking to create digital presence at scale.
Secured Platform By Design
Acquia Cloud Next automates platform security and Drupal-optimized application security for customers. The solution meets stringent customer requirements in highly regulated industries, and has a robust compliance portfolio including FedRAMP, HIPAA, PCI, SOC 1, SOC 2, and ISO 27001 standards.
For example, customers can quickly leverage Acquia Cloud Next to build a PCI-compliant e-commerce site and accept payments online.
Reduced Support Effort
Acquia Cloud Next performs platform patches and system updates in the background. This results in fewer maintenance events and paging tickets. The adoption of AWS managed services also enables default high availability and platform stability.
Improved Time to Market
Drupal developers are now able to provision new environments for development, staging, and production in minutes. These on-demand environments enable faster prototyping, experimentation, and deployment.
Blue/Green deployments are also made available to ensure customers can deploy updates and perform cutovers with minimal site downtime.
Acquia enables organizations to easily integrate with backend systems, such as CRMs and other marketing technologies, in order to maximize the value of their entire marketing stack and drive unified content and data strategies.
Simplified UI Design
Acquia removes the complexity of managing multiple applications, databases, and storage from customers and provides a simplistic and responsive user interface (UI) for an efficient user experience.
Figure 2 – Acquia Cloud Next user interface.
How it Works
Acquia Cloud Next incorporates the following AWS managed services in the architecture:
- Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS)
- Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS)
- Amazon Aurora MySQL-Compatible Edition
Let’s dive deeper into how Acquia creates value-added enhancements through collaboration with AWS.
Acquia engineers the platform so customers can adopt it readily, without architecting the solution and solving for associated operational challenges themselves.
Figure 3 – Acquia Cloud Next architecture diagram.
Amazon EKS is a managed Kubernetes service that simplifies the provision, scale, and maintenance of the Kubernetes control plane at production grade.
Amazon EKS enables the Kubernetes control plane with high availability by spreading nodes across three AWS Availability Zones, as well as increased resilience where unhealthy nodes are automatically detected and replaced. The same benefits apply to the data plane with two or more worker nodes, where they can grow and shrink with the workload, and recover through self-healing capabilities.
Building on Amazon EKS, Acquia Cloud Next leverages the Kubernetes Cluster Autoscaler and optimizes its configuration for Drupal applications.
Cluster Autoscaler triggers and executes scaling decisions by increasing the number of pods and nodes of the data plane so the cluster doesn’t run out of compute resources. At the same time, Cluster Autoscaler automatically detects underutilized resources and terminates related worker nodes and migrates its pods to scale in, reducing costs for customers by scaling in resources when they are not in use.
With this auto scaling capability, Acquia is able to load uncached content up to 20% faster to improve application performance.
Containerization also enables Acquia Cloud Next to improve resource isolation and platform security by moving application services into dedicated pods from previously shared infrastructure.
Resource isolation at the pod level ensures key services like Memcache and Cron Jobs powering customers’ Drupal applications are able to scale individually based on demand without impacting one another.
Amazon EFS provides an elastic, managed network file system (NFS) for Linux workloads. It can store up to petabytes of data, and scale in and out automatically as customers add or remove files.
Amazon EFS is also POSIX-compliant as required by applications like Drupal for storing persistent data. By migrating to EFS, Acquia provides customers a scalable file share and the ability to transfer and deliver data with improved speed up to 10 GB/second.
Additionally, EFS builds on standard Kubernetes interface for container orchestration to manage the lifecycle of the file system. With this seamless integration, Acquia is able to easily mount the EFS file system inside containers as persistent volume, with increased security of data encryption in transit.
As a part of this re-architecture effort, Acquia migrated MySQL databases to Amazon Aurora, a MySQL and PostgreSQL compatible relational database that combines the performance and availability of traditional commercial databases with the cost-effectiveness of open-source databases.
There’s also a meaningful performance enhancement because Aurora delivers up to 5x the throughput compared to the standard MySQL engine. Acquia is now able to pass forward this upgrade to customers in terms of improved site performance and load times.
In this post, I discussed how Acquia Cloud Next on AWS provides customers with a highly available, secure, and performant digital experience platform. The platform provides a turnkey solution to create, host, and engage with customers across digital channels at scale.
Acquia – AWS Partner Spotlight
Acquia is an AWS ISV Partner that offers a secure platform-as-a-service cloud environment for the Drupal web content management system.
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