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Digital Experience Tech Terms, Defined

Is there any vocabulary that fluctuates more wildly than technology’s? The online/internet/digital experience world is among the most dynamic term-generators in the tech space. So, no, it’s not you: that new word or abbreviation or acronym that you’re wondering about was just coined last week. 

At Acquia, we’ve got a way to deal with this: the Acquia Glossary, an in-house, updated collection of relevant technology terms that all employees can easily reference via Slack. 

Enter a hot term like “Decoupled Drupal” into Slack, for example, and the glossary will return a 100-word definition that begins, “Decoupled Drupal (or headless Drupal) allows the developer to utilize any technology to render the front-end experience in lieu of the theming and presentation layers in Drupal. This process utilizes Drupal as a content service…”

(BTW, the Slack integration is a perfect example of a decoupled architecture: a Slack front end that pulls content from a Drupal 8 back-end.) 

The Glossary’s architect is Thomas Howell, enterprise architect, customer success innovations, automation & communications. Howell built the Glossary primarily to reduce confusion and increase the efficiency of communication. These vocabulary terms may be used in communication with customers, between departments and onboarding. The Glossary also connects stakeholders to the language they should own, and it enables these stakeholders to quickly update the words we Acquians use (which makes status calls much less confusing). Several sets of terms can also be used as a source of truth for automated systems (e.g., accurate product list for a drop-down when customers file tickets).

But, we wanted to extend the value of the Acquia Glossary outside of the confines of Slack threads and share some important, frequently slippery, technology terms with our marketing brethren. Why not spread the knowledge and soothe the information pain for those of us who never expected that we’d end up wrangling tech terms like “continuous integration” for a living. 

So we’re kicking off a new series on the blog: Tech Terms, Defined where we break down all the essential tech lingo you should have in your lexicon. 

Here are seven definitions from the Acquia Glossary to get things started: 

  • API -- An application program interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. An API specifies how software components should interact. Additionally, APIs are used when programming graphical user interface (GUI) components. Within Drupal, there is the API Reference, which contains documentation for developers. Drupal also contains a Form API and Field API.
  • CDN -- A content delivery network or content distribution network (CDN) is a geographically distributed network of proxy servers and their data centers. The goal is to distribute service spatially relative to end-users to provide high availability and high performance. CDNs serve a large portion of the internet content today, including web objects (text, graphics, scripts), downloadable objects (media files, software, documents), applications (e-commerce, portals), live-streaming media, on-demand streaming media and social networks.
  • CMS -- A content management system (CMS) is a computer application that supports the creation and modification of digital content. It typically supports multiple users in a collaborative environment. CMS features vary widely. Most CMSs include web-based publishing, format management, history editing and version control, indexing, search and retrieval. By their nature, content management systems support the separation of content and presentation.
  • CI -- Continuous integration (CI) is a development practice that requires developers to integrate code into a shared repository several times a day. Each check-in is then verified by an automated build, allowing teams to detect problems early.
  • DAM -- Digital asset management (DAM) is a business process for organizing, storing and retrieving rich media and managing digital rights and permissions. Rich media assets include photos, music, videos, animations, podcasts and other multimedia content.
  • High Availability -- High availability refers to systems that are durable and likely to operate continuously without failure for a long time. The term implies that parts of a system have been fully tested and, in many cases, that there are accommodations for failure in the form of redundant components.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)  -- Platform as a Service (PaaS) or application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) or platform base service is a category of cloud computing services that provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run and manage applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an app.

Maybe you already know some, or all, of these terms. If so, how are you on security terms? 

I ask because Thomas told me that Acquia’s Security team just uploaded hundreds of definitions of security-related terms. So why don’t we keep this going? 

Look out for our next Tech Terms, Defined post covering the need-to-know online security terms. 

See you next time.

DC Denison

Senior Editor, Technology Acquia

DC Denison has been messin' around with Drupal since 2007. He has been with Acquia since 2015. Before coming to Acquia, he was the technology editor at The Boston Globe.