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What Does It Mean to be Optimized for Drupal? Part 1: Performance

October 23, 2019 5 minute read
Why Acquia is optimized for Drupal in terms of faster performance, robust security and better developer efficiency.
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It’s easy to assume that Acquia hosting is optimized for Drupal. After all, Acquia was co-founded by Dries Buytaert, the inventor of Drupal. Today, Dries is not only the Chief Technology Officer and board member at Acquia, but he is also Project Lead for the entire open source Drupal project. 

Although Acquia has grown into a fully loaded digital experience platform, it still has Drupal at its core: it was built for Drupal developers, by Drupal developers. Year after year, Acquia employees make the company the leading contributor to Drupal, by a wide margin. After more than a dozen years in business, we are still the best place to host your Drupal sites.

So, yes, Acquia = Drupal expertise. 

But how exactly does that expertise translate into awesomely optimized Drupal sites? That was the question I put to two experienced Acquians: Matthew Grasmick, the Principal Product Manager on Acquia’s Drupal Acceleration Team and Aaron “Checo” Pacheco, the Product Manager for Acquia Cloud.  

When speaking with Checo and Matt, they essentially broke the concept of “optimized for Drupal” down into three high-level categories: Performance, Security, Developer Efficiency. In this series of three blog posts, I’ll be breaking down exactly how Acquia delivers the best Drupal experience possible, beginning with our multi-layered, reliable infrastructure. 

When you host with Acquia, you have access to six robust and finely-tuned layers of caching:

  1. A CDN (content delivery network) -- This is included with many new Enterprise subscriptions today, and will soon be available at all levels of our platform. By leveraging a global network of servers to deliver content to our customers’ end-users, we can ensure that Acquia-hosted sites operate with maximum speed anywhere in the world. We’ve also gone the extra mile to ensure that we partner with a CDN partner that works with Drupal 8’s tag-based cache invalidation features.
  2. Varnish -- This not only allows customers without a CDN to improve site performance, it also provides top-tier customers with the flexibility they need to customize edge-layer behaviors like path-based redirects and IP whitelisting. The default Varnish settings on our platform are routinely updated as Drupal 8 continues to evolve.
  3. Memcache -- We don’t just provide in-memory caching to reduce database load and improve site performance, we continuously tune the default settings and provide expertise-driven documentation to ensure that customers are getting the maximum value for this service. We also provide our largest customers with more robust Memcached infrastructure to maximize performance and high-availability.
  4. APC (Alternative PHP Cache) -- improves the performance of php itself, and again is something we routinely tweak and optimize based on the behaviors we see on live customer sites as Drupal continues to evolve.
  5. Twig Caching -- for Drupal 8 customers, Acquia is routinely making updates to our Twig cache settings to ensure that compiled theme templates and related data have the resources they need to further improve response times on any Drupal requests that bypass Varnish.
  6. MySQL DB Query Caching -- for all those requests that still make it through to the database layer, we utilize MySQL’s DB query caching functionality to reduce database load and optimize query response times, reducing the frequency of slow queries generated by Drupal applications which have not been properly optimized.

All of this caching comes pre-configured for you by Acquia. You don’t have to install or configure it yourself, and you don’t have to worry about the optimal settings. We take care of all of that for you.

As an example of the benefits you get with Acquia, consider Varnish. Acquia not only offers Varnish caching to improve Drupal application performance, we’ve also configured it to support the Big Pipe module, a key component of Drupal 8 core that further improves page load times. Innovative engineers at Acquia also built and continue to maintain the Acquia Purge module, which helps our customers take advantage of the benefits of Varnish caching without having to clear all caches when existing content is updated.

In combination, each of these purpose-driven layers of caching not only serve to make your page load times lightning-fast, but they also add layers of protection against both legitimate high-traffic events and unexpected attacks by bots and third-parties. When these things happen, robust caching mechanisms can help provide crucial extra time so your teams and ours can identify the root cause and further strengthen your defenses. Said another way, optimized caching isn’t just about making your site load quickly, it’s also a critical component of keeping your site online and secure.

Speaking of site performance… did you know that Acquia offers a uniquely performant option for customers considering a decoupled application architecture? With Acquia’s Node.js offering, you can host your application’s front and back ends on Acquia Cloud, empowering you to double-down on Acquia’s Drupal-optimized and lightning-fast infrastructure. 

For even more information on how Acquia’s expert approach to Drupal delivers safe a secure infrastructure, come back for our next installment, “What It Means to Be Optimized for Drupal: Security.” 

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