How do we accomplish long-term maintainability of sites build with the OpenOutreach profile?

The problem

At Koumbit, we've been building sites for non-profits for almost a decade, most of them on Drupal. While we haven't built any new sites on Drupal 6 for over a year, we still have several hundred Drupal 6 sites in our Aegir hosting system. When Drupal 8 is released, support for Drupal 6 will be dropped, so we need to upgrade these sites to D7 (or something), which in many cases will cost about the same as the initial site build. This scenario will play out again for each major version upgrade.

Since one of our primary goals is to provide affordable websites to non-profits, we need a long-term maintenance solution that will take major version upgrades into account.

Possible solutions

There has been some talk about integrating the Migrate module into core, and then treating major version upgrades as a migration. It seems to me that this is a viable solution for distribution authors. Perhaps we could provide Migrate integration, to ensure smoother transitions.

This is not an immediate requirement, but we should take it into account as we move forward. Otherwise, there'll be a bunch of non-profits with sites built on OpenOutreach, facing a major expense just to keep on using their sites.


nedjo’s picture

Title: Long-term maintainability » Long-term maintainability of Open Outreach

Definitely a topic worth discussing. One step we're considering is piggybacking on Panopoly, see #1664956: Make Open Outreach Panopoly-based, which should ease the D8 upgrade path.

Beyond technical details, the most pressing need is to create a stronger institutional backing for Open Outreach. As it is, we're producing and maintaining it as two people in a tiny Drupal shop. So, for example, when we're travelling for three months in Ecuador and go for longish periods without internet access (as happened in the past two weeks) we can't so much as put out a new release to keep up with Drupal core and contrib module security releases.

We had hoped we could work with other shops and devs to pick it up and contribute but so far that's not happened much. We're looking for ideas as to how to put in place an instistutional structure to back the distro in the long term. Part of that means answering the question, how do we fund long term development? The distro has a built-in challenge there: while we want Open Outreach to be extensible and valuable to larger, more resourced organizations, our primary focus is serving small, low-resourced orgs, precisely the ones who have minimal funds to contribute to development or maintenance. At present, almost all of our Open Outreach work is in kind rather than being billable to client projects.

A possible approach would be to create a nonprofit entity that, for example, provides (free?) mass hosting for Open Outreach with add-on services.

nedjo’s picture

Good related blog post series from Robert Douglass of the Commerce Guys:

niccolox’s picture

My gut feeling is that there is a contradiction and tension in Drupal ecosystem around inexpensive, sustainable, durable distros

Basically there is no money in it except for the machine that commodifies the craft

The craft ecosystem is where all the money and interest is

Drupal Gardens site building has none of that

So. Can oo find a niche between hosted processed distros and full homebrew?

ergonlogic’s picture

A couple of my colleagues at Koumbit and I are in the process of launching OpenAtria, a new cooperative focused on building fully automated Drupal hosting systems. Essentially, we're building a custom distribution based on Aegir with e-commerce enabled subscriptions to sites, and a continuous delivery development toolchain. Our primary business models, are hosting, supporting and consulting on this development and hosting system, and mass hosting of Open Atrium and (now) OpenOutreach sites.

I was deeply impressed when I rebuilt my personal website ( last month on OpenOutreach. I'd been advocating its use at Koumbit for over a year, and felt I should use it in my own projects if I was going to continue. It took me about an hour to rebuild the same (admitedly modest) site features, as everything worked right out of the box. It took me another day to port the theme to D7 on Zen, but then theming is not my strong suit. We'll be rebuilding on OpenOutreach soon too.

While our efforts will remain focused on the (entirely free and open source) OpenAtria stack, we are strongly committed to supporting upstream projects. So you can count on us to fix bugs and occasionally contribute features when the opportunity arises. While we aren't in a position to offer free hosting ourselves, we could certainly lend our expertise to such an endeavour.

On a more technical note, while I'm not (yet) directly familiar with Panopoly, adopting it as a platform appears to be a wise move, especially considering the resources we're likely to see from Phase 2 for OpenAtrium.

niccolox’s picture

fabulous news, excellent choice of business model

if you need a tester/early adopter customer count me in

on a historical note, I did a bit of Open Outreach/Aegir/coop advocacy and documentation myself last year just as the Occupy movement was souring... unfortunately my presentation to the SFDUG had a mixed reaction, reflective of the movement itself I guess, anyway, that's another story.

actually tried to get a Summer short-course on "Learning Drupal 7 Site Building with Open Outreach" running at my community college, but, that also didn't quite work-out due to time and resource constraints etc

anyway, super happy this is happening by better organized, resourced and wiser minds

as far as I can tell, the "Economic Democracy for Drupal" concept, i.e. reducing TCO of Drupal sites, is even more important than ever, Economic Austerity and Political Reaction is an ongoing global project



nedjo’s picture

@ergonlogic: very excited to hear your plans and glad to hear your positive experience with Open Outreach. After two and a half years of incubating Open Outreach in Chocolate Lily, we're looking for ways to solidify the distro and, particularly, to expand the circle of users, hosts, and developers. One model we're considering is forming a new nonprofit as the home of the project, with member organizations/shops collaborating. We're working up a strategic planning wiki page that we'll post soon for discussion and collaboration on I'll add a note here when it's up.

nedjo’s picture

Posted a strategic planning wiki page for Open Outreach here: Please wade in and add your thoughts and analysis!

nedjo’s picture

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