Acquia's Lightning distribution for Drupal 8 centers on providing a framework for rapidly building authoring and editorial solutions within Drupal, focusing on accelerating development by providing easily customizable layouts, better workflows, full point-in-time previews, and rich media integration.
The distribution has a lot of potential for both Drupal site building and development, because it targets areas in Drupal that tend to be at least somewhat problematic during site builds, especially from the perspective of the user experience of content authors and editors. With an eye toward security, it also supports continuing trends towards test-driven development, as well as further standardization and componentized development.
Focus on Security
Security should also not be an issue, because in addition to the excellent service that the Drupal security team provides to the community in keeping Drupal core and its community-contributed modules secure, Acquia is also hiring an external firm to perform continuous audits of the Lightning distribution. This provides peace of mind that the code that Acquia is using to combine various modules and functionality together is also secure, which is a great feature for enterprise clients.
Test-driven Development and Automated Testing
Lightning also focuses on automated testing, with a test-driven development approach taken to the modules added to the distribution. Automated testing will include unit tests, behavioral testing with Behat, and Selenium testing, ensuring that modules work together properly. This has the potential to ease some of the issues that can arise and act as pain points when updating a distribution.
Functionality and Standardization
Lightning focuses on four functional areas of Drupal: layout, media, workflow and previews. Many of the features in Lightning will leverage modules that have already been developed by the community, combining them together to provide an improved development experience.
Based on its experience with the Drupal 7 version of Lightning, Acquia found that layout was one of the most universally appealing aspects of the distribution, so the new version of Lightning also uses Panels as a central tool for its layout capabilities.
The content editor has been improved, thanks to the hard work done during the Drupal 8 development cycle in the Acquia-driven Spark initiative. Further efforts to improve Drupal’s user experience will be included as part of Lightning to create the best media and content editor experience possible.
For the Drupal 8 version of the distribution, workflow is no longer a direct port of Workbench. After identifying difficult use cases, Acquia wants Lightning to be able to cover both difficult and simple workflows. Drawing from different modules in the community, Lightning will create an improved architecture and a simple UI for workflows.
Workflows will now include the concept of a workspace, which is similar to Content Preview System (CPS). Before you edit anything, you’ll be able to create a new workspace to work on those changes. Leveraging the Workbench and Multiversion modules, Acquia would like to implement the ability to have a “live” or “future” workspace, as well as revisions for workspaces through Lightning.
Previewing content will always be a concern, whether you want to see what a site might look like in the future or how it would appear on different devices. Lightning plans to include tools to preview a page on your site as if it were being viewed at a particular point of time, or as it would look like on devices of various sizes.
Process and Benefits for the Community
Acquia is directly funding development in an effort to get modules upgraded for Drupal 8. According to estimates in a recent Acquia webinar, Drupal 8 Quick Start: An Overview of Lightning, Acquia is predicting that with their assistance, work on several key modules included in the distribution will be completed in only six months (as opposed to a year).
Acquia has explained that even though it curates Lightning, the distribution is powered by the Drupal community. Rather than creating a completely custom solution, Acquia is doing a great job of leading by example in integrating this solution with and contributing back directly to community projects.
Acquia Lightning for Drupal 8 was released in beta at the end of December, containing a subset of the planned features of the Media and Layout functional areas. Other plans include a second beta in early February and full layout support in late February, as well as a full tagged release, which is anticipated in late March 2016. Additional features will continue to be added after the initial release.
We haven’t yet implemented the Lightning distribution on a project here at Duo, but once we do, we’ll make sure to share our experiences on the blog, so check back soon.