Situation: A New Site and a Lasting Partnership
For over a decade, Symantec and BKJ Digital have consolidated a strong partnership, supporting the Symantec Connect and Symantec Blogs websites, among other projects. When BKJ Digital was brought into the fold to build the first version of Symantec Connect, a Drupal site, they contacted Tag1 for its Technical Architecture and Leadership to ensure that the implementation would not fail. Tag1 readily worked with BKJ Digital to share its combined decades of expertise in infrastructure, security, and the Drupal CMS.
But delivering a robust, secure, and scalable digital experience on a tight timeline is challenging even in the best of times. The new requirements from Symantec touched every persona in the organization, including content editors who wanted to see their changes reflected live immediately without delay, developers who yearned for more modern development workflows and continuous integration tooling, and of course, Symantec’s customers, whose demands for security would need to be mirrored by a robust and highly secure range of web presences without even the smallest risk.
Challenge: New Expectations for Infrastructure, Deployment, Integrations, and Performance
While Symantec already had a high degree of trust in Drupal, the accelerating changes in the infrastructure, CMS architecture, deployment, and performance landscapes were sufficient to present substantial challenges for the Tag1 and BKJ Digital teams. Symantec required an architecture that would facilitate the publication of instant updates without any detriment to performance, agile development processes with a full continuous integration and continuous deployment workflow, and a migration of over a decade of technical debt without far exceeding the budget.
Moreover, because of Symantec’s nature as a large company with many departments having differing priorities, integration was a key component of the project. Some departments expressed a strong preference for, or were linked into contracts with, other CMS providers such as Adobe Experience Manager, all with unique approaches to the presentation of web content. Leveraging a unified front-end presentation layer would allow for many disparate CMS and systems back ends to synchronize into a single application. The end goal was, despite the many services used across the organization, for end users to see the ultimate Symantec web experience as seamless and for content editors to see their own experience as frictionless and fast.
Solution: Industry-Leading Expertise in Infrastructure and Scalability
With many years as an integral part of the architectural decision-making and development of the Drupal platform, Tag1 was the obvious choice for Symantec and BKJ Digital to consult on some of the most intractable challenges of the project. Tag1 Consulting benefits from experts with a wide range of expertise beyond solely Drupal, including DevOps best practices, robust infrastructure, modern web development, and cutting-edge web security. In fact, the Drupal project and community rely, in large part, on Tag1’s guidance to steer the direction of the framework itself, and the ecosystem around it.
Thanks to Symantec’s decade-long partnership with Tag1’s Technical Architecture and Leadership, the leading cybersecurity provider was able to transform its approach to building and delivering its web applications with the latest best practices and development approaches. With the solutions recommended by Tag1 for the most difficult challenges Symantec faced, the client was able to not only leverage automation for more of its process but also to get much more work done faster. There was no better candidate for the job than Tag1, whose unparalleled expertise provides what enterprises need to manage strategic shifts toward automation and modern workflows and approaches that accelerate Symantec’s progress towards its vision along multiple dimensions.
Infrastructure for Many Users and Many Edits
At BKJ Digital’s request, Tag1 led and architected the buildout of Symantec’s new and improved infrastructure to support the Symantec Connect site, which is a forum-like website with a large number of concurrent authenticated users who all need to create, view, and edit dynamic content with minimal latency. Tag1 adhered closely to Symantec’s requirements for performance, redundancy, and multi-region failover on the first version of the new hosting infrastructure, ultimately choosing Rackspace as a preferred host.
The first iteration of the Symantec Connect infrastructure was installed in primary servers in Dallas, TX with failover available in the Mid-Atlantic. Tag1 then paired the infrastructure with a robust content delivery network (CDN) through Akamai, routing traffic to the proper location based on application performance and limiting latency perceived by end users. Since that time, Tag1 has worked closely with Symantec’s other partners to migrate its entire infrastructure twice more to its current iteration.
An Innovative Decoupled Architecture with React
When BKJ Digital approached Tag1 requesting a creative migration solution as an alternative to the exorbitantly expensive and time consuming migrations typical in the Drupal market at the time, Tag1 understood that this meant both migrating Symantec Connect’s Drupal 6 codebase and preparing for the site’s long-term sustainability and continued growth. Although a full migration from Drupal 6 to Drupal 8 was considered early in the process, the extreme cost of porting all site features and content on a single timeline was prohibitively disruptive. Instead, Tag1 conceived an unexplored solution that had seldom been achieved before: a decoupled architecture with a React front end that would straddle both Drupal versions and Drupal instances, as well as other CMS including Adobe Experience Manager, allowing Symantec to continue running many legacy systems as the migration continued.
Though it may sound counterintuitive, running two CMS instances simultaneously proved to be the most affordable solution and it had the most immediate impact delivering on the businesses needs. By using React to present the content for both sites, it became possible to port functionality over feature by feature as well as critical data without interruption. Through their partnership together, BKJ Digital and Tag1, a Long-Term Support (LTS) vendor for Drupal 6, were equipped to support both the Drupal 6 and Drupal 8 versions while BKJ’s team proceeded with the migration uninhibited. Fortunately, this saved Symantec from a significant rise in development expenses and site downtime, as well as other unforeseen complications that inevitably arise in a migration across two Drupal versions.
Integrating Seamlessly with Other CMSs and Services
As technologies from various vendors become more affordable and more easily implemented by less specialized teams, it is all the more essential to select the correct foundational software that can support the modifications that stakeholders wish to see. While this project focused on the Symantec Connect website, Symantec also operates many other web properties that leverage other CMSs such as Adobe Experience Manager. Fortunately, with Tag1’s experience synthesizing data from multiple discrete systems into Drupal, paired with Drupal’s own robustness for this use case, integration was painless.
Thanks to Drupal’s API-first orientation in recent years and its ability to serve as a centralized content repository in a variety of configurations, Tag1 was able to import certain data and other content to Adobe Experience Manager, pairing it and Drupal seamlessly in the process so that editors can utilize a single unified administrative interface in Drupal. This ensured the satisfaction of stakeholders while providing the argument to Symantec’s team that their investment in AEM and in other supporting technologies could continue unabated on a unified foundation of content in Drupal. It also reduced technical debt, shaved crucial time from the development process for Symantec’s partners, and saved Symantec significant money in the process.
Agile Development that Scales to New Dynamics and Partnerships
In large enterprises, it is often the case that enforcing coding standards and innovating quickly are mutually exclusive endeavors. Users will often have the choice of one or the other, and seldom both. Symantec’s large team was no exception.
Supported by Tag1’s deep technical understanding of BKJ Digital’s development workflow and Symantec’s internal requirements, Tag1’s Technical Architecture and Leadership was able to break out of old habits to implement a continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) process that ensured full quality control on releases and pushed deployments live to production, all as often as every few minutes. For Symantec’s developers, this meant time-to-live durations for new features narrowed to almost nothing, while the production environment never went stale. With most of the CI/CD process automated, the entire implementation became substantially more efficient. At long last, Symantec could focus on delivering business value rather than surmounting multiple obstacles in the form of DevOps and CI/CD pipelines.
Infrastructure as Code and Robust Developer Tooling
At scale, redundancy helps significantly to avoid potentially disastrous downtime. Many large enterprise sites also leverage technologies to ensure that sites come back online as soon as possible after a server failure. As many systems administrators and site reliability engineers know, keeping resources constantly spinning to handle this transition is optimal, but it is often a costly proposition.
Tag1’s Technical Architecture and Leadership conceived a just-in-time server configuration scheme that would allow for maximum uptime. When a server comes under load or a resource goes down, a system architected by Tag1 allows Symantec and BKJ Digital to configure new servers immediately. This improved transition process facilitates a significantly reduced total cost of ownership, all while preserving the ability to spin up and transition to newly provisioned backup resources in mere minutes.
But effective server configuration and infrastructural innovations are only a part of the puzzle. From a developer’s perspective, managing and juggling infrastructure is often a tedious process in which developers need to replicate changes across hardware configurations and deploy them during their off hours. Teams face lower efficiencies as a result as they continue making improvements and introduce new issues rather than focusing on new additive features. Thanks to the implementation of Symantec’s infrastructure as code, developers maintaining the Symantec Connect website can commit changes back to infrastructure and deploy them rapidly while simultaneously ensuring that all other developers’ local environments are up-to-date. By ensuring consistency across all developer environments, and running configuration through the CI/CD process, Symantec can not only reduce damaging regressions but also focus on more valuable and mission-critical priorities.
Results: Automation and Innovation Secured by Symantec
Owing to the successful partnership between Tag1’s Technical Architecture and Leadership and BKJ Digital, the new Symantec Connect is a compelling example of how seemingly impossible large requirements can be satisfied with innovative solutions and technical know-how. Symantec can now focus on new features to capture end users’ mindshare rather than worrying about downtime or maintaining infrastructure.
In addition, the automated CI/CD workflows that Tag1 implemented and infrastructure written as code allow developers to rest easy, knowing that regressions are difficult to introduce in the new development paradigm. And with a bleeding-edge architecture that resolved questions about a costly migration and a difference in Drupal versions, Symantec and Tag1 proved that innovative approaches can provide a seamless experience not only externally but internally as well. With over twelve years and counting in this storied — and altogether rare — partnership between Tag1, BKJ Digital, and Symantec, it is no surprise that Tag1 is routinely touted as among the most dependable partners in the business.