Platform Consolidation to Drive Scalability, with a Drupal Multisite Architecture
Case-study

Platform Consolidation to Drive Scalability, with a Drupal Multisite Architecture

32 Websites to consolidate on a single platform
ICTSI logo

International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) is a global port services operator, currently with 32 terminals across 19 countries. Headquartered in Manila, they acquire, develop, and operate container ports and terminals , with a team of over 11,000 people. With over 30 years of experience, ICTSI closely works with governments divesting maritime assets and privatising port operations. As industry innovators, they deliver increased efficiency for acquired ports, and have developed the world’s first fully automated international container handling facility at Victoria International Container Terminal (Melbourne, Australia).

Industry DTN

Highlights:

  • A Drupal multisite architecture to consolidate 30+ websites onto a single digital platform
  • Faster time-to-market for new sites, and accelerated onboarding of existing sites onto the platform
  • Multilingual websites with streamlined content management
  • Highly scalable infrastructure hosted on AWS 
  • Significant reduction in the cost of hosting, managing, and maintaining 30+ websites

The Challenge

ICTSI has over 30 terminals across the globe, each with its own separate website. These sites were hosted on different technology platforms and handled independently by their respective teams either through a local vendor or in-house. This led to 3 significant challenges when it came to managing and maintaining these sites:

challenges

The Goal

For ICTSI, the goal was to intelligently leverage technology to drive its business operations and expansion. They wanted a solution that would consolidate the different terminal sites onto a single platform, one that’s highly scalable, and brings down operational costs. The key milestones ICTSI wanted to achieve in the process were:

  • Reduce time-to-market for new sites
  • Reduce developer dependence while onboarding new terminals
  • Create a  streamlined data storage and migration strategy across terminal sites

The Solution

A Drupal multisite architecture hosted on the AWS cloud was used to deliver platform consolidation for ICTSI. With this solution, a single Drupal codebase was shared across 30+ terminal websites, centralizing maintenance and control. However, each site could still have its own content, settings, and enabled modules to suit its particular business requirements. 

The multisite architecture solution was designed to deliver:

  • Faster onboarding for new terminal websites with minimal assistance from development teams
  • Easy content sharing with the ability to share new content to selected terminals with just a click
  • Multilingual websites with English and local language options for each terminal
  • Integration of a Philippines Stock Exchange(PSE) real-time ticker on the global site

The project also involved transforming ICTSI’s content strategy on their existing Drupal implementation. Srijan’s team of Drupal experts evaluated all available content types and whittled it down to a core set of essential content types. These could be reused to deliver the required information on the frontend. This ensured site-wise uniformity and editorial efficiency for ICTSI.

Here's how we did it

The Benefits

Future-Ready, Scalable Architecture

Transforming ICTSI’s existing Drupal implementation into a multisite Drupal architecture delivered immense scalability. In a rapidly evolving logistics market, the ability to introduce new features, services, and content quickly, and almost simultaneously, across their terminal sites was a significant win. 

This allowed them to:

  • Rapidly roll out new websites with all basic elements standard to an ICTSI terminal site. With a well-documented process, setting up a new terminal on stage and taking it to production is quick and easy.
  • Create multilingual content across different websites with centralized editorial control
  • Give editorial teams the autonomy to create new pages by picking from the existing pre-defined content types
  • Push content quickly to multiple websites with streamlined content publishing workflows. Content sharing across different sites is also efficient and effortless.
  • Infrastructure built on AWS provides complete control and flexibility to expand the application

Central Visibility and Control to Leverage Integrated Data

Platform consolidation also centralized the flow of data across the organization. ICTSI can now share the work done at different terminals and can swiftly leverage that information to drive business growth across geographies. Centralized data also empowers ICTSI with capabilities to introduce new tech-enabled solutions for both internal teams and external clients. 

Optimized Cost of Operation

A multisite architecture led to a significant reduction in the cost of hosting, managing, and maintaining 30+ terminal websites:

  • Whether it’s content or features like chatbots and other widgets, things now just had to be built once and could be quickly deployed on different websites as and when required. No duplication of effort, and standardized solutions across sites

  • Streamlined content creation, editing, translation, and approval workflows on a central platform has drastically reduced the time spent by editorial teams in back-and-forth communication, saving man-hours

  • Website maintenance can now be done by a central team, ensuring that all terminal websites have optimal performance. Code maintenance and upgrades are more seamless.

  • Eliminated hosting cost for multiple independent sites, as new sites can be tested and launched on new AWS instances, without disrupting other sites.

 

How We Did It - The Technology

Drupal was chosen to deliver this multisite architecture because ICTSI was already on Drupal. But more importantly, Drupal’s capabilities exactly fit ICTSI’s project requirements:

Mature Multi-site management

One of the major requirements from the platform was to be able to roll out and host multiple websites with integrated code management as the sites would share components across them while maintaining isolation in content management. This was a perfect use case for Drupal with its proven multi-sites architecture.

Multilingual Out-of-the-Box

With over 30 terminals spread across the globe, there was a large scope for creating geography-specific content. While a few existing terminal sites already had the multilingual ability, it was desirable to have each terminal site be able to host at least two languages - English as standard and a local language with the option to choose either one as the default language for the site. Drupal’s multilingual abilities have only grown with age.

A plethora of contributed modules

The sites are meant to be portfolio websites for the terminals and information radiators for the visitors. We used paragraphs extensively to build content that could easily be shared across sites. PDB module was used to organize the vue.js code for certain components of the global site.

Scalable

The solution needed to be scalable - to host more features, new components, and integration with other Enterprise solutions overtime.

Here’s what the Drupal multisite and AWS cloud combination helped us achieve:

Easy to set up a new site

A default terminal was created which can be cloned into a new site. Config split module was used to keep certain configurations isolated between terminals e.g. languages.

Content sharing

We used the content sharing module for sharing the content between different sites. Whenever new content is created, editors can select the terminals to share the content. The editors of selected sites receive a notification. To fetch the content, they go to the content share dashboard where they can see the shared content. This step is manual to allow local editors to follow their respective content publishing workflows.

Multilingual

The regional websites generally host more than one language, English being a standard across all the sites. The editors can either keep English or the local language as the default language of the site.

PSE plugin

We needed to store historical data and place a real-time ticker on the corporate site to display licensed information from the Philippines Stock Exchange (PSE). Service was created to fetch the data from PSE and store the data in custom tables. PHP sockets were utilized to push data to the ticker in real-time.

Content Migration

Instead of writing scripts for migrating all the content, we chose to be selective. Migration was divided into multiple groups based on the content types. The developers estimated migration effort through scripts, and SM/BA/Interns estimated the manual effort. For each segment, the least effort was given preference. Converting story points roughly into man-days, script-based migration required 4 weeks of effort, manual migration required 6 weeks while we were able to complete the migration in almost 3 weeks through the combination of both.

Infrastructure on AWS

We set up the infra on AWS cloud using a home-grown accelerator built upon K8s, Docker, Terraform, Helm charts. Uptimerobot, Kibana, and Grafana were used for monitoring and logging. The infra hosts develop, stage, and production environment

Local development

For the first time in Srijan, the team used Lando for local development. While the installation was easy, configuring it to project needs was even easier. This project also served as a pilot for using a wrapper tool like Lando in place of the bare docker containers team was using in their earlier projects. The tool saved around 3-4 days of cumulative local set up a time for the team.

Major Contributed Modules Used


For global enterprises managing different digital fronts, a multisite architecture is an essential solution. And Srijan's experience and expertise in deploying a Drupal multisite architecture for diverse industry enterprises make us an ideal technology partner. 

Is your enterprise working to build a scalable digital platform for brand sites? Write to us, and let's explore how multisite architecture can enable that. 

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