Acquia Lightning - What, Why & How

By Gaurav Mishra Apr 26, 2019

Speed has become a necessity for enterprise projects. Developers need to roll out sites faster than ever before. But that’s not all. They also need to ensure that these sites are capable of supporting content-rich digital experiences, and easy for other stakeholders to work with.

While Drupal in itself makes all this possible, there is a significant learning curve involved in choosing the right mix of modules that will deliver what an enterprise needs. And that’s where Acquia Lightning comes in.

What is Acquia Lightning?

Acquia Lightning is an open source Drupal 8 distribution, that allows development teams to kickstart their Drupal 8 projects. It consists of a Drupal 8 core bundled together with a pre-selected set of modules, themes and libraries designed to create a strong foundation for enterprise grade digital experiences with Drupal. It takes the guesswork out of module selection, and leverages Acquia’s years of learning across projects to give enterprises exactly what they need.

While developers are the primary stakeholders working on the Drupal 8 projects, there are also teams of site builders, designers and content editors who will use the final Drupal implementation. Keeping that in mind, Acquia Lightning is designed so developers can create Drupal sites that empower people in these roles, and helps them do their job better.

For most enterprises, Acquia Lightning is seen to have brought a 30% savings in time spent of developing and configuring Drupal 8 projects. That’s because:

  • A Drupal 8 distribution with all the necessary functionalities and configurations in place means sites can get ready to launch in a matter of days
  • A common framework allows developers to get started right away rather than spending time in evaluating, planning and building a custom framework from scratch, or worrying about cross-functionality between modules
  • It includes all the standard best practices for enterprise Drupal development, even incorporating tips and tricks that were previously just part of the collective knowledge of the Drupal community
  • It is maintained in close integration with Drupal, with every key improvement in Drupal modules being almost immediately available for use in Lightning

What does Acquia Lightning entail?

The Lightning distribution focuses on four key aspects of Drupal development to deliver gains for developers and experience creators:


The ability to create sites and pages with effective layouts, and easily add and edit content is a key requirement for editorial teams. More so given the need to offer rich content experiences on site, and do it in time to leverage key market opportunities. However, the high level of dependence on developers to be able to make changes to page layouts has been a critical bottleneck for editorial teams.

How Acquia Lightning helps: Drag-and-drop Layout Designer

The layout capabilities of Acquia Lightning allow developers to step out of the equation, and let content authors and experience creators independently handle page building. A drag-and-drop layout designer, combined with page-building components and tools enable site builders and content authors to easily and quickly put together the kind of pages they want. And this is done without them having to dive into the code.


Media management has always been somewhat cumbersome with Drupal, with no out-of-the-box features available for it. The lack of an easy-to-search media library made it difficult for content editors to quickly pick and integrate desired media formats on the pages they build, hampering the user experience.

How Acquia Lightning helps: Media Management Tools

Lightning brings in a pre-selected and configured set of modules for media management. You get an easily searchable media library that holds different media formats in one place, and easily embed them on the pages of your choice with WYSIWYG integration. Teams can also perform bulk media uploads. And it provides support for external media sources, allowing you to import content from Youtube, Twitter and Instagram.


Given that enterprises have multiple authors and editors involved in the content creation process, a streamlined editing and publishing workflow is crucial.

How Acquia Lightning helps: Flexible Workflows

With Lightning, developers can create completely customizable workflows that suit the specific needs of different content teams. They can start off with the basic workflow configurations available out-of-the-box in Lightning, and add customizations on top of it.

The Content Moderation module available with Lightning, in combination with Acquia’s Moderation Note module, allows content teams to use a shareable content piece and collaboratively work and make edits on it before publishing.


Most enterprises work with a diverse set of technologies and systems besides Drupal, and need all of these to be interoperable. Easy flow of data to and from the Drupal ecosystem is crucial for the complete enterprise architecture to work smoothly and build new applications atop it.

How Acquia Lightning helps: Rapid API Creation

The API component for Acquia Lightning gives developers a pre-selected set of tools to quickly create APIs for their Drupal implementation. These include JSON APIs, UIs for browsing APIs and OPen APIs capabilities to make your APIs discoverable. This aspect of Lightning is being overwhelmingly used to create decoupled Drupal applications, exposing the Drupal backend to frontend frameworks like Angular and ReactJS via APIs.

Acquia Lightning Case Study

Additional Capabilities

Besides the four key features outlined here, Acquia Lightning also comes with the following capabilities out-of-the-box:

  • SEO: A selected set of modules and settings defined for descriptive URLs and metadata make sure your sites are set up with search engine optimization basics in place.
  • Security: Lightning delivers granular access controls so you can define which group of users can edit what. It’s also maintained in coordination with Drupal and religiously updated for every new change in Drupal core and contrib modules.
  • Developer Tools: Delivering on the promise of making life easier for developers, Lightning comes with commonly used developers tools and workflows. This includes Git, Drush, Composer and Drupal configuration management.

Is Acquia Lightning Future Ready?

Given the pace of transformation in enterprises, is it imperative that they do not get stuck with a Drupal distribution that doesn’t scale with their needs. With that in mind, Acquia Lightning is designed to be future-ready.

Besides being maintained in close correlation with Drupal, Acquia Lightning is also a key piece in Drupal’s innovation cycles. Several new features for improving developer experience are first introduced and tested in Acquia Lightning before they become a part of the Drupal core.

Lightning is also ready to work with other solutions in the larger Acquia and Drupal ecosystem:

  • Optimized to work on Acquia Cloud
  • Compatible with Acquia developer tools like Dev Desktop, BLT and Pipelines
  • Can integrate with martech tools like Acquia Lift for content personalization, Acquia Journey for customer journey orchestration and Acquia DAM for digital asset management

For enterprises looking to get the best of Drupal 8, and do it fast, Acquia Lightning is the distribution of choice. And Srijan teams bring together a perfect blend of expertise with Lightning and experience of working with several global enterprises, to help you leverage Lightning for your Drupal projects.

Let’s start the conversation on how we can help power your Drupal projects with Acquia Lightning.

Shared Success

Building a Drupal-based content collaboration tool
How We Helped a Leading Biopharma Company Streamline their Publishing Cycle with a Drupal CMS
How We Helped 8world Deliver New Digital Experiences Through A Hybrid CMS
How We Helped A Telecom Giant Shorten The Time-To-Market For APIs

Let’s start our conversation

  • Business Inquiry
  • Career
  • Others

Business Inquiry