26 September 2018
Salsa Digital

The GovCMS Drupal Services Panel Briefing and workshop

The briefing and workshop took place at the Department of Finance in Canberra on 31 August 2018. The day was broken into two sessions — the Drupal Services Panel Briefing in the morning and a developer workshop in the afternoon.

The morning

The main purpose of the briefing was to bring Drupal panel service suppliers and government agencies up to speed with GovCMS 2.0 — the new version that Salsa and are creating.

Assistant Secretary of the Online Services Branch Sharyn Clarkson kicked the morning off with a welcome and update, before a quick ‘burning questions’ overview. From there, Nathan Wall (Head of GovCMS) and Toby Bellwood (GovCMS Technical Lead) provided an introduction on the changes coming to GovCMS, what it means for government agencies and how panel members can get started on the new platform. The panel plays a key role in building, enhancing and maintaining the Drupal websites hosted on the GovCMS platform.

Next came the first of the Salsa/ presentations. Alfred Deeb (Salsa founder) presented the vision and the greater ‘why’, followed by Thom Toogood ( and Alex Skrypnyk (Salsa) who discussed features, differences, and tips for getting ready to adopt the new platform.

Finance selected Salsa Digital and based on our vision for GovCMS, including the move to a fully open source stack for the first time (open source platform Lagoon). The next generation GovCMS will also use containerisation, continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD), elasticity, and autoscaling (to automatically increase or decrease the resources needed to power the platform). GovCMS 2.0 also brings the Software as a Service (SaaS) sites and Platform as a Service (Paas) sites onto the same platform, enabling standardised processes and tools.

The GovCMS platform will leverage a range of open source tools including Drupal, Docker, Lagoon, OpenShift (Kubernetes) and GitLab.

Below is a comparison of GovCMS 1.0 versus GovCMS 2.0.

Getting developers ready for the next iteration of GovCMS

Afternoon session

The afternoon workshop was a hands-on, three-hour session for developers. During this session, developers:

  • Dived deep into the fully open source stack, including Kubernetes, OpenShift and Lagoon.

  • Learnt how to set up their local development environments for the new platform — in the new GovCMS, their local development runs as an exact clone of production, allowing for continuous integration and updates between local development and production.  

  • Watched an overview of the new, more streamlined onboarding and development processes

  • Learnt how deployments and patching will work — Salsa will work closely with Finance to maintain and patch the Drupal distributions and in the new system PaaS customers will be able to inherit upstream updates. This will make patching and updating easier and faster, which will reduce costs for government agencies

  • Learnt how the Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings will be on the same platform and more closely aligned in the new world of GovCMS 2.0.

  • Were given an update on the addition of Drupal 8 to the SaaS platform — GovCMS will support Drupal 8 on SaaS from late November this year. GovCMS will include a new out-of-the-box theme with its Drupal 8 distribution that will enable agencies to build their sites using the Government Design System developed by the DTA.

Getting developers ready for the next iteration of GovCMS

Thom Toogood from presenting on OpenShift vs Kubernetes

Below are links to our presentations from the day:

Who was there?

In the morning it was great to see representatives of the Drupal Services Panel, representing most of the 22 suppliers on the panel, spread between onsite and remote participation by video conference.

The afternoon was a 'sell out' or shall we say 'geek out' :) with Toby Belwood (Finance), Thom Toogood ( and Alex Skrypnyk (Salsa) presenting a deep dive on the tech stack. We had the chance to speak with more than 40 developers from a range of government departments and digital agencies.

The GovCMS roadmap

We’ll be collaborating with the Department of Finance to provide a detailed look at the new GovCMS roadmap down the track (including consolidation and alignment of Lagoon’s roadmap), but in the meantime here’s a high level overview:

  • Ongoing work (now): Implement the fully open source stack, unified and consolidated platform (Saas and Paas), Drupal 7.

  • December 2018: More automated testing, Drupal 8 support on SaaS.

  • Early 2019: Decoupled Drupal/user interface, autoscaling, enhanced metrics and logging.

  • Later: Explore multi-region cloud redundancy, alternative Kubernetes flavours, prep for Drupal 9 migrations and support.

  • And beyond: None of these are a sure thing, but we’re talking to Finance about their longer term plans. Some of our ideas include an enhanced platform dashboard for agency customers, an improved content staging workflow, cloud development environments, new Drupal-based features such as an LMS, customised distributions (e.g. councils, schools, etc.) and improved content authoring systems.

Salsa’s take

It was very exciting to share our vision with the broader Drupal community and to start on the tech side, leading a bunch of training activities to give the GovCMS developer community a hands-on head start to setting up new tools, environments, dev workflows, etc. It was a blast... at least we thought so. And we’re looking forward to many more upcoming events!

Getting developers ready for the next iteration of GovCMS

Alfred, Thom and Alex

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