Drupal for large (distributed) development teams and staged deployments.

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One of Drupal’s core values is “easy to use”. Yet what that means to end-users (who uses FTP to upload Drupal to a web host, and customizes it though the admin interface), is different from what that means to developers (who customize Drupal extensively, need staged deployments and use version control systems to collaborate).

Kraftwagen makes Drupal “easy to use” for developers.

Kraftwagen consists of a Drush extension and set of Drupal modules, all open source and hosted on github. It reuses existing work where possible, for example: install profiles, Drush Make, Features, version control systems (git, subversion, mercurial, etc.) and soon Capistrano.

Because Drupal stores a lot a configuration details in the database, version control systems cannot be used to track changes. This makes it hard for a team of developers to collaborate or to stage changes to a separate deployment target before rolling them out in production. Kraftwagen primarily solves this issue by using manifests to sync aspects of Drupal project’s different installations to the same state. These aspects can be: configuration details in the database, creation of base-line content, setting up static files or any other aspect of a Drupal project that can be controlled from PHP.

Kraftwagen extends Drupal with:

The following goals were set when developing Krafwagen:

Everything in code
We wanted to make sure all the required information to run an application or website is in source code. If some developer checks out the project from a repository, he should be able the get it running, without manual steps in Drupal’s admin interface or copying database dumps.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
A lot of effort has already been done in this area and we wanted to build on top of that. That’s why Kraftwagen uses the Features module and is built completely on top of Drush. Some of the most used Kraftwagen commands are only thin convience wrappers around existings commands or sequences of commands. This also means that most concepts in Kraftwagen should sound familiar to any seasoned Drupal developer.
Version control independence
We didn’t want a tool that completely locks us into Subversion, Git or any other version control mechanism. Of course with serious projects you’ll really want some sort of version control, but your toolchain should not depend on it. Currently, there is one Git dependent command. The command to start a new project uses Git to download the skeleton. We are looking at a way to elegantly solve this, while keeping the convenience of the current command.
Environment awareness
Drupal itself doesn’t make any difference between staging, production and development environments. In production you’ll want the Devel module disabled, while in development environments it should be enabled. When copying around database dumps this is almost impossible to do automatically.
Transparent in use
Developers should naturally understand the workflows that Kraftwagen facilitates. Therefore Kraftwagen’s command line commands report what they are doing and error messages are constructive. Getting started with Kraftwagen should be a breeze for any seasoned Drupal developer.

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