Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, David Paquette, Elizabeth White, Craig Lowell, Sematext Blog

Related Topics: Linux Containers, Open Source Cloud, Apache, CMS

Linux Containers: Article

Plone and Drupal: Different Approaches, Different Results

Two Leading Content Management Systems

Drupal Developer's Journal on Ulitzer

Plone and Drupal are two leading open source Content Management Systems (CMS). Both were recognized in the 2009 Open Source CMS awards, run by Packt Publishing.  Both also have large installed bases and large developer communities.  This is made evident by some quick searching on Google:

A search for LinkedIn profiles that mention Plone (search for 'plone site:linkedin.com/pub/') turns up 1350 pages-a large increase from 500 results in 2006.

The same kind of search for Drupal developers turns up 9700 pages (search for 'drupal site:linkedin.com/pub/').  This tells me that, in LinkedIn anyway, there might be approximately seven to eight times as many Drupal developers as there are Plone developers.

Below I will outline the strength and weaknesses of both systems. As a site administrator who has worked with Plone since September 2005, I'll give you an idea of what you'll find under the hood of Plone that you might not read about elsewhere.

Plone and Drupal Strengths
Where Plone really shines is usability. Navigation and search work nicely "out-of-the-box."  Plone features a nice little AJAX drop-down that autocompletes  as you type in a search term. The system also instantly updates the search index every time new content is saved.  The overall ease of management of everything from pages and folders to navigation and search provides a generally good experience for both end-users and content administrators.

Drupal, on the other hand, is turning out to be a juggernaut in the open source CMS space.  It's rapidly growing in popularity, finding its way into many segments fueled by LAMP (Linux, Apache, Mysql, PHP/PERL/Python) architecture. Drupal's clean code base and flexible design make it easy to work with and extend.  Drupal scored the CMS coup of the year by being chosen as the development platform for the new whitehouse.gov site in October 2009. Besides providing easy-to-use menu management and content editing, Drupal's standout strengths include its large base of available modules and the low cost of module development.

Digging into the Oddities of Plone
One of the biggest differences between Plone and other open source CMSs is that Plone is not based on LAMP architecture.  Plone is designed to run on the Zope application server, which is written in Python.

When you start Plone, you spool up the Zope application server and then Plone on top of it.  Zope tends to use quite a bit of RAM so expect very large memory footprints for Plone compared to a system run on LAMP architecture.  Plone also spools a large number of content items into RAM as well. This feature is configurable and results in somewhat better performance if you have the RAM to handle it.  My own view is that Zope and Plone are built with this large content cache to improve upon marginal performance, perhaps due to the custom object database that comes native to Plone.

As an anecdote, our Plone data file (Data.fs) grew to about 2.7GB after 3 years of use with regular packing of the file.  The Plone process that was tied to this data was showing about 300MB of memory use (274MB resident, 283MB virtual in htop).  The above comments are based on 2.5x Plone installs.  The more current 3.x version of Plone reportedly uses more memory than the 2.x tree.

The approach Plone has taken leads to some problems that you might expect based on the description outlined above, but also some problems you might not expect.  For example, the memory requirements mean you need more robust server hardware: more memory, more CPU-much more when compared to LAMP.  Many hosting companies are not ready for the Plone experience so you need to take extra precaution when selecting  a hosting solution, especially related to memory.

The bigger problem we found with Plone, however, is that it's difficult to manage as a server process.  We found that Plone/Zope will often hang.  Why?  That's the problem.  We don't know why.  We think it's related to content administrators being logged in, but that's all we've been able to determine.

This is where the problems with Plone thicken.  In our experience, when Plone/Zope hangs, the process does not exit but it stops responding to requests and it does consume more CPU resources.  We don't get the usual error reports or logs that you would expect with a LAMP stack.  Not only is it hard to tell when Plone/Zope hangs, but we also don't have a way to find out why.

Worse yet, when Plone hangs, all the sites on the instance become unresponsive.   No crash signal, no error report-other sites crash along with the site that caused the problem.

This is from Plone/Zope that's been installed from source on Debian.  We managed this situation with custom scripts that verify that specific static Plone content is downloading within certain time limits.  When problems occur, the drill is to kill the Python system processes tied to that Plone/Zope instance and then use the Zope control file (zopectl) to start Zope again.  Because of the large memory requirements, starting Plone can easily take more than 10 minutes on a server with 2GB of memory and a large Data.fs file like mentioned above.

In addition, we learned that Plone development typically costs more than development for popular LAMP CMS products like Drupal.  Plone is expensive to get data in and out of, and it lacks many common features, like e-commerce modules. Plone gives developers a lower starting point from which to begin work.  Plone also has a very steep learning curve and a lack of good documentation. Overall, it's a little complex structurally and a tough environment to learn.  This is the case even with the advantages of Python, which is a mature language known for programmer productivity.

I rolled out our first Plone site in September of 2005.  That later grew to a total of 9 Plone sites running on two instances of Plone/Zope on the same server.  Because of our inability to debug problems with Plone hanging, our only resolution has been to migrate to newer major versions of Plone.  This forced migration basically resulted in a poor experience for our organization and consultant fees that would have otherwise been avoided.

Praise for Drupal
While rolling out Plone sites, we also built a few newer sites for ourselves and our partners in Drupal.  Our experience with Drupal has been fantastic.  The sites themselves perform well, are easy to add features to. Additionally we had better training experiences than with Plone.  Drupal's developer community is much larger, as is the breadth and depth of software, so it's easier to "get things done" and, in our experience, quicker and less expensive as well.

If you have experience with the LAMP stack, Drupal will be very comfortable to you.  Unlike Plone with it's reliance on Zope, the major aspects of the Drupal technology architecture drive right down the middle of the Linux and open source server road map with Apache, MySQL and PHP at the core.

Digging into the details of Drupal's features, we like how little things work, such as menus, search and content editing.  We also like how big things work, such as how efficient it is to write new modules and how it's easy to build on the many many modules currently available for Drupal.

Looking Forward
Many sites will continue to run Plone but I expect there will be an additional inflection in the adoption curve in favor of Drupal.  I wrote this article only as a point of caution for potential adopters and to help arm people considering Plone with the perspective of someone who has been an administrator and user of both Plone and Drupal over the past four years.

For most needs I am encountering these days, Drupal is a much better fit than Plone.  Both a better fit in terms of features but also a better fit in terms of value and long-term costs of ownership.

More Stories By Paul Nowak

Paul Nowak first used Linux in 1995 while migrating from Sun to Linux at the University of Michigan. He used Linux in subsequent IT projects including web, telecom, telemetry and embedded projects and is currently CIO of a small professional association based in Washington D.C.

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
paul.nowak 11/04/09 04:19:00 PM EST

Matt, thanks for the comments. I made an error on the version of Plone. It's 2.5 Plone running on Zope 2.9x.

In regards to the additional products, we have a skin installed and we have a product that we had custom developed for us that connects to a PostgreSQL database. We've looked at slow PostgreSQL queries causing problems and have not been able to find an issue. We've also tested for the case where the PostgreSQL server is down and have not been able to create an issue. We therefore think that it's not the product that makes the PostgreSQL connection that's causing the problem with our instances and that's why my comments focus on core Plone.

Paul

matthamilton2 11/03/09 05:33:00 PM EST

An interesting article, and great to see a side by side comparison of both Plone and Drupal.

There are a few points I think that need to be made regarding your assessment of Plone.

1) There is no Plone 2.6, I'm not sure what version you were using, but if you meant 2.5 then that was released approx 3 years ago, so it would be unfair to base your experiences of 3 years ago for someone looking to evaluate Plone today.

2) Related to above, I'm pretty sure if you tried to upgrade a Drupal version from 3 years ago to today's version you would also have quite significant issues as well.

3) "lacks many common features, like e-commerce modules" if you look on plone.org/products you will see dozens of e-commerce modules. GetPaid being probably the most powerful.

4) As for 10 minute startup times, I'm not quite sure what you've managed to do to that site, but I've never seen a Plone site take that long to start up.

5) Plone hanging, I'm not sure either what you've done here, but the only time I've seen Plone hang like that is when a custom written code includes an infinite loop... something an inexperienced programmer can do with any language.

I hope this sets things a bit more balanced, and allows users to make a more informed decision when evaluating Plone.

Plone has the best security track record of any Open Source CMS (source: CVE) and is used in a number of prominent large US government sites, such as cia.gov, fbi.gov and NASA.

If you are interested in the roadmap of Plone, version 4 should be released by the end of this year and Plone 5 scheduled for mid 2010. Full details can be found in a presentation I did recently: http://tinyurl.com/l2s7ab

-Matt

@ThingsExpo Stories
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Adobe has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Adobe is changing the world though digital experiences. Adobe helps customers develop and deliver high-impact experiences that differentiate brands, build loyalty, and drive revenue across every screen, including smartphones, computers, tablets and TVs. Adobe content solutions are used daily by millions of co...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at EMC, will introduce a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organizati...
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, will deep dive into best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
Identity is in everything and customers are looking to their providers to ensure the security of their identities, transactions and data. With the increased reliance on cloud-based services, service providers must build security and trust into their offerings, adding value to customers and improving the user experience. Making identity, security and privacy easy for customers provides a unique advantage over the competition.
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
SYS-CON Events announced today Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
Pulzze Systems was happy to participate in such a premier event and thankful to be receiving the winning investment and global network support from G-Startup Worldwide. It is an exciting time for Pulzze to showcase the effectiveness of innovative technologies and enable them to make the world smarter and better. The reputable contest is held to identify promising startups around the globe that are assured to change the world through their innovative products and disruptive technologies. There w...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…