Case Study: Airfield Management at SFO

"Drupal isn't a CMS, it's a web app platform."  It's a popular refrain in 2013, and it's true: here's the proof.

San Francisco International Airport is in the process of replacing its airfield management software with Drupal.  The culmination of several years of work by an in-house team, it's an excellent example of Drupal being used as a web app.  On the SFO airfield, there is no "content" in the traditional sense.  There are bird strikes, VIP's, inspections, closures, construction, and repairs.  A team of Airfield Safety Officers is responsible for knowing everything that goes on once the planes touch down.

As a Drupal app, this project presented unique challenges:

  • Sophisticated logic for tracking events and tasks with related planes, people, animals, and locations
  • A fluid system that allows the ASO's to change the system itself, without letting them touch the inner workings of Drupal
  • Responsive web design that allows full functionality from a desktop or from mobile devices in the field
  • Development had high manpower requirements, including teams from the client, in-house development, quality assurance, project management, server management, and hardware support
  • A "best practices" workflow involving three servers, local development environments, tracking of hundreds of issues across all teams, and git flow (of course)
  • Unique performance issues: Because the system is real-time, no caching allowed

I'll go through all these challenges, and our solutions, in a single session.  This is mostly an architecture presentation, but there will be a few minor technical details regarding responsive design and performance.

Best of all: the project will be open source and released as an official distro on!  Not in time for badcamp, sadly.  But here's a list of the modules and custom code I go over in my talk, along with my powerpoint:

This session will be presented by Jordan Koplowicz, a local Bay Area developer with 9 years of experience working with Drupal.  Jordan has worked for SFO as an in-house developer since June 2013.  He also co-runs the San Francisco Users Helping Users meetup.

Saturday, Oct 26th
3:00pm - 3:45pm


Skill Level