How DDEV-Live users contribute to our cloud hosting platform

Randy Fay working with a DDEV user at the DDEV booth DrupalCon Amsterdam

Last autumn we began early access trials of our DDEV-Live cloud hosting platform for a small group of users in order to collect feedback and build out features together. DDEV-Live is the culmination of years of experience and experimentation amidst maturing technologies and changing landscapes in open source. Our mission is to deliver tools that give you access to powerful new technology like Kubernetes with full control over the level of complexity that is right for you to help you advance as a modern developer. 

The first users of DDEV-Live generously spent time with us via calls and written feedback to share their thoughts and reactions to the experience. The unique perspectives of each of our early access users have provided material for systematic improvements to the platform as well as making the user experience the best it can be. Following every early access trial the DDEV engineering team has examined the input, plotted out where it fits in the roadmap, and tackled components that are critical to the widest audience to start. 

If you are interested in joining the early access trials, please sign up on this form. Once we’ve connected, we’ll also make a donation to an open source project of your choice to pass on the good will!

One comment we heard a lot is quite a compliment: “you’re doing for Kubernetes what you did for Docker with DDEV-Local.” A special thank you to all you DDEV-Local users who have given so much feedback, contributions, and support to our open source local development tool. We are strong believers in continuing the culture of collaboration and mentorship in everything we do to support you in your own work. DDEV-Live is a growing platform, and it needs your input to help us deliver what you need. Here’s some of what we’ve done so far thanks to feedback from the Drupal community:

Documentation: helping you help yourself

For a completely new platform like DDEV-Live, it’s necessary that we do some extra explaining around new processes, terms, and commands. Our early access users are a particularly curious and ambitious bunch who voraciously consumed both the getting started guides and command line help, really exploring the extent of the platform’s capabilities. Everyone helped to identify documentation gaps, steps to clarify, and some areas where we determined that changing the overall command structure would be the most effective solution.

The system aims to be as friendly, logical, and straightforward as possible so that when you log in you can use commands in a way that feels familiar. There’s a lot of functionality available in the back-end of the platform that we are exposing via the Command Line Interface (CLI), so you’ll see more updates as those features are released to users. For example, additional commands or scripts in the remote environment, such as Drush for Drupal, are available via `ddev-live exec`, much like in DDEV-Local. While we’re building out user-facing documentation, many of these answers and pointers can be found in the FAQ section of the dashboard once you sign up. 

Getting started

The process for getting started is a bit different from what you may be used to, and includes installing a GitHub App as well as the DDEV-Live CLI. We designed DDEV-Live to be accessed via our CLI tool in order to bring platform functionality directly to developers before fully developing a graphical user interface. One early access user mentioned that CLI-first design is a big plus for developers who want a direct connection to the platform without hunting for the newest button. 

For macOS users, we’re very pleased to have added the DDEV-Live CLI to Homebrew, so setup is much easier and requires fewer steps (one step!). Package manager support will come soon for Linux and Windows users, as well. This eliminates the need to adjust your $PATH variable and other terminal settings, making the process more universal and simple. 

Additionally, we first gave options for setting some defaults when you got started, but this turned out to be confusing for users who weren’t familiar with some of the terminology. In order to reduce the amount of repetitive typing required to get your work done on the platform, we introduced setting your “default org” as a first step. That makes it easy for you to reference when running commands, and for all of us in subsequent documentation steps.

Pushing your project to DDEV-Live

We changed how the platform handles assets – both database and files –  when uploading a new project as well as when executing backups and regular syncing to work locally. To make this easier on you, we restructured the logic of asset push and pull to mimic the `mv` command you are likely familiar with. As a result, you can move your assets precisely where you want them according to your usual workflows, rather than working with the platform’s assumptions based on your project type (so far we’ve primarily been testing with Drupal users). 

Currently, DDEV-Live offers manual backups of your data. Users were quick to request automated backups in the trial as well, so the ability to set or unset automation is coming in the next CLI release. Your data is critically important, and with this additional functionality you can control your data backups to meet your needs or your client’s needs.

Flexibility is another key feature of DDEV-Live, and it will manifest in a wide variety of ways. Integration with other version control systems like GitLab and Bitbucket was frequently mentioned in user feedback and is in our roadmap. GitHub is the first option because it is the most commonly used and offered a quick way to get started. We designed DDEV to work well with CI/CD integration, which has struck the interest of several larger agencies who could especially benefit from this level of flexibility.

Early access users have also been interested in the installability of the platform. Giving you the ability to control the exact location (i.e., cloud, in-house hardware, etc.) of your data is a central part of our mission. Please get in touch with us if this is something you or your organization are interested in so we can work together to set our roadmap priorities.

Coming soon

We’ve been adding in additional support for TYPO3 CMS projects and have successfully launched several internally, as well as working with a TYPO3 expert to define additional needs before sending a release to the very enthusiastic TYPO3 community. Thank you all especially for your eagerness to start using DDEV-Live; we’re committed to bringing you the reliable and robust experience you’ve come to expect from DDEV. 

Several early access users mentioned functionality they’re familiar with in DDEV-Local, namely being able to set configuration and then take that configuration to another instance, or in this case, to DDEV-Live. For example, more fine-grained control over PHP versions is in the roadmap for the next round of feature updates. 

Another wishlist item was for an interactive command line similar to `ddev config` for DDEV-Local, which walks a user through several set-up steps to set or confirm basic configuration. This early access user said, “[an interactive command line] is less scary for my junior devs,” which is exactly what we’re aiming for – simplicity and approachability so that everyone can get the benefits of modern infrastructure without being cloud architects. 

Real, live, cloud-hosting with DDEV

For these early access customers DDEV-Live is not hosting production sites. However, we did launch our first employee site into production and I’m pleased to announce that is the first live website on DDEV-Live! Thank you to Randy (maintainer of DDEV-Local) for all of your feedback and support for users throughout the DDEV platform. 

Thank you to all who took the time to try out DDEV-Live so far! We’re eager to release access to a wider audience this year, but if you would like to try it out in the meantime, please sign up, log in, and sit down to chat with us.

By trying out the platform as an early access user you are helping to identify and fine-tune the most important features and functions for everyone. Your comments will be integrated as we receive them to continuously improve the platform. In exchange for your time, we are also offering to make a donation to an open source project of your choice when you share your feedback! 

Your expertise will be critical to building an effective and essential tool so all DDEV users can harness the capabilities of the modern web. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you!

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