Interior gets green light for Drupal consolidation initiative

The Interior Department is consolidating nine content management platforms into one, built with open source software.

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The Interior Department is consolidating nine content management platforms into one, built on a Drupal-based platform in the cloud.

The Interior Department is paving the way for agencies to consolidate their content management systems onto a platform that is both open source and in the cloud.

Interior is consolidating its nine content management platforms into single one, based on the open source Drupal CMS and hosted in the cloud. Bureaus within the agency will be able to maintain the same look and feel of their websites, while running them from the common platform.

The contract for the initiative was awarded at the end of June, and the department just went public with the news, following the conclusion of the bid protest period. Alexandria, Va.-based Phase2 will be building the Drupal platform for Interior, and IBM will host it in its cloud.

"What we realized four or five years ago is that each of the bureaus had their own content management system, with different contracts and different platforms," Tim Fullerton, director of digital strategy at Interior, told FCW. "It's really expensive to do it that way."

With this new open source platform, the department will save on software licensing fees – paying for none instead of nine.

In addition, because the management systems are hosted on IBM's cloud, there is a 99.9 percent guaranteed uptime for all Interior websites.

The most challenging part, Fullerton said, was that this approach -- a consolidated, department-wide CMS platform, open source and in the cloud -- had not been done before in government.

"We're hoping to lead by example and show agencies it's a great model for improving efficiencies," Fullerton said. "Since we've gone through the contracting process, agencies can go to DOI if they need help and adjust the documentation to meet their needs."

DOI will be building out the platform over the next three months, holding workshops to identify bureau needs and training employees in Drupal.

This change should make life easier for agency staff working with the website, by improving the authoring experience for bureaus and creating a better user experience for the public, Fullerton said.

Drupal has been an active open-source project since 2001. Many agencies are already using it, and recognize it as the standard for open source development, according to GovFresh founder Luke Fretwell, who works with Drupal-focused development firms for government. (Fretwell has also written for FCW on open source and open data.)

The Federal Communications Commission, the White House and the Commerce and Energy departments are using Drupal for their websites, for example.

"If you're outsourcing the IT functions around maintaining the website, agencies can focus strictly on producing content," Fretwell said. "Agencies are starting to realize there are better options out there."

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