NRC site migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9

Migrating and improving



The National Research Council of Canada wanted to modernize their Drupal site by designing and implementing a new site using Drupal 8. Not a mere upgrade, the new NRC site would integrate with existing data structures and systems, but present an entirely new site for consumers and content creators. Coldfront Labs was selected to lead the development effort for this endeavour due to our expertise in developing complex sites, as well as our unique and robust approach to continuous integration, with supporting tools and infrastructure.


There were multiple pieces to the solution Coldfront Labs provided to the NRC for this project. First and foremost, the secure nature of the network and environment used by the NRC meant that any continuous integration/continuous deployment infrastructure would have to be run in-house by the client. Second, existing data structures and systems needed to be identified and architected into the new site. Third, the new site itself would be developed in an iterative way, working alongside content creators and authors to allow for parallel implementation of features and content to support a fast development cycle and rollout.

Setting up the continuous integration and deployment infrastructure meant that we could easily begin tracking builds (and build status), managing tiered environments (dev/test/prod), and giving developers and content creators access to the resources required for the project at an early stage. Many organizational challenges were encountered during these efforts, requiring us to involve supporting IT teams where possible and adapt our solution as needed.

The new site leverages data structures from the existing intranet site (various taxonomies representing internal organization structures, resource categorizations, etc.). It also employs a corporate LDAP system for user authentication. Some of this integration was completed by implementing those linkages directly on the new Drupal 8 site and some migrations were required to bring data from the intranet site (which is built using Drupal 7) into the new site.

The final phase, which was to develop the core functionality of the Drupal 8 site, was the most fast-paced and collaborative part of the project. Working quickly to implement the client’s vision, features were developed and deployed swiftly, allowing content creators to immediately begin populating the site while other features were being developed. The work completed in previous phases, especially the first phase, allowed these fast feature rollouts to happen smoothly, thus reducing friction for developers and content creators alike.


There were many hurdles to overcome when working on this project, ranging from the technical to the organizational. In the end, we provided the client with a flexible and robust continuous integration infrastructure, allowing them to continue development of their site using modern tools and allowing for quick turnaround of new features. We were able to develop the site in a mere 6 months, providing the client with a solution that satisfies their needs and timelines.

In mid-2021, we helped the NRC move to Drupal 9. This was a trivial migration, given we'd accounted for this in the initial Drupal 8 build. 

We continue to work with the NRC to offer guidance and assistance when and where needed.