Meet Mark Sonnabaum: Performance fanatic
by Jeffrey A. McGuire
Mark Sonnabaum, performance engineer at Acquia, comes to open source on a straighter path than some ... despite his university degree being in music composition! He was a systems administrator at the University of North Texas and chose Drupal – in the Drupal 4 era – as the replacement for a mish-mash of legacy, static systems at the university. Today, he is a contributor who has made significant improvements to how Drupal performs for all of us.
This interview was recorded in 2012. The recording was not made under ideal conditions. Apologies for the audio quality.
The road to contribution
If his job got him involved in building an early Drupal distribution – a rarity at the time, unlike today – multisite infrastructure and more, it was the community who then pulled him to becoming a (significant) contributor to Drupal. DrupalCon D.C. in 2009 opened his eyes to "how much there was to learn" and there's been no stopping him since then. Mark was a co-maintainer of the command-line Drupal toolkit, Drush, with Moshe Weizman. For those of you unfamiliar with the powers of Drush, go have a look: it saves you a lot of clicking around the Drupal UI to make configuration changes and more, putting real control of Drupal at your fingers on the command line, right where developers prefer to have it.
Performance, performance, performance
Mark's real passion as a developer is performance. As the maintainer of the Drupal XHProf Module, he is on a crusade for developers to include performance in their fundamental mindset and approach ... and have XHProf on at all times! XHProf is a PHP performance monitoring library developed by Facebook, which, according to Mark, should be a part of every developer's toolkit, just like a good debugger.
As a performance engineer, Mark works with other engineering teams at Acquia. His work on Enterprise Drupal Gardens led to performance improvements of 50% across the Drupal Gardens platform and him becoming a Drupal core contributor. Many of the performance problems he discovered, turned out to be core issues in Drupal. The fixes for those have turned into Drupal 7 and 8 core patches and improvements.
Working at Acquia
Mark says about working at Acquia, "I never lack interesting problems that need solving."
Credits, thank you's
Additional voiceovers provided by Francesca Ballarin, Victoria McGuire, and Oliver McGuire. Thank you!