We're counting down the days to the official SooperThemes Drupal 8 Release! Count with us as we will be writing a Drupal 8 related blog post every day for the next 8 days.


Drupal 8 is known for being heavier and slower than Drupal 7. However, Drupal 8 doesn't deserve this image and I think it got this image from lazy benchmarking: Testers just install Drupal's default profile, run some ab tests and call it a day. This is not a realistic test! Real Drupal websites will have hundreds of pages, menu items, configuration objects, more complex theming, more modules etc. 

I did some more extensive testing to compare our Drupal 7 products with the Drupal 8 versions that are to be released next week. The beautiful thing (for this test) about our products is that we maintain them with feature parity across Drupal 8 and 7. We provide installation profiles that combined have thousands of content items, menu items, and configuration settings that make them very close to real-world Drupal 8 & 7 websites. Perfect material for benchmarking!

Test 1: Drupal 8 vs Drupal 7 Cached Page Delivery

Drupal 8 Contact Module

Drupal 8 default profile cached page benchmark. Drupal 7 255% faster than Drupal 8.

Ok let's get this over with first. Drupal 8 is built on a PHP core that is slower to parse than Drupal 7 and uses more memory. On an empty Drupal installation you will really notice this difference because the empty shell will act like a magnifying glass on the underlying architecture. In the chart above you can see that Drupal 7 is more than twice as fast at delivering cached pages to anonymous users. 

This test is what most people will refer to when saying Drupal 8 is slower than Drupal 7 but this is in fact the least interesting test for 2 reasons:

  1. Nowadays it is very easy to put a cache in front of Drupal. You can use Nginx, Varnish, or Cloudflare with the free plan to serve thousands of cached pages per second, regardless of whether Drupal 8 or 7 or anything else is behind the cache. 
  2. Any empty installation with Drupal's default profile is a bad model for a real website.

Test 2: Drupal 8 vs Drupal 7 Autenticated Views Portfolio Display 

Drupal 8 Contact Module

Drupal 8 Glazed Main Demo views display benchmark. Drupal 8  is 228% faster than Drupal 7.

For this second test we use the Main Demo installation profile with our Glazed Theme and Glazed Builder products. This means we have a dropdown menu with 100+ items, a database with around 100 nodes, lots of views displays and contrib modules, and our Glazed theme is enabled which subthemes the bootstrap basetheme. This is a much closer simulation of a real-life Drupal website than the default profile is!

We're benchmarking a views display that draws fields from nodes and taxonomy terms, does some interesting templating and is then pulled into a page using Glazed theme to display the view along with peripheral content.

As you can see in the chart Drupal 8 is now twice as fast as Drupal 7. Despite the heavier core, Drupal 8 is faster when handling large amount of configuration, views, and heavier themes like Glazed and the Bootstrap basetheme. I suspect this is due to the more elaborate caching architecture in Drupal 8. Especially template files are now heavily cached and so are other important Drupal components.

Tested page: https://demo.sooperthemes.com/glazed-main/portfolio/premium1

Test 3: Drupal 8 vs Drupal 7 Autenticated Drag and Drop Page 

Drupal 8 Contact Module

Drupal 8 Glazed Main Demo views display benchmark. Drupal 8 12,5% than Drupal 7.

Our previous test showed an extreme example of Drupal 8 being faster due to its better handling of views. This 3rd test shows what we typically see when benchmarking Drupal 8: Drupal 8 is slightly faster in loading pages in our Glazed Theme demos. We see similar results when testing drag and drop pages, or other content types that don't use the drag and drop builder. In fact our Page Builder module does not significantly impact performance even when loading multiple Glazed Builder editors within the same page. 

The Drupal 8 and 7 installation profiles have near feature-parity but in fact the Drupal 8 version includes the Admin Toolbar module and the Drupal 7 profiles do not include an admin menu module. This means that each page comes with an additional 200 menu items in the Drupal 8 tests. In Drupal 7 I usually install the admin_menu module for faster administration, and this module is known to be significant burden on the server. The fact that Drupal 8 is faster in our tests despite loading the additional 200 menu items is impressive! 

Tested page: https://demo.sooperthemes.com/glazed-main/elements/layout-elements/columns

Conclusion: Drupal 8 Is A Heavier System With More Extensive Caching That Can Make It Faster Than Drupal 7 In Real-Life Situations

At the start of its life Drupal 8.0 got a lot of criticism for being slow. Now in 2018, Drupal 8.5 has seen a significant number of performance improvements and while it's still slower than Drupal 7 at the core, it's faster in complex situations that are more relevant to real-life Drupal websites.

Drupal 8 is faster where it matters, and more scalable! It's also important to add that both test installations did not have any special settings enabling caching of content, views, blocks, etc. Drupal 8 has a much more advanced and more granular caching system that lets you finetune and optimize your experience for logged in users on a grander scale than was every possible with Drupal 7. Notably there is the BigPipe module that gives you lightning fast loadtimes for your primary content and it can then separately lazy-load less important content, like the footer, menus, and sidebar blocks.

For sure this test brings good news to SooperThemes customers, who will enjoy a faster experience our of the box with our Glazed demo installation profiles. As a side note: importing demo content is also twice as fast in our Drupal 8 installation profiles versus Drupal 7.

What is your experience?

Drupal's performance is a complex thing to test and I'm sure you can get different results in varying situations, if you have any questions about the test or if you want to share your own experience with Drupal 8's performance let me know in the comments!

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Apr 22, 2018 By Jurriaan