Can Laravel Be Used for Big Enterprise Apps? [Summary of Laravel Podcast]

Yesterday I've listened to a new Laravel Podcast episode with Taylor Otwell, Jeffrey Way and Matt Stauffer - and they (finally) talked about creating big apps with Laravel, lately this question is asked a lot by everyone. So is Laravel "fit" or "mature enough" for big projects? Since the podcast guys don't provide a transcript, and listening to 50 minutes can be an overkill, I decided to write a summary, quoting the conversation and dividing the answers into more readable format like Q&A and bullet points, also relevant links. So, let's dive in!

Topic 1. What is a big app?

Matt: Before we dive in, what is the definition of enterprise app? Is it about lines of code, is it about dependencies, is it about security, is it about traffic? Jeffrey: I have the same question. What specific features/functions some frameworks have that make them suitable for enterprise that Laravel doesn’t? Is it related to the fact that Zend has big company behind it, whereas in Laravel everyone keeps creating threads like “What happens when Taylor dies”? [caption id="attachment_1550" align="alignnone" width="740"]For those who don't know, here's the plan. For those who don't know, here's the plan.[/caption] Taylor: I think most people mean lots of classes, I guess, lots of code.

Topic 2. So can Laravel be used for big apps?

Taylor: Obviously, I’m gonna say yes, it can be used for big apps, because:
  1. It has been used for big apps in the past, so we already know it’s true.
  2. Also I think Laravel is good for any app that PHP is good for. And it’s really up to you - once you’re passed the Controller, you have total freedom to do whatever you want to do.
  3. And also I think Laravel is kind of uniquely qualified and better at making big apps than other PHP offerings right now, for a few reasons. One, because there’s dependency, complexity, and Laravel’s Dependency Injection Container is really good. When you’re talking about complex apps, you’re also talking about background jobs processing, and Laravel has the only baked-in queue system out of any major framework in PHP. And then there’s, of course, Event Broadcasting feature and others that are more on the big app side.
So not only can it be used for big apps, it’s uniquely better for big apps than other alternatives in PHP, for those reasons. And I think it’s a little misleading because Laravel is easy to get started with. But at the same time it also scales up with your needs.

Topic 3. People are irrational

Taylor: And, by the way, people don’t choose frameworks in a rational way. Some of it is personality things. Maybe, they don’t like the way certain framework is marketed, maybe they don’t like Laravel friendly style, so they choose something more “suit & tie” like Zend. Sometimes they don’t like me, personally!

Topic 4. Enterprise world

Matt: Speaking of enterprise, there is a distinction between big and enterprise projects. We have clients all the time say “CEO, or The Board, or CFO, or The Lawyers, or whatever - of our multi-billion dollar company are very worried that we’re gonna invest a whole bunch of money and time into something and X”, so a lot of developers are getting non-developer input, so I do wonder if there are some constraints like this, to not use Laravel.

Topic 5. Any examples of big Laravel apps?

Matt: So let’s step away from enterprise and talk about big projects. I know that we can’t say a lot of the names of big sites running on Laravel. I know several of them, cause I’m under NDAs with several of them, and there are hundreds of millions of pageviews sites, running on Laravel - like Alexa 500, multiple Fortune 500 companies. Can we share more? Taylor: Various video game sites like Fallout 4 had their landing page on Laravel, but there’s underlying question why people need proof it can work. It's never enough.

Topic 6. It's not about the framework

Taylor: People probably want to know that “if I build my big app on Laravel, will it be infinitely maintainable and clean.. and..” No, Laravel won’t automatically make your app amazing to maintain for 10 years. The Framework is gonna be a much smaller concern in your actual code. Framework is gonna be routing, session, some caching, some database calls, but you’re the one that’s gonna have to figure out the domain problem of your app, which is gonna be way more complicated than any framework problem. Matt: Bad developer can write bad app with any framework.

Topic 7. Ok, so how to build big apps?

Matt: Ok, so let's say people agree that Laravel is good. How to build big apps, what are some considerations for apps with millions of views per week? Taylor: Simple things, make sure you’re using a good cache or session driver like Memcached or Redis, on a server like Elasticache if you’re on AWS. You’re probably gonna use a load balancer, PHP is really easy to deploy and scale this way. At Laravel level, make sure you’re using config:cache, route:cache, make sure you’re using composer dump-autoload --optimize. Jeffrey: With Laracasts, which is surprisingly high-traffic, I’m not doing that much! A lot of that stuff are fundamentals, like people completely ignore the size of their images! Taylor: another great thing to do is to separate your database from your web-server. It makes it easier to do the scaling, like if you want to add the second server. And speaking of caching, I’ve been using Cloudflare a lot recently. The whole Laravel website is on heavy Cloudflare caching, very few requests actually hit the real server, because it’s all static like documentation. Matt: But with Cloudflare, the problem is that they need to know the rules when things expire, to clear the cache. So it’s not Cloudflare’s problem, it’s yours - check Expires headers.

Overall conclusions

After having listened to these thoughts (thanks a lot, guys!), I came to the same old conclusion - that "big apps" are not about the framework, there's much more that comes into it: DevOps things, caching mechanism, your unique application logic, database structure etc. So to ask "is Laravel good enough" is a wrong question. You better ask "Is your code good enough", and/or "Are you qualified to use Laravel effectively for big apps". What do you think? Anything to add to this discussion? Link to the original podcast again: Laravel Podcast - Episode 53: Bigger & Better

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