Acquia Automation: Composer builds

Because Composer is the widely accepted standard for building Drupal 8 websites, Remote Administration (RA) will be using only Composer builds and updates to ensure that dependencies are included in any Drupal 8 core or contributed module update.

Note, however, that RA will continue to use Drush to detect insecure modules.


Installations of Drupal 8 or greater should be built with a fully functional composer.json file that includes all code necessary to run your codebase, and that contains no package conflicts.


Websites running Drupal 8 and greater may still be updated using Drush, depending on certain version requirements. Updating Drupal core using Drush does not guarantee that dependency updates are included, which may cause errors on your website. Acquia strongly recommends that websites running Drupal 8 be built and updated using Composer. Acquia can provide only limited troubleshooting support for websites that are updated on production environments using Drush.

Minimum requirements for an RA composer.json file

The following outlines the minimum requirements for a composer.json file to be compatible with Remote Administration:


The composer.json file for your website must be located above the docroot directory in your repository. Do not move the composer.json or vendor/ directory that comes with Drupal core, located inside of the docroot directory. The following example shows a repository with the composer.json file and vendor/ directory in the correct locations relative to your repository’s root:

example directory structure

  • The vendor/ directory should be located in the repository’s root above the docroot directory. This directory must be managed through version control, and the proper autoloading must be set up to redirect Drupal to the new vendor location. For more information, see Drupal scaffold.

  • A Drupal composer.json file must specify at least the following basic information:
"repositories": {
"require": {
"require-dev": {
"conflict": {
"extra": {
"installer-paths": {
  • The require section of the composer.json file needs to list Drupal core as well as all contributed modules and packages required to run your Drupal website.
  • All Drupal code must be located within the docroot folder.
  • All non-Drupal files added to any directory must either be added as a public repository, added as a private repository, excluded using drupal-scaffold, or able to be recreated through patches that have been declared in your composer.json.


The RA composer.json template includes everything required to make your composer.json file compatible with RA. If you are building a new website or converting an existing website to a Composer build, we recommend that you use this template as a starting point.

How RA Automation works with Composer

The Remote Administration update process performs a series of update commands against your website on the RA environment, determines any needed updates, applies the changes, and notifies you, as described in these steps:

  1. The latest production code and a copy of your production database are copied to the RA environment.
  2. Your codebase is examined for a valid composer.json file above the docroot directory.
  3. The code is scanned for the following types of updates with the drush pm-updatestatus command:
    • Security updates for contributed modules
    • Bugfix updates for specified contributed modules
    • Bugfix and security updates for Acquia-managed modules
  4. The most recent version of Composer is temporarily installed on the RA environment.
  5. Composer updates are determined and applied with the composer update --dry-run command in your RA environment to ensure that your composer.json contains no errors that will prevent updates from completing. No changes are made to your codebase. If conflicts requiring resolution prior to applying updates are detected in your composer.json file, you will receive an Acquia Support ticket notifying you of these conflicts so that they can be resolved.
  6. Composer performs the composer update package/name --with-all-dependencies command to update your package to the highest available version allowed by the version constraints in your composer.json file.
  7. Database updates are applied with the drush updb command.
  8. To provide faster security updates, the Stage File Proxy module is enabled to mirror files—instead of copying them—from your production environment to your RA environment.
  9. If new updates are identified, you will be notified with an Acquia Support ticket when these updates are ready for testing.

RA composer.json template

The Acquia RA Composer GitHub repository contains an example composer.json file that you can use as a starting point for creating your website’s composer.json. The repository contains the following files:

  • composer.json – An example file for Composer
  • – How to use the composer.json
  • annotated.composer.json – An annotated example file with explanations of the configuration sections

To use the example Composer file, you can download the file and copy its contents into your own composer.json file, or clone the repository and then copy the file to your website’s repository.


The example Composer file must be modified to include all of the modules that your website requires. Copying the example file into your code repository without modifications will prevent RA from providing you with updates, and may also cause website downtime.

Contact supportStill need assistance? Contact Acquia Support

Acquia: Think Ahead

53 State Street, 10th Floor
Boston, MA 02109
United States
Phone: 888-922-7842

Map: Google Maps
View other locations