At the OERu we have two separate instances of market category leading Discourse Forum: one for OER partner and contributor collaborators and the other for learners. These days, online forums are seen as a bit old-school: fuddy-duddy. From my point of view, however, Discourse is "Forum-NG" (a Next Generation forum). I think it's both very cool and innovative - not at all fuddy-duddy. Even better, Discourse also happens to be free and open source. Its active development community is storming ahead with updates and improvements at an impressive pace.
Discourse is what we developers refer to as a "non-trivial" application. It's complex, no question, but it's also very mature and well engineered. It's built entirely on open source components. It uses the Ruby on Rails framework and pulls in a bunch of external systems including Redis (for caching and queuing) and PostgreSQL for persistent data storage. The most common mode for running Discourse is via a single Docker container which includes PostgreSQL, Redis, and the full Ruby on Rails stack and Discourse application. Typically, an organisation only deploys a single Discourse instance. We, however, identified the need to segment our audiences and so decided to deploy the two instances on our main hosting server. This was much more challenging deployment, and not overly well documented. It took a while to get it right. I wrote up a blow-by-blow of how I did it in hopes it would benefit others in my position! See these two threads:
- Multiple Discourses, multiple containers, one server for the whole story (and some community comments)
- Discourse in Docker + NGINX reverse proxy + SSL everywhere + OAuth2 Custom - for protecting the privacy and security of our users, and making it quick and easy for them to log in using existing credentials (but preferably not ones controlled by foreign corporations)
Discourse is impressive. It offers a lot more than I've described so far. I recommend your organisation has a look - if you don't want to manage it in-house (it's easy once it's set up), by all means support the developers by buying their hosted service!