Drupal 7 and 8 End of Life

Drupal 9 Migration Planning

Drupal has announced a few key dates:

  1. Drupal 9 will be released at the earliest in June 2020, with an alternative launch date in December 2020.
  2. Support for both Drupal 7 and 8 will end November 2021.

If you have a Drupal website, or have been following Drupal for a few years, you know that this new release pattern is unusual. Historically, Drupal has always supported 2 versions at a time and given websites a few years to migrate before the platform they’re built on is no longer supported. Here are the questions we’ll be addressing in this blog post:

  • Why will Drupal 8 no longer be supported?
  • How does the release of Drupal 9 change the way Drupal has managed version upgrades in the past?
  • And what will happen if you don’t migrate your website off of Drupal 7 and 8 before end of support?

End of Support for Drupal 8

One of the main contributors to the sunsetting of Drupal 8 is its reliance on the PHP framework, Symfony. Symfony is a third-party system utilized by Drupal to build its CMS system - it has no control over when Symfony chooses to release and end support for its own versions.

Symfony has announced that they are ending support for Symfony 3, the PHP framework Drupal 8 is built on. The pressure is now on Drupal to upgrade their own CMS so that websites aren’t built on a system with legacy components.

Drupal 9 will be built on the most recent version of Symfony.

The Backwards Compatibility of Drupal 9

One of Drupal’s goals is to make the process of major version upgrades easier. As it is now, upgrading between versions requires a building an entirely new website in Drupal and migrating any content or designs over to re-implement them.

Platform migrations are large projects that can require up to 3 months to complete (based on the complexity of the website being migrated).

Drupal 9 will be different because it will be backwards compatible. Instead of building Drupal 9 in an entirely new codebase, it’s being built in Drupal 8. This means that your website could support Drupal 8 and new Drupal 9 features. It also means that if you’re on Drupal 8, upgrading to Drupal 9 will be as easy as updating your website with a minor system update.

The release of Drupal 9 and the end of support for Drupal 7 and 8 are only a year apart. If you look at those dates, it may seem that you only have a year to migrate your website before you become prone to security vulnerabilities and bugs.

But because of the change to major version upgrades, you can start the process of migrating to Drupal 9 immediately. Right now. If you’re on Drupal 7 and are waiting for Drupal 9 to migrate, there’s no need. You can migrate to Drupal 8 and simply upgrade to Drupal 9 as you currently should be doing with minor version upgrades. The first release of Drupal 9 will be very similar to the last release of Drupal 8.

What Happens if I Don’t Migrate Before End of Life?

New methods of performance optimization, new bugs, and new system vulnerabilities are being discovered constantly. The minor releases supported by Drupal help keep your platform up to date with recent security vulnerabilities and optimization improvements. Without those updates, it’s as if you stopped paddling in the middle of a river - all you can do is be swept backward by the current.

Here is what Drupal has specifically announced about how it will end support for Drupal 7 and 8.

  • Community support for Drupal 7 will end - there will be no more updates or security fixes.
  • Drupal Association support for Drupal 7 will end.
  • There will be no more automated testing services or updates provided by the Drupal Security Team for Drupal 7.
  • There will be no more new documentation for Drupal 7 projects.
  • It’s likely that after November 2021, websites on Drupal 7 will be flagged by third-party systems for being unsafe.

Drupal has also announced that it will be releasing a list of approved vendors who can support your Drupal 7 website even after Drupal no longer does.

Preparing for Your Upgrade

If you’re on Drupal 8, the best way to prepare for Drupal 9 is to keep up with minor version releases and to update deprecated code. Deprecated code will not be supported in Drupal 9, but there are ways to search your system and update identified code.

Here’s a module for website admin to locate deprecated code: Upgrade Status module.

If you’re on Drupal 7 or older, don't delay, the best way to prepare would be to migrate your website to Drupal 8.