Preparing Your Website for Drupal 9

Drupal 7 and 8 End of Life Coming November 2021

 

Drupal 9 is here! According to Dries Buytaert, Drupal founder and project lead, Drupal 9 is "the most author-friendly and powerful version of the platform to date."

The announcement from Drupal highlights several notable features of the platform:

  • Dramatically easier tools— a new layout builder, WYSIWYG media management system and content workflow tools make Drupal much easier to use. It enables users to take advantage of Drupal's robust technical architecture more easily than ever before. 
  • Continuous innovation—powerful new features delivered continuously, keeping Drupal at the cutting edge of the web. 
  • Easiest upgrade in a decade—and Drupal’s commitment to easy upgrades in the future means never having to worry about a major replatforming to stay up to date. 

If you have a Drupal website, or have been following Drupal for a few years, you may know that they typically support two versions of the platform at a time given that it often takes people a few years to migrate their website to the newer platform.

But that's not the case this time around and support for both Drupal 7 and 8 will end November 2021.

Why will Drupal 8 no longer be supported?

One of the main contributors to the sunsetting of Drupal 8 is its reliance on the PHP framework, Symfony—a third-party system utilized by Drupal to build its CMS system. 

Symfony announced that they are ending support for Symfony 3, the PHP framework Drupal 8 is built on. Drupal, which has no control over when Symfony chooses to release and end support, needed to upgrade their own CMS so that websites aren’t built on a system with legacy components. 

Drupal 9 is built on the most recent version of Symfony.

How difficult is it to upgrade to Drupal 9?

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

Drupal 9 is different because it is 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. But because of the change to major version upgrades, you can start the process of migrating to Drupal 9 immediately. There's no need to wait.

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 is 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 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.

How do I start preparing for the upgrade to Drupal 9?

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. According to Drupal, you should "fully update your Drupal 8 site to the most recent version of both core and contributed modules and themes, prior to updating to Drupal 9." 

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, the best way to prepare would be to migrate your website to Drupal 8 as soon as possible to ensure your website will be Drupal 9 compatible so there is very little work left to do when it comes time for your upgrade.