Is your Drupal site ready for version 9?
Author: Chris Egner - Lead Developer
Drupal has been a been a great tool for serving our clients’ content management needs for many years now. We’ve been developing on Drupal since version 6, and we currently maintain dozens of client sites on both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8.
The next major release of Drupal, version 9, is scheduled to be released this year on June 3.
While this new version will not have many new user-facing features compared to Drupal 8, it comes with some underlying API changes and important updates to third-party dependencies such as Symfony.
This release of Drupal 9 also affects current Drupal site owners, because Drupal 7 and 8 now have an expiration date: November 2021.
On this date both versions will reach end-of-life (EOL) and will stop receiving community support, including bug fixes and security updates. This means you must upgrade to Drupal 9 or rebuild your site on another CMS in order to keep your site and your users safe and secure.
Upgrading from Drupal 8
Unlike previous major Drupal releases, the upgrade path from 8 to 9 will be much easier – almost as easy as upgrading to a new minor release (e.g. 8.7 to 8.8)…with one caveat – deprecated code.
While the Drupal core upgrade will be seamless, many contrib modules and themes are still using Drupal API code which is not compatible with Drupal 9, and must be updated. Many modules have already been updated, and others are currently in the process of being updated now. For sites using many modules, there will likely be a period of time where you need to wait for all contrib modules to be updated before you can upgrade a site to Drupal 9.
There may be some contrib modules that are not updated to be compatible with Drupal 9 by November 2021. In those cases, you will need to find a compatible replacement or develop your own.
If you currently maintain contrib modules or your own custom modules, you can work on updating your module to work on Drupal 9 now. The Upgrade Status module helps with this.
Once all contrib modules and custom code has been updated, you are all set to upgrade to Drupal 9.
Upgrading from Drupal 7
The upgrade path from Drupal 7 is a bit more complicated. Like previous major Drupal releases, Drupal 8 was not backwards-compatible with Drupal 7, so Drupal 9 won’t be backwards compatible with 7 either. This means there will be no automated process to upgrade a Drupal 7 site like there is for a Drupal 8 site. Unfortunately for most sites, many components will need to be rebuilt using new Drupal 9-compatible modules & themes.
For current Drupal 7 site owners, now is the time to start that upgrade process, since it will likely be heavy lift in terms of development effort. You don’t need to wait for Drupal 9 either – you can begin upgrading your Drupal 7 site to Drupal 8 now, and then update to 9 when it is released.
Or if you’ve been thinking about launching a new website in the next year or so to replace your Drupal 7 site, now would be a great time to get started.
If you’re unable to make the upgrade to Drupal 9 or launch a new site by November 2021, there is one other option – paid long-term support (LTS).
There will be a handful of vendors who will continue to support Drupal 7 (including security updates) on a paid basis, similar to the current Drupal 6 LTS program. This support will be available until at least 2024.
You can read more about the upcoming Drupal 9 release and steps to upgrade at drupal.org
If you have any specific questions or concerns about upgrading your Drupal site, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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