In September, 2018, Dries announced that Drupal 7 and 8 will not be supported after November, 2021. Drupal 9 is set to be released in 2020, allowing a year to upgrade. Given there’s plenty of time before the release of Drupal 9 and the Drupal 8 end of life in 2021, upgrading makes a lot of sense.

Indeed, the Drupal 8 end of life means that after 2021, your Drupal 7 or 8 website won’t benefit from bug fixes, security releases or enhancements, and could be at a greater risk from hackers.

Why a new version of Drupal, why not fix Drupal 8?

The development model of Drupal 8 included introducing new features in minor releases while supporting backwards compatibility. Unfortunately, it is not possible to continue with this model forever. Drupal 8 relies on a number of 3rd party dependencies such as Symfony, Twig and Guzzle. To keep up-to-date with the security and other modifications of the 3rd party dependencies, a more involved reworking of Drupal 8’s Application Program Interface (API), is needed. For example, the version of Symfony currently used by Drupal 8 will no longer be supported after November 2021.  Drupal 9 will remove all depreciated components, replacing them with newer versions.

How difficult will it be to upgrade Drupal?

The code between Drupal 8 and Drupal 9 will be similar, making the upgrade smooth and painless. Drupal 9 is essentially the next step in the evolution of Drupal 8. Continuous innovation with minor releases, as we saw with Drupal 8, is the game plan from now on. There shouldn’t be any more major upgrades involving site rebuilds and migrations, as was the case when upgrading from Drupal 7 to 8. If you have a Drupal 8 website, and you keep up with the minor updates before the end of life, you will be in a good position for the upgrade to Drupal 9.

If you are running Drupal 7 — and close to a million organizations still are — your best plan is to migrate to Drupal 8 by 2020-21. This is a fairly large undertaking.  Drupal 8 does include a built in data migration tool, but you still need to move your theme separately. It should, however, be the last migration of this type you will ever need.

Our recommendations

If running Drupal 8, keep up-to date with new releases.

If running Drupal 7, make a plan to update to Drupal 8 as soon as you can, and if you need help, contact us.