Planning ahead for Drupal 9 and beyond

It’s more than a year now since Drupal founder Dries Buytaert confirmed the roadmap and time line for future versions of the Drupal platform. The announcement included the news that Drupal 9 will have a 2020 release date - since confirmed for June - and that official support and security updates for Drupal 7 and 8 would then end in November 2021.

With two years until Drupal 7 and 8 reach end of life (EOL), it’s easy to think it’s way too early yet to be worrying about the next iteration of your website. However, for businesses and organisations who want to have a solid roadmap for their website’s future and need to plan ahead and secure budgets, now really is the right time to start that planning.

In this blog post, we look at how 2020’s release of Drupal 9 impacts on those with existing Drupal 7 and 8 websites, what you need to do about it – and when.

So what does “end of life” actually mean for Drupal 7 & 8?

Drupal 7 and 8 end of life (EOL) means that those versions of the platform will no longer be officially supported after November 2021. There will be no further security updates, enhancements or improvements released for those versions.

Of course, remaining Drupal 7 and 8 sites will still continue to work beyond November 2021. However, the risk of security or performance issues creeping into those sites in the future is heavily increased beyond this date.

If you currently have a Drupal 8 website…

Let’s tackle the easiest scenario first! The good news is that if you’re currently using Drupal 8, then the move to Drupal 9 in 2020 should be a straight-forward one.

Drupal 9 has effectively been built on top of Drupal 8, allowing for a direct and seamless upgrade to it from the latest version of Drupal 8. The process should therefore effectively be no different to a regular Drupal core update.

To take advantage of this planned upgrade route, you simply need to ensure that your Drupal 8 site, and all contributed modules used within it, are kept current as updates are released. Any custom modules or functionality in place on your site should also be maintained to ensure they remain compatible with Drupal 8 as new versions are released.

With the first version of Drupal 9 scheduled for release in June 2020, we’ll be discussing the upgrade plan with all affected Drupal 8 clients closer to the time but, as the process is expected to very similar to just applying normal Drupal updates to your site, the time/cost for the update to Drupal 9 should also be similar.

If you currently have a Drupal 7 website…

While Drupal 9 will have a direct upgrade path from Drupal 8, sadly this won’t be the case for Drupal 7 sites as the technical structure of Drupal 7 versus Drupal 8/9 is too significantly different to enable this.

The process of moving on from Drupal 7 therefore requires a full rebuild of the website in Drupal 8 - or, depending on the timing, directly to Drupal 9. This will therefore require much more planning in advance, not least to secure suitable budget for such a project.

This is a key reason for starting the discussion early as we know many businesses and organisations tend to plan and budget well in advance. Some businesses may even already have their budgets agreed for 2020, meaning that discussions would need to take place next year in order to be able to progress with a new website build in 2021.

For organisations that are likely to have budget available and be ready to look at a new website build in 2020, other factors to consider may include the availability of relevant people within the organisation who will need to be involved in some way in the project.

Here at Adaptive, we currently support more than 70 Drupal 7 websites for our clients so we ourselves will be planning early for Drupal 9 to ensure we have enough resources and suitable scheduling in place over the next two years to be able to successfully deliver these rebuild projects for our clients as required.

In short, if you’re looking to move to Drupal 8/9, it’s better to start talking to us about it sooner rather than later!

Durations and costs for rebuilds in Drupal 8 or 9 will obviously vary depending on your requirements, current site complexity and numerous other factors. However, for an idea of how we normally go about delivering new development projects for clients, see here.

What are the next steps?

If you’d like to know more about the move towards Drupal 9, or want to discuss initial planning for a rebuild of your current Drupal 7 website, please contact us for further advice or speak to directly to your Adaptive account manager for more information.