Introducing Drupal 9
Dan Frost

2020 has seen the exciting launch of the latest major new version of the Drupal platform, Drupal 9.

Drupal 9 is the most powerful, flexible and user-friendly version of the Drupal CMS to date and will focus on new user features, enhanced developer tools and further improved integration with third-party services and systems. Crucially, Drupal 9 is also the first major version of Drupal that is, firstly, much easier to upgrade to from its predecessor, Drupal 8, and also comes with a pledge from Drupal that all future major releases of the platform will be equally straightforward to upgrade to.

Along with last year's announcement about Drupal 9's release date also came the news that dates have been set for the end of official support and security updates for Drupal 7 and 8. Drupal 8 will reach end of life (EOL) in November 2021 while Drupal 7's EOL has recently been extended by a further year to November 2022 in light of the impact that COVID-19 has had on priorities and budgets for many organisation. Even with the recent extension to Drupal 7's EOL though, it's important that businesses and organisations who want to have a solid roadmap for their website’s future start planning and, where needed, securing budgets for the next phase of their website.

In this blog post, we look at how the 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 2022 and November 2021 respectively. There will be no further security updates, enhancements or improvements released for each version from those dates.

Of course, remaining Drupal 7 and 8 sites will still continue to work beyond their end of life dates. 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 relatively straight-forward one. This is why Drupal 8's end of life date is a year earlier than Drupal 7's.

Drupal 9 has effectively been built on top of Drupal 8, allowing for a direct upgrade to it from the latest version of Drupal 8. There are a number of checks and considerations to be made before performing the update to Drupal 9, including ensuring that all available core and module updates for Drupal 8 have been applied to your website. Any custom modules and other custom code will also need reviewing to ensure the coding within them is compatible with newer versions of the latest Drupal code bases. Once these initial pieces of work have been completed, the upgrade to Drupal 9 should then be no more complex than applying any other regular Drupal update to your website.

With the first version of Drupal 9 now released, we’ll be discussing the upgrade plan with all our Drupal 8 clients very soon.

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 9 and so will require much more planning in advance, not least to secure suitable budget for such a project.

We know that many businesses and organisations tend to plan and budget well in advance so this is something that should be given consideration at the earliest opportunity to enable you to be able to progress with a new website build, ideally ahead of Drupal 7 reaching end-of-life in late 2022.

For organisations that are likely to have budget available and be ready to look at a new website build sooner rather than later, 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 are already planning a number of Drupal 9 rebuilds and working to ensure we have enough resources and suitable scheduling in place over the next couple of 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 9, it’s better to start talking to us about it sooner rather than later!

We have also put together a FAQs guide to the questions most commonly asked when discussing a move from Drupal 7 to 9. This can be found here.

Durations and costs for rebuilds in Drupal 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?

Our Drupal 7 end-of-life FAQs page may well answer some of your initial questions. 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.