Drupal 9 Migration: Top Questions and Expert Insights
Drupal 9’s big splash in early June sparked a widespread realization that migration needed to move to front burner status. While the Drupal organization has extended the Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 decommission date in response to COVID-19 related upheaval and uncertainty, other factors fueling migration urgency are gathering steam.
What are the key factors that are driving Drupal migrations? What’s in store for Drupal 9? And what else do we need to know right now?
Subscribing to the Kenneth Blanchard conviction that, “None of us is as smart as all of us,” we reached out this week to some of Promet’s top Drupal experts for insights into these and other important issues.
Here’s what they had to say:
Drupal 9 Expert Panelists
Q. What do you recommend site owners do right now?
Juan: I would encourage anyone to migrate from Drupal 7 to 8 ASAP, as the improvements between Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 are far and many.
Also, migrating right now from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 will make for a much smoother migration path to Drupal 9, as Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 migrations (content in particular) are meant to be considerably smoother than migrations from previous versions of Drupal.
Aaron: November 2, 2021 is still the date that we need to focus on as the effective end-of-life date for Drupal 8. Drupal is dependent upon Symfony, and Symfony will no longer be supported after November 2021. Security patches are all that will remain available after that date.
My recommendation for any website that’s still on Drupal 7 is to move forward now with a migration to Drupal 8, and then as Drupal 9 matures, build out a Drupal 9 migration timeline.
Q. What do you view as the primary, overarching benefit of Drupal 8 and 9 over Drupal 7?
Juan: In Drupal 8 and Drupal 9, nearly the entire system uses the Drupal Entity API, which provides a much more robust and flexible framework for building custom solutions.
John Ross: Drupal 8 and 9 have improved over Drupal 7 by leaps in bounds in terms of deployments through Configuration Management (and content). Automatic deployment is a breeze between environments and has become very robust since Drupal 7.
This is one of the biggest issues or dilemmas on our multi-environment development workflow when using Drupal 7. Drupal 7 heavily relies on Features and other similar modules, but cannot really provide a “one-size-fits-all” solution for an automatic deployment.
Aaron: The deployment and configuration export/import is the biggest benefit for Drupal 8 and 9. It saves hours upon hours of work, which previously was accomplished with Features.
Also, there are a multitude of contributed modules in Drupal 7, which are now core modules in Drupal 8. Translations are a huge example. Drupal 8 comes ready, out of the box, for translations. Drupal 7, on the other hand, required loads of contributed modules and configurations to accomplish the same thing.
Q. Drupal 9 has been described as akin to more of a “point release” from Drupal 8 than the Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 leap forward in features and functionality. So what is new or potentially game-changing about Drupal 9?
Luc: Drupal 9 is not a game changer, in the sense that Drupal 8 was. Drupal depends on Symfony, if you were to very quickly summarize, you could say that Drupal 9 is essentially a new version of Symfony under the hood. Drupal 9.0 has the same features Drupal 8.9, with a clean up of some functions that it was using.
The aspect of Drupal 9 that is game changing is the fact that it is the first release for Drupal to be non-breaking. You don’t need to process a major migration to update; it is relatively easy to migrate from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9.
Aaron: Drupal 9 solidifies some of the features in Drupal 8. As others have mentioned, it also is a very easy upgrade between Drupal 8 and 9. Up to this point, Drupal migrations have been a time-consuming process.
Q. Drupal 7 was released on Jan. 5, 2011, nearly 10 years ago. Can you comment on some of the most significant trends in UI/UX or within Drupal functionality that have emerged since that time?
Juan: Among the most significant developments is the ability to edit content inline, in real-time through the Drupal 8 Layout Builder interface.
Luc: During the development of Drupal 8, I remember meeting Alex Pott (Drupal 8 core co-maintainer, and Drupal 8 configuration system co-maintainer). I worked with him on some changes to the configuration system. This system is for me the biggest improvement in the way we build and maintain large websites using Drupal 8 and above.
Aaron: The use of importing and exporting configuration yaml files is the most significant change from Drupal 7. The default back-end theme has improved greatly, along with the number of core modules in Drupal 8 and 9.
Q. How have businesses and organizations changed in their use of and need for Drupal over the past decade?
Luc: The complexity of websites have increased, and thanks to Drupal’s level of abstraction, we are also able to build more complex solutions. For example, it is common for large companies or administrations to have more than a dozen of websites now, and using Drupal with tools like Acquia Cloud Site Factory, one company can generate many websites on demand.
Aaron: Drupal has always been an enterprise type CMS that works well with larger sites. I think it has continued to work in that space, while allowing for much more complex sites, deployments, and configuration sharing.
There also have been huge leaps ahead with the hosting provided by Acquia and Pantheon.
Q. What do you view as the most significant Drupal evolutionary developments over the past decade?
Aaron: The possibility of headless Drupal is what first comes to mind, but the configuration management, as well as translations being part of core, are the biggest advancements in my opinion.
Luc: The past decade saw the emergence of static sites generators (Jekyll in Ruby, Hugo in Go). I find it very interesting as it is removing all the overhead of modern websites for performance and maintenance. Nothing will ever be faster than a plain HTML page.
A module like Tome (by Samuel Mortenson) bridges the gap between Drupal and the static sites generator solutions, allowing Drupal to be automatically exported as plain HTML. This opens some interesting possibilities for Drupal.
Any other questions on Drupal, Drupal 9, or the path to migration?
Drupal is in our DNA at Promet Source and we have the expertise and perspective to help with the full spectrum of your Drupal related questions and concerns.