We’ll get straight to it — upgrading from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 is the best way to prepare for Drupal 9, and we recommend upgrading now.
Why you ask? Well, trying to migrate from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 will be a leap. Once Drupal 9 is released, you will have 18 months of support by the community to map out a transition plan and anticipate any unforeseen obstacles you may encounter along the way. So with that short timeline, truly the question to ask is, why wouldn’t you upgrade to Drupal 8 now? Drupal 8 has great new functionalities, and Drupal 9 is being built in Drupal 8, which means the transition will be super easy once Drupal 9 is here!
Drupal 8 Features
Drupal 8 has a lot of amazing features you should know about. Check out this list our partner, Digital Echidna, has created outlining its impressive functionality:
- Granular cache and cache tags
- Inline form errors
- Responsive images
For Content Editors and Authors
- Inline editing
- “Outside In” editing with the settings tray
- Media and oEmbed support
- Layout Builder
- Content Moderation
- Configuration management
- Composer and Symfony
- Multilingual out of the box
- API first
- Support for MySQL 8 and PHP 7.2
Why Upgrade Now
Digital Echidna, which works with a variety of companies, reports teams at times decide to skip major core releases to save on an iteration of migration costs every few years. Sometimes that makes sense, but in this case, the Drupal 8 architecture and future releases truly promise a very seamless transition from now on. Therefore, teams do not need to be concerned with the transition from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9. With the migration path from 7 to 8 now stable and well documented, there’s no reason to hold off.
There are still three more release updates planned for Drupal 8: 8.7 and 8.8, which will occur in May and December 2019. The last release 8.9 will be released at the same time as Drupal 9 in the second quarter of 2020. Although the exact features that will be included in each release is still in the planning phase, the plan is for continued refinements to a large number of the features above, as well as following:
- Redesigned admin UI
- Automatic Updates
- JSON API in core
- Support for Symfony 4 (optional)
- Support for Twig 2 (optional)
Drupal 9: Ready, Set, Go
In preparing for the release of Drupal 9, as long as you are keeping your modules updated with minor releases, you should be able to hit the ground running with little to no additional work.
The Drupal Association has pointed out one of the main reasons Drupal 9 will be released is to modernize the dependencies upon which it relies, such as Twig and Symfony, and to remove support for deprecated APIs.
In a recent blog post, Dries Buytaert, co-founder of Acquia, shared insight to the design and functionality Drupal 9 will bring, as well as the release schedule. “We are building Drupal 9 in Drupal 8, which means the technology in Drupal 9 will have been battle-tested in Drupal 8. Furthermore, we are adding new functionality as backwards-compatible code and experimental features. Once the code becomes stable, we will deprecate any old functionality.”
How to Prepare
In preparing for the Drupal 9 migration, the main hurdle will be in making sure your site no longer uses code that will be deprecated. There are three ways you will be able to do this:
- Generate a deprecation report using Drupal Check.
- Search for your modules and find out what will be deprecated by visiting api.drupal.org.
- Generate a “readiness assessment.” A contributed module is being built so that you can scan your website and view all the modules you have installed. At a glance, you can see if or how many errors occur and what may need to be addressed to upgrade to Drupal 9.
Acquia and Digital Echidna also suggest these steps for overall readiness:
- Keep up with Drupal 8 updates
- Make sure you are not using deprecated modules and APIs
- Where possible, use the latest versions of dependencies
There are lots of new features in Drupal 8 that will greatly enhance your platform for users and optimize functionality for developers and authors, while in parallel helping to facilitate the upgrade pathway to Drupal 9. We all can relate to cumbersome upgrades in the past, and the Acquia team is excited that we can provide a much more seamless experience during this upcoming release cycle. Buytaert sums it up best in noting, “The big deal about Drupal 9 is that…it should not be a big deal.”