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Migration, Security and More: We Answer Your Burning Questions About Drupal 9

With the release of Drupal 9 around the corner, Drupal experts Angie Byron and Gábor Hojtsy answer questions on what to expect.

We’re so close to the release of Drupal 9 and the excitement is alive all throughout the Drupal community. It has been 5 years since Drupal 8.0 was released and in that time, thousands of contributors and organizations have worked together to create a more powerful, accessible and innovative Drupal experience based on the input of people all around the world. As we await the reveal, we know that you are eager to know what Drupal 9 will mean for your sites and the next generation of web experiences. 

We recently joined Drupal founder Dries Buytaert in a webinar hosted by The Drupal Association and Acquia to answer your top Drupal 9 questions. Since we weren’t able to cover everyone’s questions, we wanted to cover some of the most popular ones here. Keep reading to find out what’s in store for Drupal going forward.  

Making the Migration

What are the migration options for users currently on Drupal 7? 

Gabor: Prior to the release of Drupal 9, we’ve been recommending people move to Drupal 8 first because the upgrade from 8 to 9 is much simpler. However, once Drupal 9 is released, people can use the Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 migration path directly built into Drupal 9.

The question comes down to whether the extensions that you are using are already available for Drupal 9 or not. Drupal has 9,000 extensions and more than 2,200 of them are already Drupal 9 compatible. We’re seeing hundreds of extensions added each week. The majority of people find that most/all of their extensions are already Drupal 9 compatible, in which case it is easiest to go directly from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9.

To track all of the great progress we’re making toward getting all of the Drupal extensions compatible, you can check out the Drupal 9 Deprecation Status Tracker.

Angie: Acquia also has a new tool in development for Drupal 7 to 9 migrations called Acquia Migration Accelerator, which we'll talk about more in a later section!

Do you expect support for Drupal 7 will be extended beyond November 2021?

Gabor: Currently, community support for both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 will end in November 2022. However, Acquia is a member of the Drupal 7 Vendor Extended Support Program and will be providing commercial support for Drupal 7 until 2024

What migration tools are recommended to support the upgrade to Drupal 9?

Gabor: Drupal 9 has the same migration capabilities as 8.9, meaning that the standard migration tools can be applied when migrating to Drupal 9. The three main tools we recommend are:

  1. The Core Migrate Module suite - Migrates your content and site configuration  
  2. The Upgrade Status Module - Provides information about contributed project availability
  3. For Drupal 8 sites, the Upgrade Rector module automates updates of many common deprecated code to the latest Drupal 9 compatible code
  4. For Drupal 7 sites, the Drupal Module Upgrader - Scans and converts outdated code on your site. (This was recently upgraded by Acquia to generate code that is compatible with Drupal 8 and 9 at the same time where it can do transformations.) 

Angie: We’re also excited that Acquia will soon be offering the Acquia Migration Accelerator. This tool, which is currently in development, will help automate parts of the Drupal 7 to 9 migration process by giving companies access to a dashboard to view their data migration, provide module replacement recommendations, and offer insights into things like validation and migration errors.

Accessibility and Security 

What accessibility features will Drupal 9 have built-in? 

Angie: Drupal 9 is going to continue the strong commitment to accessibility that began in Drupal 7. Drupal's Core Accessibility Gate, required for all core changes, is a major show of dedication to accessibility efforts, and it makes sure that any new feature added will be accessible right out of the box. We’ve made a lot of positive strides when building Drupal 8 with full keyboard support, voice-to-text support for visually impaired users and media and layout enhancements. There was a lot of care put into the issue of accessibility and it’s something that will continue to be refined and worked on as part of the future of Drupal 9. 

Gabor: We’re also excited that the new Claro Administration theme, which was specifically optimized to feature an accessible design, will become the eventual default backend theme in future versions of Drupal 9. 

What security enhancements should we expect in Drupal 9?

Gabor:  A large part of the reason for the Drupal 9 upgrade itself is to ensure Drupal is more secure and compatible with modern system requirements. Also, Drupal 9 removes deprecated code so you’re working with a smaller codebase. This means there is less chance for potential security risks or errors. 

In general, Drupal has always shown itself as a secure choice. Drupal’s trusted by some of the biggest names from NASA to Tesla to NBCSports, so we’re confident it will continue to meet these high standards. The open source model creates shared responsibility throughout the community, meaning that security is a constant focus.  

Headless/Decoupled Drupal 

Is there going to be any movement toward more robust headless support and non-web content?

Gabor: We know there’s a huge interest in headless and non-web content with things like chatbots and IoT devices right now. While there aren’t currently any set plans to expand into more decoupled features, the push for change and innovation will be driven by the community. Anyone interested in advancing the current decoupled Drupal capabilities should submit their thoughts in Dries’ 2020 Drupal Product Survey, which is used to inform the strategic roadmap of Drupal’s future. 

Angie: Drupal 9 will still have all of the diverse options around traditional, partially decoupled and fully decoupled Drupal. For anyone looking for more support for their decoupled modules and content, there are tons of great contributed modules dedicated to decoupled and headless support. 

The Future of Drupal   

Will Drupal 9 include more “no/low code” features and features for non-developers?

Gabor: Definitely. Making Drupal more intuitive for all users is a big priority. There’s the Automated Updates Initiative in the works that began during Drupal 8. Funding for the second phase is being collected right now. That would help a lot of organizations with their site upkeep and maintenance without requiring a lot of dev resources.

Angie:  We’ve also got the new front-end theme, Olivero under development, that’s optimized for accessibility and tailored to front-end experiences. It’s made for people like marketers, site designers and content editors with a huge focus on responsiveness. 

Beyond core, users who want an easier experience on the front end should check out Acquia Site Studio, a low-code site building tool that lets people create new sites really quickly and easily. 

What sets Drupal 9 apart from other enterprise CMS platforms? 

Gabor: It’s the best and most modern version of Drupal, which has long been a CMS that offers the most variety, flexibility and freedom. Drupal's foundation was always in structured data which naturally caters itself to today's needs of multichannel interactions. Also Drupal has one of the biggest open source communities on the planet. There are thousands of people and over a thousand companies working on it to add more features, to improve security and to create new extensions.

Plus, those open source roots mean that companies that choose Drupal aren’t limited or trapped if one proprietary software company suddenly decides to switch vendors. They always have the option to move to another provider.  

Angie: Drupal is amazing because it’s always on the cutting edge. There’s no waiting around for one company to catch up with the digital roadmap. For example, a few years back when Pinterest had just come out and was becoming popular, Drupal had a plug-in for it in just two days! We have a community of thousands of developers that can embrace change right away as these big developments happen and I think that’s a big advantage when it comes to web experience. 

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Drupal 9 marks another huge milestone in the world of web content management and digital experience. As you prepare for Drupal 9’s release, we’ve got the Ultimate Guide to Drupal 9 to help guide you on this exciting journey.  

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