Test your Drupal 9 upgrade now

Test your Drupal 9 upgrade now

Kayla Eidenbrook
Thought byKayla Eidenbrook
March 20, 2020
Image of Drupal 8 icon with arrow pointing to Drupal 9 icon on blue background

The alpha version of Drupal 9 was recently released, which means it's the perfect time to test your Drupal 9 upgrade. 

Have you ever driven by a forest years after a wildfire? Chaotic flames clear out old debris and decay, creating a foundation for new trees and foliage to spring into life.

The upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 was the wildfire, due to it being a full break and major change. Now, Drupal 8 has set the foundation to keep growing with Drupal 9 and beyond.

And boy, was Drupal 8 a wildfire. Many are wondering if Drupal 9’s release will pose the same costs and frustrations. Will this upgrade be a repeat of D8? Now that Drupal 9 alpha was recently released, it’s a great opportunity to really test that out. 

Time to test drive your Drupal 9 upgrade

Why does the alpha release matter? Alpha releases are meant for technical owners and module or theme authors to test whether their modules and custom code are compatible with changes in a new version. Drupal 9’s alpha release is the perfect time to see how the upgrade would impact a website before the full release even occurs.

This alpha release is also ideal for people who previously considered Drupal as a contender for their platform before. Now, they can revisit this CMS and determine if  Drupal 9 suits their business and marketing needs. Then they’ll get a head start on planning ahead for a replatform.

What you can expect from Drupal 9’s release

Drupal 9’s earliest release is scheduled for June 3, 2020, with both Drupal 7 and 8 nearing their end-of-life around November 2021.

Is Drupal 9 going to be loaded with new, shiny features and major functionality changes? Not exactly. But that’s a positive thing. 

The main benefit of Drupal 9 compared to 8 is that it will be supported with security fixes after November 2021. It also provides the easiest upgrade path possible from Drupal 8. Other than that, the features are very similar to Drupal 8.8.

One important difference between D8 and D9 is which Symfony library will be used. Drupal now is built on Symfony, the largest open-source web framework in the world; with D8 built on Symfony 3.  Symfony 3 is a main cause of the timing for D8’s end-of-life, since Symfony 3 loses support November 2021. D9 will use future versions of Symfony and follow a similar upgrade schedule.


Image of Drupal 9 upgrade timeline compared to Symfony timeline


Drupal 9.1 is where we’ll start to see new functionality added, but we first have to pave the way with D9.  

Should you be concerned about the Drupal 9 upgrade?

Upgrading to Drupal 9 will not produce the same degree of turbulence as Drupal 8. D8 made the jump to building on Symfony and the larger open source world. That seismic shift already happened, so upgrading to D9 and future versions will be much calmer. The biggest factor impacting your Drupal 9 upgrade will be the version your website is currently on and whether you’ve regularly updated the core. 

The latest version 8.8 should be easy, but the earlier the version you are on generally means more needs to be done with an upgrade – especially if your website hasn’t been actively maintained or if you’re on a version prior to 8. Websites that have active dev support tend to be much better prepared, whether that’s in-house, through an agency, or elsewhere.

Contact us to learn about our comprehensive site audit, which will uncover how ready your site is for the Drupal 9 upgrade, and what needs to be done to ensure the update is a success.

If you’re currently on Drupal 8.8 and actively maintain your modules and core updates, the switch to D9 is likely going to be a breeze. That’s because D9 is essentially a direct extension of D8. The significant changes made to the Drupal platform in Drupal 8 have made it much easier to build, expand, and upgrade for future versions.

Why was D7 to D8 so difficult? Won’t that happen again?

The D8 upgrade created multiple issues: Fields missing, home page loads and themes broken, links pointing to nodes that no longer exist, and more. 

However, it’s highly unlikely these issues will be repeated with the Drupal 9 upgrade. 

D8 was a full break and major transformation, and when it came out, there were no migration paths set. Since then, the Drupal community has had five years to figure out how to make a migration work better. And because D9 is a direct extension of D8, it won’t be nearly as big a jump as D8 was from D7.

Upgrading to D8 was also difficult because none of the contributed community modules were ready for it. The contributed modules created for D8 will also work for D9, so this time it’s not being built from scratch.

Because of the break from D7 to D8, having your website built on D8/D9 will be forward upgradeable – which is great news for your budget. You won’t have to worry about investing in annual updates anymore. 

There also aren’t any noteworthy bugs to look out for when upgrading to D9. As long as you’re on the latest version of D8, the process should be streamlined.

When should you upgrade? Is it even necessary?

You might be thinking about holding off on your Drupal 9 upgrade, and letting the dust settle to see what bugs there are with this release. This thought is understandable, especially for those who had to deal with an arduous upgrade from D6/D7 to D8. But D9 was created specifically to eliminate these hurdles and bugs when upgrading from 8. So, while holding out to upgrade is an option (for now), this notion provides no legitimate reason to do so.

Pausing your Drupal 9 upgrade is also likely to cause more issues down the line. The countdown till D7 and D8 deprecate is rapidly approaching, as you can see by the timeline below. 

Image of Drupal 9 upgrade timeline compared to Symfony release timeline

That timing is not including the time you’ll need for a replatform, which is a crucial consideration. A simple replatform can take 2-3 months, while a more complex one can take 9-12. Internal planning (like socializing and getting buy-in with your team) crunches the timeline even further, which alone can take 3-6 months. 

  • If you’re on D7 and want to stay with Drupal: It’s recommended you upgrade before 7 and 8 reach their end-of-life. Not upgrading can open the door to security lapses and the inability to take advantage of new, upcoming functionality.
  • If you’re on D8 and want to know what to expect: The upgrade from D8 to D9 should be similar to a D8 minor version release, as long as you’ve been keeping up with regular updates.
  • If you’re weighing options for Drupal and other platforms: This is an ideal time to start assessing how your website is being used and what you want out of it, so you can start planning your upgrade or replatform before the D9 release. FFW can help you figure out what that best option might be.


D9 plants the seeds for Drupal’s future

The journey from D8 to D9 isn’t a mighty leap, but rather a small, yet critical step for the future of Drupal. It doesn’t boast cutting-edge features and won’t force you on a risk-laden upgrade path. D8 was the stable foundation for future versions of D9 to pave the way forward. With it, we can keep iterating, growing, and progressing. 

Now is the time to plan your platform’s future

Whether you’re committed to Drupal or are considering a new platform together, the time to assess options is now, before D7 and D8 reach their end. The D9 alpha release provides an opportunity to test the upgrade and address any concerns you have.

FFW can help you assess your options and create a clear path forward. Contact us anytime here