Drupal 7 End of Life: Start Your Migration Planning Now

Birds migrating into the sunset

It’s official – Drupal 7 will be reaching its end of life in November of 2021. In a blog post announcing the June 2020 launch date of Drupal 9, Drupal founder and project lead, Dries Buytaert, revealed the latest roadmap for Drupal version support. 

The announcement marks an exciting milestone for the Drupal community but also starts the countdown to the end of life date for not one, but two, major versions of Drupal. With the support cycles for both Drupal 7 and 8 coming to an end in 2021, now is the time for Drupal site owners to consider what an upgrade or migration might look like for them, and to better understand the impact of these dates on the future of Drupal. 

What does end of life mean?

When a piece of software reaches its end of life date, it will no longer receive bug fixes or security updates from the maintainers. Dropping support for deprecated versions of Drupal is a way for maintainers to drive adoption toward modern platforms that leverage current technology as effectively as possible. Come November 2021, both Drupal 7 and 8 will reach end of life, but each for slightly different reasons.

In November 2021, Drupal 7 will be over 10 years old. In 2011, we were excited about the brand new iPhone 4S and Game of Thrones Season 1. Needless to say, times have changed drastically and Drupal has experienced more growth and evolution than Daenerys’ dragons.

Drupal 7 was a huge step forward when it was released, but Drupal 8 continued to push things with a complete rework of the underlying architecture and a wealth of powerful new features, including a revamped release cycle, that rendered Drupal 7 obsolete. While Drupal 7 is still supported with bug fixes and security updates, it does not receive any new core features and is definitely not the place to start a new Drupal site build. November 2021 will mark the long-overdue retirement of a piece of software that served its purpose, but is no longer able to meet the needs of a user base that demands something more robust.

Drupal 8 also reaching end of life in November 2021 marks a major milestone in the life of Drupal: only one major release will be supported for the first time ever. However, this is happening for a much different reason than the depreciation of Drupal 7.

an illustration of the Drupal version support roadmap
Image Courtesy of Dries Buytaert

Thanks to the major architectural rework that took place in Drupal 8, Drupal 9 will essentially be Drupal 8’s final form. This means that Drupal 9 is the next step in the evolution of Drupal 8 and it can simply be included as part of a global Drupal release cycle, rather than something that needs its own special treatment. The impact of this change on site owners and the general longevity of Drupal websites is monumental.

For the first time ever, upgrading to a new major version of Drupal will not require a ground-up rebuild.

Assuming Drupal core and all of its dependencies have been kept up to date, migrating from Drupal 8.8.x to Drupal 9, should not be all that different from updating Drupal 8.7.x to Drupal 8.8.x.

Why is this a good thing?

While this could potentially be a painful transition for many Drupal 7 site owners, the upside of a Drupal 8 migration is larger than it has ever been. Drupal 8 is a modern, stable platform that is capable of handling massive websites with huge amounts of complex functionality, and that platform will no longer be hindered by the stagnation that can occur when the user base knows that a new major release is on the way with no backwards compatibility. This means site owners and module maintainers alike have a much clearer roadmap for how future releases of Drupal impact them, and that roadmap allows for more innovation without the concern of a full rebuild due to the incompatibility of a future major release.

Additionally, knowing the end of life date of Drupal 7, and the release date of Drupal 9, gives Drupal 7 site owners significantly more time to plan their migration than any other major release has allowed. Given that we are currently a little less than three years out from this date, there is ample time to secure budget and plan for a long-term investment in Drupal, knowing that your new site will be compatible with future major releases of Drupal.

When should I upgrade?

At the very least, you should be starting the planning process for your Drupal 8/9 migration now. Drupal 8 is, and has been, ready for prime time for quite a while. At Elevated Third, we’ve been building exclusively on Drupal 8 since May of 2016 and we’ve had no reason to look back. The Drupal core contributors have committed to a release cycle that will facilitate a much more sustainable life cycle for Drupal site owners, who can rest easy knowing that consistent maintenance will allow a well-built site a huge amount of longevity. 

Considering a Drupal 8 Migration?