What Drupal 8 Means for Drupal 6 Sites

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Each day that passes gets closer and closer to the launch of Drupal 8, which will be an exciting overhaul of the CMS.

But for websites still using Drupal 6, the future may be looking a little grim. What will Drupal 8 mean for those websites? Should they start preparing to upgrade their CMS now or wait to see what happens? Regrettably, there is no quick and easy answer to this question.

There are many exciting new features that Drupal 8 will bring to the CMS, but it’s imminent arrival also heralds the demise of Drupal 6––because the exact day D8 goes live is the day that D6 can no longer receive official code patches.

At first, this probably won’t be a major issue. The sites will continue running just fine. It’s down the road when changes will have to be made. Drupal, which is built on the programming language PHP, will have to adapt as new versions of PHP are released, since older versions will begin to lose support. Some Drupal hosting companies may support patches for a while, but in the long term, hosting D6 sites could compromise the integrity of their servers. Other larger hosting companies, like GoDaddy for example, will probably not be worried about possible compromise due to their size, so it will be easier to keep a Drupal 6 site for a longer period of time on a non-CMS-specific server.

On the other hand, migrating to Drupal 8 immediately is a whole other demon. Since only a few websites will be on Drupal 8 right at the beginning, not many contrib modules will be available on the new CMS, so certain functionalities on a D6 site may not yet be possible on a D8 one. The good news is that there are many developers are working on creating a migration path for Drupal 6 websites to use for easier upgrades to Drupal 8.

Another important thing to consider is the possibility for maintenance on either Drupal 6 or Drupal 8 sites. While it may seem that finding people to perform upkeep on Drupal 8 sites will be the more difficult route, that is not actually the case. Sure, there may not be many Drupal 8 specific developers yet, but Drupal 8 takes a lot of programming concepts from other popular frameworks. It is going to be much easier for other developers to understand high-level concepts in Drupal 8 without having the Drupal background typically required to understand the same in D6 or D7. This means there will be a more saturated market for maintaining Drupal 8 sites, resulting in lower cost and higher ease in finding talent.

Deciding when to upgrade to Drupal 8 should definitely be a decision made on a case-by-case basis, depending on everything from the amount of contrib modules used to available Drupal resources. No one can truly predict how the release of Drupal 8 will be affecting Drupal users––or even the development community as a whole––but this budding launch is going to be something to watch as it potentially redefines the CMS as we know it.