What if You Don’t Upgrade from Drupal 8?

House on the edge of cliff

Drupal 8’s EOL (end of life) is just three months away on November 2, 2021. What does this mean?

No security patches will be provided for Drupal 8 after this date. There is also no extended support for Drupal 8 like there will be for Drupal 7.

You will truly be on your own. And with such a mission-critical piece of software, you do not want to be on your own

The good news is that you can avoid being left in the lurch. Audit your site for Drupal 9 readiness and start planning your roadmap now. Right now is the easiest it will ever be. It is better to upgrade on your own terms rather than scrambling at the last minute. 

Why November 2, 2021?

Drupal 8 has many third-party dependencies, and if one of these dependencies updates to break backward compatibility with previous versions of Drupal 8, then Drupal 8 cannot update that dependency. Eventually, the older version of the dependency will stop being supported by the authors. 

This leaves Drupal 8 in a precarious position. The longer it exists, the more fragile it becomes. The longer it exists, the more the foundations crack. Eventually, the whole thing would need to be demolished.

Drupal 8’s largest dependency is Symfony. Symfony 3, the version Drupal 8 uses, reaches EOL in November of 2021, and moving to Symfony 4 would break backward compatibility with previous versions of Drupal 8.

Supported versions of Drupal must use supported versions of Symfony, which means Drupal must move to a new major version. This is the main reason for the cut-off date.

But wait! Why can’t the Drupal community fork Symfony 3 and maintain that alongside Drupal? Couldn’t we stay on Drupal 8 forever?

Well…no.

Symfony is used precisely because the Drupal community did not want to maintain certain features common to all websites and content management systems. Instead, the community wanted more freedom to focus on what makes Drupal unique.

A lot of work goes into building and maintaining Symfony. Duplicating that effort is not only unattainable but also undesirable.

The Drupal community has supported Drupal 8.9 as long as possible, but now it is time to move on.

Read more about the rationale behind the release schedule and chosen dates.

What happens if I don’t upgrade by that time?

Everything will still work…for a while. Everything might still be secure…for a while. Neither the Drupal nor the Symfony communities will be updating the code your website relies upon.

And eventually, something will break.

Or worse. A vulnerability will be discovered, and you will have no way to fix it.

Or even worse than that. A vulnerability is discovered by nefarious actors and never announced publicly, and you go on using your Drupal 8 website as if everything is fine. But your website has been compromised, or it can be compromised at any moment. You might never know.

The longer you wait to upgrade to Drupal 9, the more effort it will be to accomplish the upgrade. Right now, Drupal 9 and Drupal 8.9 are still very close to being the same piece of software. But that distance will grow with every new Drupal 9 release.

Is there any wiggle room or grace period that is “safe”?

No.

You can go skydiving without a parachute, and you’re technically safe the entire way down. You can even close your eyes and pretend you’re flying. That might even be fun.

But eventually, you have to deal with the sudden stop at the end.

How long will Drupal 9 Last?

Until November 2023.

Read the official page on Drupal 9 support.

This is not something to be wary of. Thanks to the new minor release schedule, upgrades to new major releases of Drupal no longer require a complicated migration or upgrade process. Upgrading from Drupal 9 to Drupal 10 should be no more complex than upgrading from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9.

And you’ve already done that, right?

Or at least you’ve already started planning to do that, right?

How do I get started?

Start by making a plan and then start implementing that plan. The best time to start planning is yesterday. The next best time to start planning is today.

If you are busy or are feeling a little overwhelmed, we can help. We are planning and implementing the transition to Drupal 9 for many other organizations. The best place to start is to contact us for an audit of your Drupal 8 site which will you give you insight into the level of effort that will be required to upgrade to Drupal 9.

Matt Robison

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Matt has been working with Drupal since 2008. He loves spending his time reading, writing, playing with his three kids, and eating lots of ice cream.

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