Drupal is an open source, Content Management System (CMS) that is an excellent website platform for robust business sites as it provides flexibility and security. Drupal’s global open source community is made up of over a million developers and they are continually innovating Drupal while ensuring top notch security.
If your website is on Drupal, you’re likely aware of the much-anticipated release of Drupal 9 slated for June 3, 2020. However, this release isn’t about new features. It implements a change from how Drupal will move from version to version going forward after Drupal 9 is launched.
Drupal 8 vs. Drupal 9
To put it quite simply, Drupal 9 will be a cleaned-up version of Drupal 8.
Here it is right from the mouth of Drupal:
Drupal 9 will be the same as the last Drupal 8 minor version with deprecated code removed and third-party dependencies updated. Most extensions will only need a few changes.
Drupal 9 will be released alongside Drupal 8.9, a long-term-support (LTS) minor release of Drupal 8. The only difference between the Drupal 9 release and the Drupal 8 LTS release will be Drupal 9’s updated dependencies and removal of deprecated code.
It’s important to know that Drupal 8 will only receive patch releases following the Drupal 9 release. No new features will be added to Drupal 8, and minor releases will not be made available. Drupal 8 and 7 will be supported by the Drupal community until November 2021.
In the updates after Drupal 9 (9.1, 9.2, etc.) new backwards-compatible features will be added every six months. The key benefit of Drupal 9 over Drupal 8 is that the platform will be supported with security fixes after November 2021.
How Drupal Versions Will be Implemented Going Forward
With Drupal 8, semantic versioning was adopted. This allowed the addition of new features in minor releases of Drupal 8 instead of waiting for major version releases. Changes in minor releases are backwards-compatible with previous Drupal 8 releases. However, Drupal also relies on third-party dependencies. Quite often, third-party updates cannot be made backwards compatible with earlier Drupal versions.
A standout feature of Drupal 9 is its ability to provide an easy upgrade from Drupal 8, and this is due to semantic versioning. Drupal provides the analogy of a train to help explain this: imagine Drupal is a train, and versions are train stations. Previously, with each new version the train track would end, and the Drupal train would have to be moved to a new track. Now, when Drupal 9 releases, the train doesn’t have to leave the track after the Drupal 8 station, nor will it have to with new versions in the future. It will just stop at new stations along the same track. This allows for easier and more seamless upgrades. Essentially, the upgrade path from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 and beyond will be as simple as it currently is to update to minor versions.
How to Upgrade to Drupal 9
Upgrading to Drupal 9 will just be a matter of running update.php. This is provided your codebase does not use deprecated APIs. There are tools available that will identify and fix deprecated APIs in your codebase.
If you are currently on Drupal 7, you don’t have to wait for Drupal 9 to plan your upgrade since it will be identical to the final Drupal 8 release. If you have the time to devote to it now, go ahead and upgrade to Drupal 8 since 90% of the work required to migrate to Drupal 9 is taken care of when migrating to Drupal 8.
Requirements for Upgrading to Drupal 9
- If you are running Drupal 9 on Apache, version 2.4.7 is required at the least
- Drupal 9 requires at least PHP 7.3
- If using Drupal 9 with MySQL or Percona, version 5.7.8 is required
- If using Drupal 9 with MariaDB, version 10.3.7 is required
- If using Drupal 9 with SQLite, version 3.26 is required
- If using Drupal 9 with PostgreSQL, version 10 is required with the pg_trgm extension
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