Drupal 7 end-of-life and the UT Drupal Kit

IMPORTANT: The timeline described in this announcement has been superseded by an updated post in March 2022.

Summary (TL;DR)

  • The official end of life for Drupal 7 (D7) is scheduled for November 2022.
  • Regularly scheduled maintenance releases of the D7 version of the UT Drupal Kit will end at that time.
  • Site owners responsible for sites running Drupal 7, with or without the use of the UT Drupal Kit, should be planning to move these sites to a supported CMS.

History of Drupal 7 and the UT Drupal Kit

The first two major versions of the UT Drupal Kit (UTDK 1 and 2) were released in 2015, and were based on Drupal 7 (D7). Drupal 7 was already a “mature” platform at that time, having been originally released in January 2011. Drupal 8 was in its beta phase during the UTDK 2 development process, but at the time we did not feel like the software was ready to use asĀ  the foundation of our campus distribution. Additionally, D8 represented a huge shift and learning curve from D7, and our team’s expertise was still very much focused on D7.

As it turned out, Drupal 8.0.0 and UTDK 2.0 were released just days apart in November 2015, but D8 didn’t really hit its stride in terms of feature-completion and adoption for quite some time after that. Arguably, the modern version of Drupal we know today didn’t arrive until the additional of Layout Builder as a stable module in Drupal 8.7, almost four years later!

Fast-forward almost seven years from November 2015, and we’ve gotten an incredible amount of mileage from both D7 and UTDK 2. D7 celebrates its 11th birthday this month, and UTDK 2 has successfully laid the groundwork for adoption of a campus CMS distribution at the University of Texas. As the saying goes, though, all good things must come to an end.

After a COVID-inspired reprieve from the originally scheduled date of November 2021, D7 will finally reach its official end-of-life (EOL) on November 28, 2022. And as discussed here previously, there is no direct upgrade path for D7 sites to any newer version of Drupal. Instead, all D7 sites must be rebuilt in a newer version of Drupal (or some other CMS platform).

The programmatic migration of content from D7 to a newer version is supported by the Drupal core’s Migrate module and API, but does not account for the actual building of Drupal site features such as content types, taxonomy vocabularies, and Views — all of that work must be done in a site based on a modern version of Drupal (“modern” meaning version 8 or higher).

Life after the end-of-life

So, what does it really mean when we say that Drupal 7 will reach it’s “official end-of-life?” After all, D7 sites will not suddenly stop working on November 29. And the incentives for the significant amount of work required to move a site to a newer, supported platform may be hard to see, in the face of competing priorities and limited resources. But there are real consequences to this milestone which should not be underestimated.

As outlined in the original PSA for Drupal 7 retirement, here is what to expect after November 28, 2022:

  • Drupal 7 will no longer be supported by the community at large. The community at large will no longer create new projects, fix bugs in existing projects, write documentation, etc. around Drupal 7.
  • There will be no more core commits to Drupal 7.
  • The Drupal Security Team will no longer provide support or Security Advisories for Drupal 7 core or contributed modules, themes, or other projects. Reports about Drupal 7 vulnerabilities might become public creating 0 day exploits.
  • All Drupal 7 releases on all project pages will be flagged as not supported. Maintainers can change that flag if they desire to.
  • On Drupal 7 sites with the update status module, Drupal Core will show up as unsupported.
  • After [November 2022], using Drupal 7 may be flagged as insecure in 3rd party scans as it no longer gets support.

Drupal 7 Vendor Extended Support

Similar to the Drupal 6 Long Term Support program, the Drupal project has established a “Drupal 7 Vendor Extended Support” (D7ES) program to help bridge the gap for the many sites which will not be able to move off of Drupal 7 by November 2022.

Under this program, a group of approved and vetted vendors will continue to provide security updates for Drupal 7 core and certain contrib modules through November 2025. These vendors will be authorized to provide Extended Support to customers as a paid service with the endorsement of the Drupal Project.

Under the terms of the D7ES program, security patches will also be made publicly available through Drupal.org, for free, at the same time that the vendors can distribute the patches to their customers.

Impact for the UT Drupal Kit

After November 2022, ITS will no longer provide regularly scheduled maintenance releases of the D7 branch of the UT Drupal Kit. ITS does not plan to engage a D7ES vendor under a paid contract, but relevant patches for issues released as open source code under D7ES program will be incorporated into ad-hoc Drupal Kit releases as needed.

This should absolutely not be viewed as a long-term alternative to migrating or retiring D7-based websites. As time goes on, there are bound to be issues with D7 modules which will not be addressed by the D7ES program. In some cases these issues may be the result of version incompatibilities with underlying dependencies such as PHP, Apache, or MySQL, which cannot effectively be addressed. Site owners should be planning today for how they will migrate their sites as soon as possible, if not actually by the November 2022 end-of-life milestone.

ITS will monitor available site reporting data to track the remaining UTDK 2 sites in production, and work with site owners as needed to help develop plans for these sites to be migrated or retired.

The good news

Future major version updates to Drupal will no longer require a complete site replacement or migration. For example, the current 3.x version of the UT Drupal Kit has already been updated from Drupal 8 to 9, and we are already preparing to make the move to Drupal 10 as soon as possible after it is released later this year. So barring some unforeseen change, UTDK 3 should allow site owners to carry forward for years to come without the need to go through this process again.

The other positive news is that ITS has developed a programmatic migration path for all of the stock components of UTDK 2, based on Drupal’s core Migrate API. This code has already been used within ITS to migrate over 30 sites to UTDK 3, and was also used by the Moody College of Communication to migrate six of their heavily customized UTDK 2 sites to UTDK 3. Any UTDK 2 site owners interested in investigating the viability of programmatic migration should email drupal-kit-support@utlists.utexas.edu to initiate a discussion.

 

 

By Paul Grotevant

Paul Grotevant is the Senior IT Manager of Web Content Management Solutions for Information Technology Services at the University of Texas at Austin.