An illustration shows the Drupal 8 logo projected on a city building at night.

Upgrading to Drupal 8

Author: Phil Lamb

This blog is from a presentation given at the We Are Digital Commons event on October 29, 2019

Drupal 7 will be moving to non-community-maintained status two years from now, so we need to upgrade to the next version in order to continue to benefit from community-driven improvements and benefits. 

Before discussing what the future would look like, Phil offered a glimpse at the past and highlight some of our accomplishments over the last few years. The Digital Commons platform has evolved. 

  • Moved all infrastructure into easily scaled, robust cloud architecture on AWS (Amazon Web Serivices)
  • 46 releases over the last 20 months with little to no associated downtime
  • 682 tasks completed in Jira, our ticket management tool
  • Process is solidified, but technology is always changing. It's upgrade time!

We have moved our entire infrastructure into the cloud, we have transformed our development processes utilizing Scrum and Agile principles, and we have made the platform as a whole more secure, stable and accessible. We have a great process, but as noted, technology does not stop moving forward. So we're moving forward, too.

Open Source

Something important to keep in mind, Digital Commons is part of a much larger ecosystem of websites running on the Drupal content management system. Drupal is an open-source, community-built project. What that means is, there are hundreds of people working every day to make the CMS more secure, performant and accessible. We get all of those improvements for ‘free’ for all actively maintained versions. 

It is our goal to have all Digital Commons sites migrated onto Drupal 8 before the end of the community support window.

A graphic illustrates that Community Support for Drupal will end in November 2021

So what does this process look like? Let's think about the project like a train riding on tracks. We can see the tracks are ending up ahead, so we need to move our content 'train' to the open set of tracks. Our sites themselves, their content, users, etc, are not changing profoundly; we're just making sure our train can keep moving forward. Drupal as a community project has historically followed this 'moving the train to new tracks' implementation model for previous versions. From Drupal 8 onward, the 'changing tracks' method will no longer be necessary.

A graphic uses train and tracks to illustrate that any changes after Drupal 8 will be much easier.

All previous slides courtesy of Dries Buytaert

Sneak Peek

Phil went on to demonstrate a few of the neat features of Drupal 8. A well-received change is the new ability to search within documents!  See below where a document search for 'Contributions in aid of construction' netted no results in Drupal 7 (D7) search...

...But the same search, in Drupal 8 (D8) turned up three separate documents containing the search criteria!

A screen shot of 'search' in Drupal 8 that allows for search within documents.

Change is good! Read Marla's blog on our plan for the migration!

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