Drupal 6 End-of-Life and Migration Planning

On the Drupal Migration Trail

Drupal 6 was released in February of 2008 and on February 26th, 2016, after 7 years, Drupal 6 was retired, in accordance with the Drupal community’s policy of only providing active support for two major versions of Drupal at any given time. You can read more about the Drupal 6 End-of-Life (EOL) here. While it is possible to migrate a Drupal 6 (or 7) site to Drupal 8, the tools are still in flux. While simple sites make for simple migrations—since most sites are not simple and require considerable research, planning, and effort to migrate—migration remains a complex process. Continue reading to find out more about how Drupal 6’s end-of-life impacts Drupal site owners and what options you have if you still run a Drupal 6 site.

What does this mean for you, if you’re running a Drupal 6 site? This is a tricky question to answer, and there’s no concrete schedule declaring what you should do and when you should do it. But here are some things you should consider:

  • Your existing site will continue to function exactly as it does right now, and will continue to do so indefinitely. So there’s no need to panic. But it certainly accelerates the need to update your site to a supported version of Drupal.
  • There will no longer be security updates for Drupal 6 core provided by the community. Contributed module maintainers may choose to provide patches or new releases for their own modules, but Drupal 6 is no longer officially supported.
  • The Drupal Security Team is working with a few vendors who are willing to provide paid support for Drupal 6 sites beyond February 24th, 2016. That list of vendors can be found here. There is no guarantee as to how long this program will continue. However, if you continue to operate a Drupal 6 site it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the list of vendors providing continuing support or to confirm with your current team, or vendors, that they understand the implications of supporting Drupal 6.
  • Start planning—and executing—your migration to Drupal 8.

Planning a Migration? Awesome. We’ve got your back.

For many people, at this point the best course of action is to start the process of upgrading your site to Drupal 8. Depending on the complexity of your site, this can be a daunting task: a lot to learn and a still shifting set of best practices.

At the time of this writing (beginning of March 2016), the Migration support in Drupal 8.0.x is still experimental—and things are changing rapidly. This makes planning and executing a migration slightly more challenging. The tools required to do any successful migration are spread across core and contributed modules. People contributing to Migrate continue to refine the core APIs and move more of the essential functionality into core and out of contributed modules. The good news is that it’s getting better—and more powerful—quickly. The bad news is that at any given time you can expect to put a bit of up-front legwork into figuring out the current state of the Migrate tools and how to use them right now. This will settle down eventually and best practices will emerge, but it is hard to say how long that will take. So knowing how the pieces fit together continues to be important.

For now, here are some issues to keep an eye on:

Additionally you’ll need to consider the contributed module landscape before performing a migration. Many contributed modules from Drupal 6 and 7 have been moved into core for Drupal 8, and tons of contributed modules are in the process of being ported. Though knowing if they are complete and support migrations, or if there’s a new and better way to accomplish the same functionality in Drupal 8, is another thing you’ll need to learn to assess on your own.

As the Migrate API and associated modules mature, and as more contributed modules are ported to Drupal 8, performing a migration will get simpler. But no matter what the tools look like, data migrations are never as easy as we want them to be.

If you’re ready to jump in and start performing a migration now here are a few good resources to help get you started:

Over the coming months we’ll be releasing a comprehensive guide to using the Drupal 8 Migrate API and related contributed modules to plan and execute a successful migration from Drupal 6 or 7 to Drupal 8.

Right now we’re both figuring out what to cover, and writing some of the content we already know we’ll need for sure. We’re not quite ready to publish our proposed outline for the guide, but here’s some of the things we’re planning to cover:

  • The current state of the Drupal 8 Migrate API, and how you can evaluate it yourself
  • Terminology related to the Migrate API and the Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) process it uses
  • The current contributed module landscape
  • Evaluating your Drupal 6, or Drupal 7 site, with an eye towards planning a migration
  • How to prepare a Drupal 8 site to serve as the target for a migration
  • Running, rolling back, and debugging migrations via the Drupal UI, Drush, or Drupal console
  • Writing migration plugins
  • Special considerations for handling user uploaded files during migrations
  • And more

In addition to looking at Drupal-to-Drupal migrations we’ll also be expanding the guide in the future with information about performing migrations and data-imports from non-Drupal sources.

Are there any burning questions or concerns you’ve got about migrating your site to Drupal 8? Let us know what you need to learn in the comments and we’ll do our best to make sure that it’s covered in our Drupal 8 Migration Guide.

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Thank you William for this post. This is exactly the information I needed to find. I'm migrating from Drupal 6.37 and I'm looking to go to Drupal 8. Your article helps. Thank you.

I'm glad you liked it Thomas, thanks!

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