Third & GroveThird & Grove
Sep 30, 2021 - Elana Lavine

When You Should Be Using Acquia Migrate


We can all agree that any extra assistance in a site replatform is a massive benefit, but knowing if a tool will do the trick without causing more problems is another issue. You can potentially waste more time because not every tool that says “it’s this easy” is really “this easy.” 

Acquia Migrate is the first and only automated migration tool to accelerate Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 migrations by up to 80 percent. We put together this guide to help you understand which kinds of projects work best with Acquia Migrate and where to focus your effort when you’re dealing with custom situations. 

The core uses

Acquia Migrate Accelerator works best if you plan to “lift and shift” your Drupal 7 site, retaining all of your existing content and data structures. The tool assumes you are moving everything 1:1 and will create migrations without needing to hand-write configuration. It even picks replacement Drupal 9 modules based on the modules you use in your existing site. 

For simpler sites that need to move quickly from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 and are suitable for a 1:1 migration approach, the tool can transform the typical development-heavy migration process into one that is far more user-friendly and nearly automatic. The tool inspects your existing site structure and allows you to flag any items that you don’t wish to migrate. Once that is complete, you can start running the migrations themselves. These start with creating the same content types, taxonomies, and other data structures on a new Drupal 9 codebase, then migrating the actual content into the new site. It intelligently monitors dependencies between your content, ensuring that migrations are always run in the correct order.
Another strength is the robust React-based interface that comes with the tool. It allows junior developers — or even non-developers — to easily execute and see the status of their migrations without needing an engineer with knowledge of Drupal’s migration APIs involved in the process. This helps to streamline and potentially save time and money; technically, project managers and QA testers can do much of this work (which wasn’t possible before). They can run migrations themselves, identify any errors, and then involve developers when they are required. Each migration can be rolled back and re-run in case of underlying data changes. The entire process can be refreshed with new data by pulling a new copy of the existing database, allowing only the new and updated content to be migrated instead of what has already been processed.

When you have custom needs

If your site has a complex content model, many custom entities, or is heavily reliant on lesser-known contributed modules, we have found that a more traditional migration approach is ultimately less effort. More complex migrations will require thoughtful, strategic planning and significant re-implementation of custom functionality. 

In our practice, we recommend clients and prospective clients using Drupal 7 move to Drupal 9. We then conduct an audit of their existing site to see what works and what doesn’t. We use those findings to determine the best migration strategy. Existing modules such as Migrate Tools and Migrate Upgrade can be leveraged to help accelerate migration development to a certain extent, even if Migrate Accelerator isn’t appropriate for the project.

Roadmap wishlist

At the moment, Acquia Migrate does not work with multilingual content. It’s on Acquia’s roadmap, and we can’t wait for the next version that includes this support. It also doesn’t support multi-site installations directly, but there is a workaround available.

With any project, strategy should always come first.

All migrations should be planned and mapped, with all of the stakeholders involved in the discussions. Content and code audits will be necessary to provide you with the information you’ll need to plan your migration. Acquia Migrate is a helpful tool, but you can’t rely on an automated system to do your planning. Take this opportunity to resolve any long-standing issues or technical debt; you don’t want to run into the same pain points time and time again. 

Secondly, Acquia Migrate is not a replacement for expertise, so understanding Drupal 9 best practices and requirements is essential for you and your team to fulfill your project needs thoroughly. 
Acquia Migrate Best Practices

There are several essential best practices to follow when leveraging the tool: 

First, make sure to evaluate your current document model and determine if there are any content types or taxonomies that you no longer need. As long as these aren’t referenced by content that you will be migrating, you can save some time and effort by telling the tool to skip the migrations for these items. 

Secondly, be conscious of your custom and contributed module usage and how they interact with your site. Acquia has put a lot of work into the tool’s ability to suggest and migrate into Drupal 9 modules to match your site’s existing functionality, but they have focused primarily on the most commonly used modules from contrib. If you are using a rarely-used, poorly-supported, or custom module for critical site functionality, be prepared to re-implement these in Drupal 9.

Finally, be aware that Migrate Accelerator will only help you migrate your site structure and content. You’ll still have to re-implement your theme by converting it to use the new theme yml definition files and refactor your templates to use the Twig templating engine. This is less time-consuming than the data migration but still requires a careful eye to maintain consistency with your existing theme.

If you have any questions about migration, reach out to our team at any time. We would be happy to assist you.