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Mediacurrent: Acquia's TCO White Paper is a Must Read for Those Marketing Drupal Services

by Dave Terry
January 4, 2010

 There was a new white paper titled "TCO for Open Source Social Publishing: Going Beyond Social Business Software" just released from our partner, Acquia, that deserves spotlight recognition. The document is a must-read for anyone on the front-lines of selling Drupal services. Open-source software (OSS) evangelists have rightfully asserted that platforms like Drupal save organizations the two success factors they crave the most: money and time. However, a quantifiable, written analysis to back these claims was significantly lacking. This paper helps fill that void.

The report provides comparisons between Drupal and some of the more popular proprietary web content management (WCM) platforms on the market like Percussion, Fatwire, Tridion, Crown Peak, and Vignette. While Drupal is free to download, these vendors are charging up to $400,000 for first year licensing (based on 1000 users). In addition, there is ongoing support and maintenance contracts, which are enormously expensive when stacked against Acquia’s subscription based model. The paper also correctly points out other hidden costs that are predicated around simple supply and demand economics. For instance, consultants with harder to find skill sets in a niche proprietary platform consistently demand higher salaries than the more competitive landscape of open-source. The loss of a key developer can be devastating when training and trying to find a replacement is factored in.

Furthermore, the report also magnifies Drupal's growing momentum – key performance indicators include: 611,000 members on, 250,000 downloads per month, 400,000 Drupal sites based in Drupal, 4400 modules, and 741 contributors of the last release. While numbers do not always tell the entire story, the signs of Drupal’s maturity are encouraging and worrisome to our proprietary counterparts.

Acquia also correctly points out that Drupal offers something that technology executive's lust for more than anything – innovation. First released in 2001, Drupal continues to evolve at a breakneck pace. Drupal’s latest release, version seven (7), will include a host of changes for the better based on the collective input and contributions of an international community of developers working towards a united cause. However, the proprietary platforms are driven by financial pressures. title="" />

In 2008, Vignette, once a content management marketing darling, was forced to admit to shareholders that they had lost their innovation edge. The burden of addressing mounting requirements with a fixed pool of technical resources proved overwhelming. Within a year Vignette was acquired by OpenText – in a move designed to “bump Open-Text’s top line revenue to $850 million or so, short-term, while it cherry picks its way through the Vignette catalog of technologies, deciding which to keep and which to sunset. Hardly, reassuring words for current Vignette customers. />

The naysayers will try to split hairs over the numbers in the report or try to erroneously point out other hidden costs associated with extending or customizing Drupal, but they would be naïve in doing so. The proprietary WCMs cannot evade the fact that their costly licensing fees does not equate to better short or long term value over Drupal. In the past, they have been able to because “nobody has been fired for choosing Microsoft” or other more name recognizable logos. The times are rapidly changing though – the customer now has better options that they once lacked, and more precedence from enterprise-level organizations getting on the train.

Where do we go from here? In my opinion, the Drupal community is winning the innovation war. We are offering a far superior solution at a fraction of the cost. More pointedly, the next step should and needs to be better messaging and outreach to those who are thirsty for information outside of the Drupal fishbowl. Acquia, its development partners, and any organization with a vested interest in Drupal’s long term growth need to make a concerted effort to win the public relations battle. This report is a microcosm of insightful data that needs to be trumpeted across a wide-scale audience. Consumer confidence that Drupal is the right choice will only take place if we continue to give buyers the reassurance and collateral they need in order to make an informed decision.

What do you think – any thoughts on the TCO paper you would like to share?


Meet team member, Dave Terry

In Dave's role, he leverages a wide acumen of business and entrepreneurial experience to execute operational objectives. Dave plays a key role in forging strategic partnerships, developing efficient processes, recruiting top talent, and the acquisition and management of enterprise-level accounts.

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