Jon Stewart

With over a decade of experience developing MarTech software across a spectrum of CMS/DXP solutions, encompassing various roles from front-end development to technical strategy, I've immersed myself completely in the realm of enterprise MarTech. From app development for major consumer brands to ultra-secure government contracts, I have lived and breathed enterprise MarTech. Throughout my journey, I’ve come to the major realization:

There's no compelling reason why any organization shouldn't embrace an open source CMS/DXP foundation in their MarTech stack. The evolution of technology has rendered open source solutions not only secure and scalable but also exceptionally cost-effective.


Why should an organization choose open source?

Enterprise organizations should opt for open source software for its multifaceted advantages. The absence of licensing fees leads to significant cost savings, particularly for large-scale deployments. Additionally, the flexibility to customize and tailor solutions ensures alignment with organizational requirements and accommodates evolving changes in the enterprise's dynamics. This customization extends to seamless integration with existing systems, third-party APIs, and microservices, promoting efficiency and extensibility to meet client specifications. Moreover, open source projects benefit from ever-growing global developer communities, facilitating rapid innovation and timely issue resolution. This community-driven approach not only accelerates feature development but also enhances software reliability and security through collective expertise.


Furthermore, open source liberates enterprises from vendor lock-in, enabling them to choose service providers for development, maintenance, or hosting, thereby fostering internal expertise while ensuring security. The transparency of open source code allows thorough scrutiny of security vulnerabilities and compliance requirements, promoting trust and assurance. Additionally, community-driven auditing processes and clear licensing frameworks contribute to compliance adherence, mitigating legal risks. By embracing open source, enterprises gain control, flexibility, and cost-efficiency while leveraging a global network of contributors for ongoing support and innovation.


1. Proprietary Features with Cost-Effective Packaging  

At first glance, it may seem too good to be true. How can a solution that typically costs tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year suddenly be available for free? I shared the same skepticism until I witnessed the release of Drupal 8 and can now confirm its validity.


Open source software comes with no licensing fees, enabling enterprises to make significant upfront cost savings compared to proprietary software. This advantage extends beyond initial procurement to ongoing maintenance and support. Enterprises can allocate their resources more efficiently, investing in areas directly contributing to their business goals rather than spending on software licenses year after year. Additionally, open-source platforms eliminate the need for additional licensing when installing on more servers or adding users.


Recently, our platform, ZenSource, conducted an analysis comparing the costs of building and hosting a Drupal site versus the same instance on Sitecore. Annual licensing and hosting for Sitecore were over 200% higher than the costs associated with installing Drupal, managing core support for security patches and upgrades, as well as hosting it. Furthermore, the custom coding costs associated with Sitecore compared to leveraging the vast foundation of the open-source developer community highlight why open source is the right business move for enterprise organizations.


2. Flexibility and Customization

Open source software offers enterprises unparalleled flexibility to customize the software according to their unique requirements. With access to the underlying source code, organizations can modify and extend the software to meet specific business needs. This level of customization enables enterprises to distinguish themselves in the market, adapt to changing industry trends, and maintain a competitive edge.


For instance, Drupal's development philosophy promotes flexibility, extensibility, and community collaboration, empowering users to adapt the platform to a wide range of use cases, especially as business needs evolve over the lifetime of its strategic roadmaps. In contrast, Sitecore, as a proprietary solution, may prioritize consistency and ease of use for specific scenarios defined by the vendor, potentially limiting customization options for users with unique requirements. Drupal's open-source nature, robust community support, modular architecture, and flexible development approach contribute to its reputation for ease of customization and flexibility compared to proprietary solutions like Sitecore. These factors make Drupal the preferred choice for organizations seeking a highly customizable and adaptable CMS platform.


3. Robust Product Roadmaps Foster Innovation

Open source projects thrive on community collaboration and contribution. Enterprises benefit from the collective expertise of a diverse community of developers, users, and contributors who actively participate in improving open source software. This community-driven model fosters rapid innovation, with new features, enhancements, and bug fixes continuously developed and shared with the broader community. Consequently, with each incremental and major version release, these improvements become stronger.


One question I often receive is about how we began building ZenSource and how it evolved into its current state. The answer is simple – we started with a basic Drupal install as our base and evolved it through real client work and user feedback. For the first three years of ZenSource, every Drupal implementation we completed for a client presented us with new business and functional requirements, essentially providing us with a new opportunity to innovate. The open source community moves quickly and innovates at a high level, aligning well with software product development.


By combining a product development mindset with a client's custom implementation, it was as if we used the open source Drupal community as a set of building blocks to construct a castle. The community moves swiftly, and in most cases, if there's a particular use case, there's likely a module available. While not every module perfectly aligns with our needs, they often provide a crucial foundation and development accelerator.


For example, when we needed to build a multi-site ecosystem where dozens of sites would reside in one Drupal install, we turned to the community for assistance. As expected, we found innovative modules to help kickstart our project because, as previously mentioned, where there's a use case, there's typically a module available. At the time, taking Drupal to a multi-site enterprise CMS was a significant new feature. We utilized those modules to develop our solutions around them and tailored them to our specific needs. Consequently, that client implementation enabled us to incorporate a full suite of multi-site features into our base product and installation.


4. More Vendor Options

Vendor lock-in is a prevalent concern for enterprises when considering proprietary software adoption. If a vendor relationship sours for any reason, the organization becomes tethered to that specific proprietary platform, a scenario often cited as the top complaint in platform migration pitches. Clients frequently express frustration, stating, “We never want to redesign again; upgrades are too expensive,” or, “Developer support is hard to find and costly, and the custom coding effort is prohibitive and slow.”


Conversely, open source software mitigates this risk by providing vendor-neutral solutions untethered to any specific vendor or provider. This freedom extends to both the core software and the hosting environment, as well as opportunities for ongoing support partners. Enterprises enjoy the flexibility to select from a broad range of vendors for support, customization, and integration services, fostering healthy competition and reducing costs. This vendor-agnostic approach empowers organizations to maintain control over their technology stack and avoid dependence on a single vendor's roadmap or pricing strategy.


Another notable feature of our ZenSource platform, contributing to its rapid growth, is its foundation on Drupal and hosting on AWS, two renowned names in the CMS and hosting spheres. Additionally, clients find the platform's open source foundation appealing because it ensures anyone can provide support, including their internal teams if necessary. Furthermore, its portability facilitates easy hosting elsewhere if needed. With our client retention nearly at 100%, the need to change support and the environment remains an outlier, providing clients with peace of mind knowing they have the option if required.


5. Code Transparency and Enterprise Security

 The transparency of open source software code empowers enterprises to enhance transparency and security. Unlike proprietary software, where the inner workings are obscured, open source software allows organizations to inspect the code for security vulnerabilities, compliance requirements, and quality standards. This transparency fosters trust and confidence as enterprises can verify the software's integrity and take proactive measures to address security concerns. Additionally, the widespread adoption of open source software often results in faster identification and resolution of security issues, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the global community. This transparency and security in open source software can be broken down into several key elements:

  • Code Transparency: The open nature of source code enables enterprises to scrutinize it for security vulnerabilities, compliance requirements, and overall quality assurance. This transparency builds trust and confidence in the software's reliability and integrity.
  • Community Auditing: The widespread adoption of open source software facilitates community-driven auditing and peer review processes, leading to faster detection and resolution of security issues. Enterprises benefit from the collective vigilance and expertise of the open source community in safeguarding their digital assets.
  • Compliance Assurance: Open source licenses provide clarity and transparency regarding usage rights and obligations, helping enterprises ensure compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks governing software usage and distribution.


In short, enterprise organizations choose open source for its cost-effectiveness, flexibility, community-driven innovation, vendor neutrality, and enhanced transparency and security. By embracing open source solutions, enterprises can leverage the collective intelligence of the open source community to drive innovation, reduce costs, and achieve their business objectives more effectively.

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