Clickability, a proprietary SaaS platform for content management, has compared SaaS to Open Source. Not only is the comparison inaccurate, it omits the downsides of SaaS and frankly, they are comparing apples to oranges. Open Source is a licensing and development model, SaaS is a software delivery model. Either they are distorting things on purpose, or they don't understand Open Source at all. In other words, time to look at some good ol' FUD and to share my take on Open Source versus SaaS.

To give you a sample of their comparison, take Clickability's take on integration:

Clickability integration
Screenshot taken from Clickability's SaaS vs Open Source comparison.

One of the biggest advantages of using Open Source software is that there are no limits on what services you are "allowed" to integrate it with. Given the number of sites that Drupal powers and the size and strength of the Drupal project, official integrations with other software and service vendors are abundant for Drupal. If you need integration, for example, with a highly specialized, niche product or web service, it may already exist among the 6,000 contributed modules for Drupal. If it doesn't, you are free to create it yourself. The same is true for other Open Source projects. Good luck getting that into the development cycle of a proprietary SaaS platform.

In many ways, Open Source is actually less risky than putting all your eggs in a single proprietary-software-basket. If you are unhappy with a particular Open Source company or service, you can take all the code and go to the next company.

Or take their section on hosting and performance:

Clickability performance
Screenshot taken from Clickability's SaaS vs Open Source comparison.

I won't even begin to debunk what they write on self-hosting -- it doesn't have anything to do with being Open Source. Suffice to say that the great thing about FUD is that it validates our work in the Open Source community. They wouldn't have such a comparison page if they weren't worried about Open Source disrupting or slowing down their business.

My take on Open Source versus SaaS?

It is true that SaaS enables organizations to save money on hardware, configuration efforts and avoid hosting and maintenance hassles. However, proprietary SaaS vendors like Clickability need to ask themselves what happens when we start building SaaS solutions based on Open Source values. Open Source SaaS offerings, like Acquia's Drupal Gardens offer the convenience and support of SaaS multiplied by the benefits of Open Source.


Island Usurper (not verified):

Wow, I don't think I've seen a bigger straw man argument than that second screenshot. Suddenly, owning a computer now means you're contributing to that evil Open Source movement. (If only it did!)

Gerhard Killesreiter (not verified):

Wow Dries, I don't recall you calling a spade a spade that clearly very often.

I guess SaaS providers are really getting cold feet seeing that people start to build SaaS solutions based on Open Source, too.

ben (not verified):

"Selling the milk when the cow is free" works great!

I run a small business, offering Open Atrium aaS. I think we need even more people do this. It benefits everyone, and clients do not have to fear anything because they can go and host it on their own at any time. Its a more open, honest way of doing business.

Kieran Lal (not verified):

I've been helping to move Clickability customers to Acquia hosting, support, and remote administration using Drupal. I know that I've personally involved in 2 deals in the last 6 months to move them. I am sure many of their other customers are moving as well.

In both cases, the customers have lowered their annual costs, dramatically increased the amount of available features for their sites, secured unlimited support without Clickability's high hourly support rates.

I'll look into getting some webinars and perhaps a case study so former clickability customers can tell their own stories of how they saved money and got more value by using Drupal and Acquia's products for even better quality service.

Drupal Community Adventure Guide

Ajayg (not verified):

I won't even begin to debunk what they write on self-hosting -- it doesn't have anything to do with being Open Source. Suffice to say that the great thing about FUD is that it validates our work in the Open Source community.

Although I completely agree with rest of your article, this is one point where I disagree. It is a fact that FUD works for some audience. And I think it is important for open source leaders like you not to ignore it and openly address it whenever possible.

Pythonist (not verified):

"Open Source SaaS offerings, like Acquia's Drupal Gardens offer the convenience and support of SaaS multiplied by the benefits of Open Source."

With all respect, Dries, how is it different from Clickability? Apparently their software is built using Ruby on Rails and deployed on Apache. Both are Open Source. How do we know that they haven't contributed plugins and patches back to the Rails community? Forget their FUD for a minute. Escaping from Open Source is just not possible for any SaaS company.

Talking about Drupal Gardens, it is nothing but an "integration" of various Drupal modules on cloud but this "integration" itself is proprietary unless it is released as an Open Source Drupal distribution just like Acquia Drupal or Open Atrium.

As Richard Stallman says, SaaS is not compatible with Open Source.


Drupal Gardens is different in that we allow people to export the code, the theme and data that makes up their site. In other words, you can export your Drupal Gardens website at any point in time and move it to self-hosting.

Noah Logan (not verified):

At Clickability, we agree that comparing SaaS to Open Source is indeed like comparing apples to oranges. Both provide valid, valuable WCM solution offerings and we will happily discuss what we see as the differences between solutions. Acquia's Drupal Gardens presents a new option in the vast marketplace for WCM solutions and we view all innovation as good for the marketplace. I look forward to seeing how it evolves.

Noah Logan
VP New Markets

Robert Douglass (not verified):

Noah, how about saying as much on the Clickability article that is being discussed? Or better yet, reconsidering whether that page really does you any good in the long run?

It would make a great subtitle:
"SaaS vs. Open Source - How Clickability compares apples to oranges"

Kishore Mandyam (not verified):

As a SaaS provider, I see this Clickability thing as a sad attempt at publicity. Personally, I LIKE Open Source - we use lots of it in our offerings (even blogged about that somewhere). And if there's an Open Source option that's as good as our overall SaaS offering, we should be really worried as a business - someone will figure out very quickly how to offer a SaaS version of that Open Source solution.
Great write-up, terrific comments, but Jacob's is absolutely on-the-button!

Jim Smith (not verified):

As someone who works with a SaaS product (which happens to be a competitor of Clickability) and Open Source products (particularly Drupal), I understand the value of both. I also understand why this FUD argument was made. Corporate managers who make decisions about such things as which content management system to use often don't have the time, patience or experience to grasp and weigh the differences. So for them, fear, uncertainty and doubt are just enough help to sway their decision-making.

Chris Johnson (not verified):

It took me until about half way through the post to figure out that SaaS stands for Software as a Service. It would probably be a good idea to tell your audience that up front -- and maybe even describe what it means.

And my confusion is not because I'm ignorant of the field (this for commenters rather than Dries who knows me). I was working on a project which delivered software as a service back in 2006, and that phrase was part of our daily conversations. It's only recently that someone decided to abbreviate it SaaS and I rather doubt it has widespread use and recognition.

I agree with commenters who characterized the comparison as laughable -- it so far off the mark, and it not even comparing like things. However, there will be far too many corporate types who will read this marketing hype and actually believe it. It's the very reason that FUD is used in the first place.

Mukhsim (not verified):


In my opinion competitive threat to Drupal (and Acquia) comes not from proprietary solutions but from other OSS, such as WordPress. WP is catching up with Drupal in terms of richness yet Drupal is still not usable by general audience who want to install and tweak things through web interface without getting to know ssh/chmod/phpmyadmin/mysql.

If Drupal, along with its contributed modules and themes, cannot be installed and configured through web interface, then it cannot be installed and configured by 99% of the people.

WordPress can. Also, an upgrade from 2.x to 3.0 requires just a few clicks.

Just my $.02,