Recently Sitecore, a vendor of a proprietary CMS, published a white paper called "The Siren Song of Open Source CMS". It has some good old Open Source FUD.

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were seductresses who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices, only to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. In the world of enterprise software, Open Source applications have an appeal that many companies find hard to resist, but if heeded, can lead to similarly disastrous results: runaway development costs, unpredictable delays, frustratingly slow responses to urgent support issues, and exponential growth in downstream upgrade and enhancement costs.

In this case they enrolled the CEO of a digital agency to say all the FUD, as if that would either lend additional credibility to the FUD, or behind which they could hide their own feelings:

As it happened, after several successful experiences using WordPress (an open blogging platform) and Drupal (an Open Source CMS application) in small-scale deployments, agencyQ experimented with using Drupal for larger, enterprise-caliber sites. … We quickly discovered that Drupal's capabilities were a mile wide and an inch deep.

Attempting a complex implementation with any platform with only limited experience in simple sites really just reveals the inexperience of the implementer rather than the limits of Drupal. The site shows all by itself that Drupal can scale to high-profile, high-function, high-volume websites.

Lack of support has a ripple effect across an Open Source CMS project", Breen says. "Because you are starting with a blank slate, in terms of your system's functionality, anything can happen. And when issues arise, the absence of responsive support means that deadlines slip. As a service-driven agency, that is simply not good for business. … It all comes down to accountability, about which Breen jokes, "In high tech there is an old saying that salespeople invoke when they want to be your sole-source provider: 'You want one throat to choke.' While that's pretty graphic, it gets to the point: When something's not working with software, I need one number to call, one person to speak to who's going to help me."

I take offense to the notion that there is no good support for an Open Source CMS. With Drupal, enterprises can look to Acquia for the "one throat to choke", or can tap into a community of 600,000 developers if they want breadth.

After making a concerted effort to work with an Open Source CMS, non-existent support was the last straw with what Breen found to be Open Source's extremely expensive total cost of ownership (TCO). In website development projects, CMS software costs typically comprise 5% of the total implementation costs. "But by saving 5% in software costs by choosing an Open Source CMS, you drive up the 95% of the 'other' costs significantly. That's not a good value equation, by any measure", he says.

The numbers in their own white paper don't add up. They suggest that Sitecore licenses only represent 5% of the project's total implementation cost. We know from analyst firm Real Story Group that the Sitecore license component of a deal is $100,000 on average. That means that the average Sitecore project costs $2 million? That is much more than the average Drupal project.

Where have you seen this kind of FUD before? From any proprietary software vendor that is starting to feel competitive blows from an Open Source alternative. I see this white paper as a victory for Open Source and Drupal as they are being forced to call us out. Drupal is hurting them. Sitecore has reasons to be afraid.

Maybe the Siren that Sitecore is hearing is from the ambulance they've called for help? ;-)


Lars Fløe Nielsen (not verified):

Hi Dries. This is a great debate. Sitecore is focused on the success of many client and partner organizations and continued innovation, just as you are. We are proud to share customer and partner stories/experiences and in this example it was a white paper based on experiences. We do not believe that sharing experiences qualifies as FUD. We are asked on a daily basis to share more stories to further differentiate ourselves; we’ve listened and responded. You have a good point about the story – that was a great win. The innovation and excellence that customers demand make this an exciting and busy time for all.

Bert Geens (not verified):

Extrapolating the failure of one organization to pull of a project onto an entire ecosystem that has proven to be able to pull of MUCH larger projects with great success is the very definition of FUD.

The article Dries cites qualifies ten times over.

Kieran Lal (not verified):

Hi Lars, if you were really interested in sharing stories Sitecore would change the restrictive license on the document in question.

Restricted Rights Legend
This document may not, in whole or in part, be photocopied, reproduced, translated, or reduced to any electronic medium or machine readable form without prior consent, in writing, from Sitecore. Information in this document is subject to change without notice and does not represent a commitment on the part of Sitecore.

We've engaged with Sitecore through customers on several occasions and it seems to be a matter of pride among Sitecore employees to ignore the existence of commercial support for Drupal from Acquia, viable support options from or over a thousand quality Drupal service providers.

We do point out these tactics to your potential customers in the process of converting them to Drupal users.

Technical Director, Enterprise Sales

xtfer (not verified):

Having "someone to choke" doesn't mean that your problem is actually going to be fixed. Just more FUD.

Ryan (not verified):

Great post Dries. I cannot begin to understand how a proprietary software company can try to push that there is less support for an opensource project.

Every time I've had a problem with any large opensource project I've been working with, I had an answer within minutes via Google and the huge forums dedicated to large opensource CMS projects.

And realistically, if someone is paying me 2mil to develop a site for them, one would hope I would pick up the phone if they experienced problems with what I've created for them.

I offer that level of service for a LOT LOT less, so I'm not sure what type of developer customers Sitecore has, but it doesn't sound like Sitecore trusts them to deliver adequate service for their products.

But then, that's not the point is it -- as you said, it's a fearful industry trying to find whatever they can, however illogical, to defend an outdated model.

Dhintak (not verified):

So why have many many large sites moved out of Drupal even if they were on Acquia Drupal?

Mpumelelo Msimanga (not verified):

Dhintak, please may you provide some references? I don't think Drupal is the solution for everything so I would be interested in learning from organisations who have not been able to make it work. I would like to avoid the same pitfalls.

Mpumelelo Msimanga (not verified):

Ultimately the cost of maintenance of a system exceeds the cost of development of the system. Maintenance includes enhancements and upgrades. Proprietary vendors know this and are willing to give licensing "discounts" knowing fully well that once as an organisation you are locked into their software. They stand to reap the profits in "support", upgrades and customisation. A huge advantage with OSS is that you share the maintenance with other organisations and in the long run your costs are much cheaper.

A leadership style that seeks to want to "choke" someone is questionable in my book. It shows a lack of planning or understanding of the application. No thanks I have worked in organisations where the standard response to any problem was to try find someone to blame. They tend to be unhappy places.

Robert Douglass (not verified):

Mpumelelo, "One throat to choke" is not a leadership style. It's an expression that indicates a single source for all of your platform needs so that you don't have to cobble them together yourself:

When you have "one throat to choke" it means your vendors don't get into a blaming war amongst themselves when something goes wrong. The "one throat" stands up, takes responsibility, and gets things fixed.


Sateesh NVL (not verified):

I absolutely agree with you Dries. The world economy needs open source and open minds. It is difficult for many proprietors to understand why would anyone give away their code/service free! Its just out of their thinking realms. Passion is something that got replaced by 'just business'. As you rightly pointed out, the problems outlined are issues of improper design and implementation and not the issue with the software itself.

I feel, the forum posts on Drupal are 100s of times more clear and descriptive than any user manual one may get with enterprise software in typical technical writer's style.

And there are no doubts they are hearing the sirens ;-)

See you when you are in Hyderabad this 11th.

Chris Flink (not verified):

Great write-up Dries!

I agree that we should see these false comments as a victory!

It is always good to consider several alternatives, both open and closed source, but in this consideration it is important to have the right facts and figures.

In general one should be aware that the main purpose of commercial white papers is marketing: the companies own product will appear as the best choice (what a surprise!).

In the case of the Sitecore white paper, it is not the own product that is being promoted but the competition is falsely accused of being incapable. We should point them to the Buddhist quote: "Anytime you point the finger of blame at someone, remember that there are 4 fingers pointing back at you."

Anonymous_754 (not verified):

I know this may sound superficial, but what else can I say?
I'm not telling the community support is as good as professional, I've been in serious trouble before because of the lack of community support for "advanced" technical questions. But nowadays, all the opensource platforms has competent professional support, paid of course.
Not to tell that if your company really needs fast support you can always hire a 'guru' (as we call the indie specialized&fanatic guys in my country) for 24h quick'n'cheap support.
There are a bunch of guys I know that can even modify the core files of Drupal to add complex functionality in a matter of few hours. Not to tell about the Joomla guys.
About Sitecore, of course they want to sell their fish (another thing we say in my country :) ) but this is an unfair and "groin" attack.
Maybe they're just desperate because their business began to shrink and they're unstoppably going the cliff.
Don't let those stupid words bother you.

PS: I really don't like any of those .NET CMSs. PHP rules here imho.

Hal Burgiss (not verified):

What kind of bollocks is this? Is this guy saying "an agency" got in over their heads and failed to accomplish something? "An agency"? I must have missed something.

As someone who does a lot of work with agencies using mostly open source products, this does not pass the sniff test. The only explanation is gross incompetency. AgencyQ obviously needed help, someone who knew WTF they were doing. Drupal has the ultimate support: the source code, and many thousands of users sharing their development knowledge.

OK, agencyQ gets in over their head. They spec out a project and then can't pull it off. They clearly lack skill. So go get some. Worse comes to worse outsource ... go overseas ... whatever you have to do, but get some talent. Checking on I find 64 developers listed as Sitecore professionals and 10,046 as Drupal developers. AgencyQ is just incompetent. They need to pay their way out of their mess, one way or the other.

My only brush with Sitecore was just earlier this week when a former colleague, now with a statewide nonprofit, asked if I knew anything about Sitecore. Nope. The issue was that she wanted an image carousel on the frontpage of an existing site, and was told that Sitecore could not do that. Without knowing much about Sitecore, I suspect incompetency here too because that kind of thing has been brain dead easy for years now.

Serafina (not verified):

Full disclosure: I work for Sitecore but have to address this specifically.

Sitecore has image carousels on its own homepage of the site, and numerous clients that do this, such as It is absolutely possible to do this, so sadly your colleague was woefully misinformed.

Hal Burgiss (not verified):

I strongly suspected Sitecore could do this. I would be very surprised otherwise.

But in this carousel case, a human got in the way. And that probably, more often than not, is why web projects fall apart. They aren't spec'd properly, they are underquoted, the development team lacks the knowledge/skill, the timeline is unrealistic ... what have you. If its lack of knowledge or skill, there are plenty of resources for that, whether its open or not. Not being to access that, is a purely human failure.

I say this to buttress the point that agencyQ's problem had nothing to do with Open Source solutions, but was a failing by human(s) in the project who did know enough to pull something off. That seems obvious to me. And its just like the carousel situation. Reboot the team.

In any case, the original article being referenced is clearly indeed FUD and shows a lack of understanding about open source, project management and web development in general.

Joe Bachana (not verified):

Serafina: "Do This" as in someone can write custom code to present a carousel, or there is an out-of-box module that ships with SiteCore that may be configured for this purpose?

Serafina (not verified):

There are Rotator module options for WebControls to display images (and other content) in the Shared Source library of add-ons Sitecore supports. Designers always have the option to create something themselves as well.

Harry Slaughter (not verified):

Seriously, I could not agree more and could not have explained it any more clearly and precisely.

There are no words for how I feel about that sort of propaganda. It reminds me of the congressional hearings on the Wall Street crimes that took place. The criminals were all telling the absolute truth but in reverse, relying on the hope that the audience was too stupid to see through it.

The good news is that anyone intelligent and experienced enough to build a site like will simply laugh at this.

There may be a place for overpriced, commercial CMSs. I don't know. But each and everyone of the points you mentioned are certainly not going to make that case.

Anonymous (not verified):

I work with Sitecore everyday and, for the most part, it is not a very developer friendly CMS to use. They are trying to differentiate themselves by putting their resources into their Marketing functionality (OMS/DMS/BS), while building sites in Sitecore can be a headache. For instance, if you want the simple ability to have one item display in multiple places in your site (based on a taxonomy tagging), you either have to use their "cloning" or wildcards, and parse the URL. On top of that, searching in Sitecore is painfully slow (Sitecore queries) and you have to resort to using their broken implementation of Lucene do get any serious searching done.

I would avoid Sitecore based soley on how developer unfriendly it is.

Joe Bachana (not verified):


you should open-source your white paper so that other industry professionals can evaluate its contents.

Having implemented proprietary AND open-source Web content management and ECM platforms for the majority of my career, and also having evaluated the architecture of SiteCore as well as that of Drupal in that time, I'd be quite curious to take a look at your agency partner's content to see if the criticisms hold any merit or if they are indeed just sales FUD ('fear the open-source bogeyman').

To emphasize a point that Dries made, Drupal - as in any ECM/WCM - can be improperly implemented, especially by neophytes. There are drupal agencies that work with the technology for many years but who can still run into difficulties with particular use cases or requirements from a customer - just as one would encounter challenges with a SiteCore implementation. However, the beauty of the Drupal community is there is a lifeline, not just in Acquia, but in thousands of committed contributors that are always eager to help. Having implemented Drupal at high performance, high traffic sites like, dozens at NYU Langone Medical Center, Consumer Search, and many more, I find the sound bite "a mile wide and an inch deep" to be quite ignorant.

Looking forward to receive an unrestricted read of this white paper in question to comment further.

Mr. Anon (not verified):

I work at a large company that has money to burn - and one of the latest things they burned a pile of cash on (about 1.2 million) was a Sitecore implementation. It's absolute garbage btw - everyone hates it and our corporate website crashes constantly. Even the most trivial development is a nightmare. No way regular users can use it to edit content.
I have used and developed on Drupal for my personal/side projects and it never disappoints.

Sometimes I think the whole world is an illusion created by a god with a very hard to understand sense of humor - I am amazed how large corporations buy into crap like Sitecore, MSFT etc.

Charles Herring (not verified):

Largely, the reason Drupal opens itself up to this kind of attack is because of the degree of flexibility it offers. If you go with Sitecore, you have Sitecore & their approved Dev shops at your disposal. It is easy to talk about the Sitecore experience because compared to Drupal there is much less variability. The Drupal development and support options are diverse. First, you have the option of creating a Drupal project in house. Sitecore won't allow you the option of wrecking your Sitecore project; you have to use Sitecore resources. A Drupal solution also requires you to vet your own development shop. This opens a buyer up to make a decision based on cost instead of value, choosing a cheaper developer and often being disappointed with the result. Sitecore doesn't allow you to hurt yourself in such away. This also negatively impacts Drupal value perspective when buyers have one Drupal solution quoted at $800 and another for $250k. Not understanding the differences between development firms, capabilities & quoted functionality cause frustration on the buyers' part leaving him unclear on what the real cost is to develop on Drupal.

So the major benefit of Sitecore is that it's inflexibility reduces the bad options a buyer can make. This is a poor selling point. My last point is the real business argument: value. If you approach the variables of Drupal development as a series of opportunities for creating a high value business solution, the potential for beating Sitecore in value is very high. For every dollar spent in Drupal development you may be able to implement functionality and/or support that greatly exceeds the Sitecore cost.

There is no doubt that I love Drupal & find it to be a superior platform for many projects. It is clear to me from the Sitecore paper that Drupal's strength through resilient flexibility can be used as an avenue for attack to those who don't have the benefit of understanding the power of the options inherent in a Drupal project.