When your Open Source WCM system gets enterprisey

We've been following the open source segment of the web content & experience management (WCM) marketplace for more than 15 years. The diversity of approaches you can find there has been good for both customers and the marketplace at large.

In particular, you can see the same spectrum of platform versus product architectures that you see among commercial vendors. But also like their commercial brethren, you can see a kind of restless desire among the major open source WCM projects to go "up-market," by making their systems more enterprise-friendly -- and by extension more complicated. Part of this transition doubtless stems from upward pressure by WordPress, an almost ridiculously easy system to launch and configure -- if not always extend, scale, and secure.

Perhaps the best example of going up-market is Drupal. In what promises to be a major overhaul led by Acquia in the forthcoming version 8, Drupal will try to become more object-oriented and locked-down. Even Joomla, a platform we long lauded for its pure simplicity, is steadily becoming much richer and more platform-like.

Among our research subscribers from larger enterprises, this is good news. And indeed, these projects are following their commercial brethren in catering more to power users and developers, as customers increasingly professionalize their web operations.

However, any move up-market jeopardizes the large base of small integrators who make a living out of converting developer-oriented systems like Drupal into low-cost offerings for smaller customers. This tension appears to be bubbling up in several communities, and even overflowed into a planned fork of Drupal by some smaller development and hosting shops. Joomla will continue to support two different (and not yet compatible) main branches until at least the end of this year.

Our Web CMS Report charts these developments on a tool-by-tool basis, and we've been sharing some broader advice with our subscribers. A couple of conclusions seem worth highlighting:

  1. If you seek simpler, more productized WCM solutions, you may find low-end commercial offerings a better (and cheaper) fit
  2. Monitor potential turbulence in open source systems you adopt, and if you plan to exploit the latest and most enterprisey features, carefully identify integrators with adequate experience in those areas; i.e., seek depth in these communities over the traditional benefits of breadth.

If you're an RSG subscriber and want to discuss these trends in more detail, simply contact us to schedule a chat or presentation to your team.

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