First, I need to point out that this isn’t exactly a one-to-one comparison. Both Drupal and AEM are built using different technologies and platforms. AEM is a proprietary software designed for the largest and most complex enterprises while Drupal is open source and is designed to be useful for a wide variety of applications.
AEM and Drupal are performing, at their core, the same work. It is the way they do the work, the means and features they are packed with that make them different.
We pulled data about the market share of AEM and Drupal using data from Wappalyzer: https://www.wappalyzer.com/
The data shows that while fewer sites use platforms like AEM or Drupal, both AEM and Drupal are used by sites with high traffic. AEM and Drupal are leading platforms for enterprise websites that excel in reaching a large audience.
Drupal has great standard features such as easy content authoring, reliable performance, and excellent security. But what sets it apart is its flexibility; modularity is one of its core principles. Its tools help you build the versatile, structured content that dynamic web experiences need.
Drupal is open source and supports the creation of modules that do the heavy lifting for features on the system. Modules expand Drupal’s functionality. Themes let you customize your content’s presentation. Distributions are packaged Drupal bundles you can use as starter kits. You can mix and match these components to enhance Drupal’s core abilities or integrate Drupal with external services and other applications in your infrastructure.
These modules include integration into 3rd party systems like a CRM, social media feeds, testimonial displays, contact forms, Google Maps, photo galleries, and much more. These modules can be accessed by purchasing a monthly license, while others are free or support a freemium payment model.
There are modules for Drupal that are designed for drag-and-drop content authoring for a web page. These include:
- Acquia’s Lift service and accompanying Lift Connector module
- Panels module
Drupal supports a content search module called Views. This tool retrieves its data through a database query. It has a robust filtering mechanism geared toward more structured content and can output lists, thumbnails, etc. It is a robust tool that offers more flexibility but carries with it a steep learning curve.
Adobe Experience Manager is an all-inclusive system for content management that is equipped to build websites, forms, and mobile apps. AEM effectively manages your content and your applications in an integrated manner, leading to applications being deployed as conveniently as the content. The result is streamlined management of your online presence and that is what Adobe capitalizes on.
AEM Specializes in the user interface for content authors. AEM features a highly flexible, drag-and-drop user interface for many content authoring tasks, and tight integration with many of Adobe’s other technologies.
- Adobe Analytics
- Adobe Target
- Adobe Audience Manager
- Adobe Commerce Cloud
- Marketo Engage
Websites are expected to load quickly for users and any search engine will punish your page ranking if there are speed or other SEO issues. How do Drupal and AEM perform and scale?
Drupal can make use of these measures as well but having the capacity to manage more highly structured data introduces scenarios that require frequent database interactions, like user-generated content on a high-traffic site. Without proper planning, excessive database activity introduces performance bottlenecks and can limit scalability. The Drupal community has written guidelines for managing this, and indeed, Drupal has proven itself as highly scalable with such sites as Abbott Laboratories, Nordstrom, and Lowes.
AEM costs up to $1 million depending on the features and services used. Forrester states in its 2016 Vendor Landscape that the average cost is $360,000.
Drupal is open source and has many free modules making it a vastly cheaper option, but Drupal does not come without its own cost. You will still need to implement and host your Drupal system. There are many companies that specialize in this. Drupal has a vast array of hosting options at virtually every price point.
Both products will require you to look closely at your requirements and evaluate what is needed to reach your audience efficiently and securely.
There is a support community for AEM, but Adobe is the main provider of support for AEM. Many businesses operating AEM hire teams like Arbory Digital to help them use AEM more efficiently. Adobe has extensive documentation for each build of AEM
. Adobe also provides direct support for AEM.
Drupal has a massive community that supports the open-source project. Drupal relies on peer-reviewed modules and code that make up the system. The community also supports a dedicated security team that responds to new threats against Drupal.
Operating on Drupal or AEM at a large scale requires a team of people to maintain, manage, and develop content.
Arbory Digital works primarily with AEM, but many of our clients ask us about other options for their content management system needs. In my opinion, AEM and Drupal cover different needs of a business. AEM is the best, most complete CMS or DXP for large enterprises, but it is a costly system to run. Drupal is a cheaper option for companies that are operating on a smaller scale. As time goes on, Drupal’s offerings will continue to expand as the community works to solve more complex problems while Adobe is targeting mid-level enterprises with more competitive pricing and more out-of-the-box solutions with Adobe as a Cloud Service.