The continued fragmentation of the marketing technology market is driving organisations to adopt more open source software solutions, as proprietary products fail to live up to their billing, according to SaaS vendor Acquia.

Acquia has expanded from its traditional enterprise level web content management product and services built on the open source software Drupal to a new experience platform, which includes several marketing solutions. The new platform is also based on Drupal open source software.

The shift was in response to the complex and underwhelming proprietary martech solutions, according to Acquia executives speaking at the company’s APAC conference in Melbourne last week.

The flexibility and scalability of open source is a popular trend, not only restricted to martech, but, Acquia argues the model is particularly effective for marketing solutions.

Martech misgivings

While consolidation has long been expected for Martech, in reality the market continues to expand, according to analysts.

Martech veteran Scott Brinker’s annual review shows since 2011 the market has ballooned from 150 solutions in 2011 to over 7,000 last year, rising steadily each year.

The 2018 market for marketing solutions. Source:

But for the buyers the plethora of options has produced unnecessary complexity, disparate systems and silos, ultimately leading to  disjointed experiences for “fickle” customers, according to Acquia CEO Michael Sullivan.

Sullivan said much of Acquia’s success was coming from its customers’ demand for simplicity, scalability and openness.

“Openness is a big, big thing that I think the whole market is looking for,” Sullivan said.

The impetus comes from, in large part, marketers’ current inability to leverage their stack  and deliver experiences to in increasingly demanding customers, according to Sullivan. Customers are frustrated by proprietary systems and additional middleware applications, according to Sullivan.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement in this [marketing] technology … Companies are very very frustrated with the silos of technology that they have and disparate systems that exist.”

Acquia CEO Michael Sullivan. Supplied.

And while the continued fragmentation of the martech market is adding to the challenge, it is not unwarranted, Sullivan said.

“The reason these companies proliferate is because somebody wants to buy this stuff, somebody needs all these little solutions. And they all need data and they all need content and they all need rules and they all need some kind of capability to tie all these things together.”

However, Sullivan says, open source systems are providing an increasingly popular and viable alternative.

Open source adoption

Acquia’s own research claims the number of marketers wanting open source is as high as 88 per cent, a figure Sullivan says he found surprising but understandable as open source becomes better understood, following a similar pattern to cloud adoption.

“[Open source] is kind of like the cloud. Whereas 10 years ago you were really hesitant to use the cloud and now today you’re crazy if you’re not using cloud and taking advantage of cloud. People trust cloud now.”

Sullivan told Which-50 open source software has shaken off several misconceptions including a slower pace of innovation and, like the early days of cloud, security concerns.

“It was the same way with open source. Some people used open source as a second choice. Now it’s very common to see companies say ‘let’s go find an ope source platform and if we can’t find one that’s good then lets look for propriety software instead’.

“Open source, now, is the preferred way to go for technology platforms.”

To support his argument, Sullivan identified market leaders in data platforms, operating systems, commerce and search all running on open source software.

“Tech titans haven’t missed this trend”, Sullivan said, pointing to several acquisitions, most notably IBM’s record breaking purchase of Red Hat.

The commercial relationship between the non-profit open source software and the “sister company” like Acquia and Drupal or Red Hat and Linux – both providing enterprise scale for the software – has allowed open source to be viable, Sullivan said.

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