SharePoint and Drupal

I was asked recently for a comparison between SharePoint and Drupal so I thought I would share my thoughts. While there is some overlap in web/content management functionality between the two frameworks, there are also some notable differences. SharePoint, for example, provides a rich platform that supports a much broader set of scenarios than Drupal. 

Below is a high-level summary of my personal analysis of SharePoint and Drupal on a few different axes when looking at web/content management scenarios coming from a SharePoint angle:


1. Functionality
SharePoint is a Business Collaboration Platform that provides a wealth of functionality above & beyond basic CMS capabilities. The SharePoint value proposition is to have a unified, integrated platform that you can build all kinds of web solutions on from blogs and wikis & team sites to Intranet & Internet portals. Beyond core web/content management functionality, SharePoint provides social computing, line-of-business integration, enterprise search, business intelligence & end user empowerment through the browser & Office client.  In many of these workload areas, SharePoint is positioned as a leader by analyst communities demonstrating that SharePoint provides not only a broad set of capabilities but a significant amount of depth. Of course, there’s a very vibrant partner & developer ecosystem that provides extensions.

SharePoint also has the additional benefit of providing governance & compliance capabilities. This is as important as end user functionality in some cases because it allows organizations to effectively govern, track & audit the environment as needed. Based on customer & partner feedback, we’ve even incorporated more governance & compliance controls in SharePoint 2010.

Drupal, on the other hand, is an open source Content Management System (CMS) that is extensible. It is aimed at web/community solutions. It has a developer ecosystem that develops modules that can be added.

If you are looking for a 3rd party analysis on the CMS capabilities, you can take a look @ Keep in mind that this is based on SharePoint 2007 and it only focuses on CMS functionality; SharePoint 2010, the next version of SharePoint, is going to ship by June 2010 and will ship with a lot more features & functionality. Also take a look at this 3rd party SharePoint 2010 beta review that provides a good overview and even tells readers to consider SharePoint when looking at other frameworks like Drupal.

Net/net: SharePoint 2010 is much more than web/community solutions.  


2. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
You can break down TCO into  licensing cost + development cost + management cost + support cost.

On the licensing side, it’s important to point out that SharePoint Foundation 2010 is freeif you own Windows Server 2008 . SharePoint Foundation 2010 ships with core collaboration features as well as features like blogs & wikis. Developers & end-users can very easily extend SharePoint Foundation. In fact, SharePoint Server (that has a licensing cost) is built on top of SharePoint Foundation. Not only is SharePoint Foundation 2010 free, but SharePoint Designer is a free download as well. SharePoint Designer is a powerful tool that helps you customize SharePoint solutions – custom workflows, forms, design, integration with backend systems, content creation and much, much more.

From a development cost perspective, if you start with SharePoint Foundation, there are many different options: You can 1) customize with SharePoint Designer without writing any code, 2) you can write code with Visual Studio 2010 which provides out-of-the-box tooling for SharePoint 2010, 3) you can license SharePoint Server 2010 which ships with a lot of enhanced features and/or 4) you can use partner technology. Our customers & partners do a combination of these depending on their requirements. From a management perspective, Microsoft gives you the option of installing SharePoint on-premises or choosing to use SharePoint in the cloud with SharePoint Online. This is interesting for customers who want to reduce some of their capital & operations expenses.

Also, thinking about your environment more holistically, SharePoint offers you the ability to host multiple solutions on top of one set of hardware & software reducing your hardware, management, operations & development cost across different workloads. For example, you can host not only Content Management solutions on top of SharePoint, but also Business Intelligence (BI), Line of Business (LOB) portals, Enterprise Search, Personal Sites and much more.

Drupal is positioned as a free framework. The reality is that your development & support costs can really raise your overall TCO especially when you are looking for solutions to do more than basic CMS.

Net/net: You have many different options with SharePoint to minimize your TCO depending on your business needs. SharePoint also gives you a broader platform allowing you to do more with less hardware & operations.


3. Simplicity
SharePoint offers simplicity from an experience perspective for developers, IT admins & end-users along with the power to handle complex scenarios.

For developers, SharePoint 2010 is simple to setup for development with out-of-the-box support for development in Visual Studio 2010 and support for Windows 7/Vista for development; you don’t have to install Windows Server 2008 for development. If you are an ASP.NET developer, you’ll find developing in SharePoint very familiar and easy to set up.

From an end user perspective, SharePoint 2010 provides a very rich & natural user experience through the browser, Office client & mobile devices. The new ribbon interface allows users to easily interact, customize & find what they are looking for. As for the Office experience, beyond integration with the core Office applications, what’s really exciting about the 2010 release is SharePoint 2010 Workspace. Users can enjoy an experience similar to Windows with SharePoint content; files & folders appear just like Windows files & folders. As for the mobile experience, this could be one of the sleeper user experience hits with SharePoint 2010. SharePoint 2010 provides rich out-of-the-box experience as well as an extensibility story for smart phones and not-so-smart phones. :-)

Lastly, on the IT admin side of the house, we’ve really streamlined many of the admin tasks to make the lives of IT admins easier. SharePoint provides a spectrum of features to easily manage 1 server or a multi-server farm. And of course, customers not looking to host SharePoint themselves, we offer the SharePoint Online service.

Drupal is also known to offer simplicity. While this works great for some scenarios, it doesn’t have the feature set to deal with more complex requirements such as line-of-business integration, complex workflows or even IT tools to manage entire web server farms.

Net/net: SharePoint offers simplicity. SharePoint offers you with choice (Developer, End-User & IT). SharePoint offers you with the power to run large scale environments.


4. Interoperability
SharePoint is very open & is highly interoperable:

- It has a very large API surface area (managed APIs & web services) allowing developers to develop rich solutions on top of it. In fact, as mentioned earlier, SharePoint Server was built on top of SharePoint Foundation using the exposed & documented APIs.

- SharePoint supports industry standards such as REST, XHTML, browser standards, WCAG 2.0 AA and has made a commitment to support CMIS.

- SharePoint supports integration with other LOB systems and Databases through Business Connectivity Services & custom code.

- While SharePoint requires SQL Server, customers/partners have the option to store BLOB content in other places with our support for SQL Server RBS.

- There are 100s of open source projects on CodePlex. There are 400+ SharePoint ISV partners developing solutions.

- There is a comprehensive set of documentation & learning content at

Drupal is open source software & is also known to be interoperable. However, it’s also important to point out that Drupal does have some requirements when it comes to system requirements. 

Net/net: SharePoint is very strong when it comes to interoperability.


5. Community
We have publicly announced that the SharePoint community consists of over 17,000 customers, 400 Independent Software Vendors & 4,000+ System Integrators and over 500,000+ developers. As mentioned earlier, there are also many, many open source SharePoint projects hosted on CodePlex. We expect these numbers to go even higher with the release of SharePoint 2010 – for example, we had 7,500+ attendees at our SharePoint Conference in October 2009. In fact, we had a waiting list of people who wanted to attend but we couldn’t accommodate since we reached the maximum number.

Besides the sheer size of the community, we are investing in a lot of training content, courses & exams. We also expect a lot of 3rd party & Microsoft books on SharePoint shortly after SharePoint 2010 release. We also have active online forums where you can ask questions and experts will answer.

Net/net: There’s a very large & healthy SharePoint ecosystem of partners & customers that support each other.


6. Technology Differences
It’s also important to call out technology differences between SharePoint & Drupal that can impact your decision. There are two that come to mind:

- SharePoint supports ASP.NET; Drupal supports PHP

- SharePoint only runs on Windows (supports interoperability with other platform, but requires Windows to run on); Drupal supports multiple operating systems

Of course, just because you are a ASP.NET or PHP developer, it does not mean you can’t learn the other. :-)

Net/net: Examine the technology requirements to see how it factors into your decision.