No other major player has been in the SCA game longer than Mend (formerly WhiteSource), and Snyk is the most widely known SCA solution in the cybersecurity world. If you’re considering SCA options, you need to be familiar with both of these tools—but are either of them right for you? A purpose-built solution may be a better fit than an older or more popular tool.
Choosing a software composition analysis tool is an important decision that will affect your cybersecurity for years to come. But since the product category is relatively new, it can be difficult to evaluate your options and understand what sets the best solutions apart.
This comparison evaluates Snyk, Mend, and MergeBase (a newcomer to the SCA world) on five capabilities that companies find most important when choosing an SCA tool. (If you’d like to see our analysis of all the major SCA solutions side by side, check out our SCA buyer’s guide.)
Snyk vs WhiteSource (now Mend) vs. MergeBase: a side-by-side comparison
We measured these tools’ competencies in the five most critical areas where a quality SCA tool needs to perform. This guide is based on our extensive industry experience, conversations with cybersecurity professionals, and our own research.
The five core areas are:
1. Developer guidance with compatibility check
2. Comprehensive SBOM support
3. Low false positives output
4. Integration to the DevOps process with runtime protection
5. Total cost of ownership
We’ll unpack these individual competencies in a moment, but here’s how these tools stack up against each other at a glance, on a scale of 1–5. These scores are based on each tool’s capabilities as of January 2023.
At this point, you should be asking, “Isn’t it a bit suspect for MergeBase to give themselves a perfect score?”
Fair point, but there are a few good reasons for this:
- This scoring system focuses on the five areas that are absolutely vital to choosing a strong SCA solution. We arrived at these factors after countless conversations with IT security and development teams over the years: these are the ones that come up over and over.
- We could score all of these solutions across many more factors—like the size of the company’s internal research team, the number of integrations available, etc. (Both Snyk and Mend would likely outscore MergeBase in these areas.) However, getting reliable numbers for these factors is difficult to do, and even if we did get accurate numbers, they could change next week.
- MergeBase was specifically built to master these five areas. When companies switch from one of these other players to MergeBase, it’s because of one (or several) of these factors.
- While MergeBase is strictly an SCA solution, these other SCA tools are parts of much larger software security suites. With breadth of coverage comes a lack of focus. If we were to rate ourselves against everything that Mend does, our score would look a lot different—but we’re not playing their game.
Let’s look at how these two stack up against each other in detail.
Snyk vs. WhiteSource/Mend vs. MergeBase on developer guidance
Every new vulnerability alert requires developer attention—and that constitutes labor. When choosing an SCA, it’s wise to go with a tool that makes it as easy as possible for your developers to decide how to address a vulnerability, take action, and move on.
This is important, because the work that goes into addressing vulnerabilities often goes undone. In fact, 59% of respondents to a 2021 IBM Security™ study cited delays associated with patching vulnerabilities as a reason their organizations hadn’t become more resilient to cyber threats. The vulnerabilities were known—but the patches just weren’t applied.
You want an SCA that actually leads to vulnerabilities getting patched. Here’s how Snyk, Mend, and MergeBase compare in terms of developer guidance:
We graded these tools’ developer guidance capabilities on the following five-point scale:
|Refers to current versions
|Provides versions & risks for each patch
|Provides compatibility, popularity & data points for each patch
|AutoPatch: Can patch vulnerabilities automatically
Where Snyk and Mend fall short: While both of these tools will provide you with recommended patches and risk assessments for each patch, they won’t tell you whether the patch will raise compatibility issues for your application—nor will they give you a good idea of how popular a given patch is in the development community.
The MergeBase advantage: Not only does MergeBase provide information on each patch’s risks, compatibility, and popularity, but it can automatically implement safe patches for you—so your product and security teams can make informed decisions and move on.
Snyk vs. WhiteSource/Mend vs. MergeBase on SBOM support
The software bill of materials (SBOM) plays an essential role for both software companies and their enterprise customers. Organizations that deliver software applications face increasing regulatory and compliance pressures to produce a comprehensive SBOM: one that not only shows vulnerabilities and licenses, but also points out technical debt (portions of code that need future cleanup).
For enterprise customers, it’s more common to ask your vendor for an accompanying software bill of materials. But it’s also important to validate the SBOMs that these vendors provide—which an advanced SCA tool can help you do. Here’s how Snyk, Mend, and MergeBase stack up when it comes to SBOMs:
We graded these tools’ SBOM support on the following five-point scale:
|No SBOM support
|Exports SBOMs in only one format (no import)
|Exports SBOMs in multiple formats (no import)
|Supports multiple SBOM formats (import and export)
|Dependency info incorporated into SBOM
Where Snyk and Mend fall short: While you can export SBOMs, you can’t choose from multiple formats, you can’t import SBOMs, and you can’t intuitively see how your components nest within each other.
The MergeBase advantage: MergeBase allows you to import and export multiple SBOM formats, and it clearly delineates all dependency relationships between the components and subcomponents in your application. (Plus, you can visually navigate your SBOM inside MergeBase, letting you see how your third-party code is nested and where any given vulnerability lies.)
Snyk vs. WhiteSource/Mend vs. MergeBase on false positives
SCA false positives are just plain bad for business. In our 2022 report The True Costs of False Positives in Software Security, 62.1% of surveyed technology leaders revealed that decreasing false positives is a higher business priority than increasing true positives. False positives waste valuable time and significantly hamper productivity on both development and security teams—and they can even harm relationships between teams.
We ran Snyk, Mend, and MergeBase against a set of applications with 511 known vulnerabilities to see how many they’d catch, how many they’d miss, and how many false positives they’d flag. Here’s how they stacked up:
We graded their accuracy on the following five-point scale:
|False positive rate above 10%
|False positive rate of 5–10%
|False positive rate of 2–5%
|False positive rate of 1–2%
|False positive rate below 1%
Mend generates a lot of false positives: If your developers expect one in every ten to twenty vulnerability alerts to be a false alarm, your team is going to experience vulnerability fatigue. Plus, recurring wild goose chases can cause tensions between your security and development teams.
Snyk is a little better: One in fifty is a lot better than one in twenty. Snyk will save your developers some time on the false positives front, but they still generate more than twice as many false positives as MergeBase.
The MergeBase advantage: One of the reasons we built MergeBase was to take on the problem of false positives in the SCA space—without missing true positives. MergeBase is the most accurate SCA tool on the market today.
Snyk vs. WhiteSource/Mend vs. MergeBase on DevOps integration
Most SCA solutions claim to protect and integrate into your DevOps process. Each of these leading tools integrates with your build pipeline and repository, and supports container scanning, but some integrate more fully than others. For example, not every SCA offers binary application scanning and runtime protection. Here’s how Snyk, Mend, and MergeBase stack up against each other on DevOps integration:
We graded these tools’ DevOps integration capabilities on the following five-point scale:
|No DevOps integration: a standalone product
|Build pipeline integration
|Repository integration and container scanning
|Binary application scanning
Snyk and Mend can only scan so much: Snyk and Mend integrate with your build environment and repository, but you can’t use them to scan licensed third-party code, and they won’t protect you in runtime.
The MergeBase advantage: MergeBase is built on a Shift Left Security philosophy. Our SCA tool protects your build pipeline and runtime, integrates with your repository, and allows for both container and binary scanning—so you’re always aware of known vulnerabilities in your third-party code, whether it’s open source or licensed.
Snyk vs. WhiteSource/Mend vs. MergeBase on total cost of ownership
You can’t evaluate the true cost of an SCA tool on price tag alone.
Software composition analysis tools should reduce your exposure to vulnerabilities and reduce the time you spend addressing these vulnerabilities. This means that the level of developer guidance provided and the amount of false positives generated directly affect the true cost of owning a given SCA solution—even if an SCA has a low subscription fee, the hassle it imposes on your developers can make it extremely expensive.
Then there’s the pricing structure itself to consider. Some SCAs are transparent with pricing, others use complex formulas based on variable directional metrics, and others are entirely opaque. So when cross-evaluating SCA options, we looked for two factors:
- Competitive pricing: The vendor uses transparent, straightforward pricing.
- Labor savings: The tool has robust enough capabilities to reduce software supply chain security supply labor costs.
Here’s how Snyk, Mend, and MergeBase stack up on this front:
We graded total cost of ownership on the following five-point scale:
|Low labor savings
|Medium labor savings, high price
|Medium labor savings, competitive price
|High labor savings, high price
|High labor savings, competitive price
A cautionary note on Snyk: While Snyk is competitively priced up front, customers have remarked on Snyk’s tendency to charge new fees when limits are hit. (This is one of the reasons software companies switch from Snyk to other providers—their fees may be appealing up front, but enterprise customers often end up being charged significantly more later on.)
The MergeBase advantage: Our pricing model is entirely transparent, with no hidden fees or limits—plus MergeBase saves labor with a low false positive rate, clear developer guidance, automatic patching, prioritization, and other remediation options. If you want an estimate of how much MergeBase will cost (or save) your company, check out our total cost of ownership calculator.
Choose the SCA that’s right for you
When we take all these factors into consideration, Snyk has a slight edge on Mend—but neither shines in these five competencies like MergeBase.
Selecting the right SCA is critical to protecting your organization, and these five factors are the strongest indicators of how valuable an SCA tool can be to your organization.
We built MergeBase so you can rapidly secure your software supply chain without slowing down your business.
If you’re exploring SCA options and still aren’t convinced, or if you’d like to delve even deeper into comprehensive analyses, continue reading these following pages:
- MergeBase and Sonatype
- Black Duck vs. WhiteSource (now Mend) vs. MergeBase
- Snyk vs. Black Duck vs. MergeBase
Ready to experience the difference MergeBase can make in securing your software supply chain? Start your free trial now and gain immediate access to our advanced SCA tools.