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, Black Duck, and MergeBase 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. Black Duck 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 we’ll compare are:
- Developer guidance with a compatibility check
- Comprehensive SBOM support
- Low false positives output
- Integration to the DevOps process with runtime protection
- 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
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Wait—MergeBase just gave themselves a perfect score?” While this may look a little suspect at first, there are a few good reasons for why the scores shook out this way.
- 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 Black Duck would likely outscore us on these fronts.) 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 a 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 three SCA solutions stack up against each other in detail.
Snyk vs. Black Duck vs. MergeBase on developer guidance
When an SCA identifies a vulnerability, your developers need to respond—but some SCAs are more helpful to developers than others. An advanced SCA solution may provide developers with recommended patches, the risks associated with patches, compatibility between patches and your application, patch popularity in the development community, and automated patching.
This is important to consider when choosing an SCA because a good tool will not only find vulnerabilities but also make it as fast and easy as possible for your developers to patch them. Here’s how Snyk, Black Duck, and MergeBase compare in terms of developer guidance:
We graded these tools’ developer guidance capabilities on the following five-point scale:
|Capabilities:||No guidance||Refers to current versions||Provides versions & risks for each patch||Provides compatibility, popularity & data points for each patch||AutoPatch: Can patch vulnerabilities automatically|
Black Duck falls short: While Black Duck will direct your dev team to current versions of vulnerable components of your software, it won’t help them much beyond that. It’s on your developers to research the risks associated with the patch, assess whether or not the patch is compatible with your application, and find out whether or not other developers are satisfied with the patch in question.
Snyk is a little better: Snyk provides recommended patches and risk assessments for each patch, but the tool won’t tell you whether the patch will raise compatibility issues for your application—nor will it 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. Black Duck 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, Black Duck, and MergeBase stack up in this area:
We graded these tools’ SBOM support on the following five-point scale:
|Capabilities:||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|
Snyk does the bare minimum, and that’s about it: Snyk doesn’t have any import functionality for SBOMs, nor does it incorporate dependency information.
Black Duck and MergeBase are the strongest: Both tools allow you to import and export multiple SBOM formats, and clearly delineate all dependency relationships between the components and subcomponents in your application. MergeBase in particular, lets you visually navigate your SBOM, so you can see how your third-party code is nested and where any given vulnerability lies.
Snyk vs. Black Duck vs. MergeBase on false positives
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 each of these tools 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 Snyk, Black Duck, and MergeBase stacked up:
We graded these tools’ accuracy on the following five-point scale:
|Capabilities:||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%|
Black Duck falters here: While their SBOM support is strong, a common complaint among Black Duck users is that a great deal of time is spent addressing false positives. If your developers expect one in every ten vulnerability alerts to be a false alarm, your team is going to experience vulnerability fatigue—which makes it harder to take alerts to true threats seriously.
Snyk is a little better: One in fifty is a lot better than one in ten. 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. By design, MergeBase is the most accurate SCA tool on the market today.
Snyk vs. Black Duck vs. MergeBase on DevOps integration
Most SCA solutions claim to protect and integrate into your DevOps process. Snyk, Black Duck, and MergeBase all integrate with your build pipeline and repository and support container scanning, but further integration capabilities vary by tool. For example, not every SCA offers binary application scanning and runtime protection. Here’s how these tools stack up:
We graded their DevOps integration capabilities on the following five-point scale:
|Capabilities:||No DevOps integration: a standalone product||Build pipeline integration||Repository integration and container scanning||Binary application scanning||Runtime protection|
Snyk can only scan so much: Snyk integrates with your build environment and repository, but you can’t use it to scan licensed third-party code, and it won’t protect you in runtime.
Black Duck is better: You can use Black Duck to scan vendor’s applications as well as your own—but it won’t cover you in runtime.
The MergeBase advantage: MergeBase is built on a Shift Left Security philosophy. MergeBase 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. Black Duck vs. MergeBase on the total cost of ownership
Every SCA tool comes with two general sets of costs: the fees the vendor charges you and the labor you spend using the tool. The price tag isn’t the end of the story.
For example, an SCA with a high subscription fee and a high degree of developer guidance might cost more upfront, but could save you a great deal in terms of labor. Likewise, an inexpensive SCA with a high false positives rate could actually end up costing you a great deal of unnecessary labor.
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, Black Duck, and MergeBase stack up:
We graded these tools’ total cost of ownership on the following five-point scale:
|Capabilities:||Low labor savings||Medium labor savings, high price||Medium labor savings, competitive price||High labor savings, high price||High labor savings, competitive price|
Black Duck is costly on both fronts: Black Duck already has a high price tag compared to Snyk and MergeBase. When you consider their lack of developer guidance and relatively high false positive rate, Black Duck comes with additional costs in the form of unnecessary labor.
Snyk is competitively priced—at first: Snyk has a lower total cost of ownership than Black Duck—however, one of the primary complaints we hear from Snyk customers is their tendency to impose usage fees. Snyk customers have been known to run up against limits within the tool and need to pay extra in order to get full use of the program.
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
Snyk is stronger than Black Duck on developer guidance, accuracy, and total cost of ownership. Black Duck is far stronger than Snyk on SBOM support. 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 considering SCA options, you’re welcome to download our comparison worksheet to build your own SCA benchmark for your organization.
For more information on this guide and to learn more about how MergeBase can help protect your software supply chain, please connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you’d like to see MergeBase in action, we’d love to show you a demo!