If you're looking for a secure and reliable way to manage user authentication, permissions, and more, you may have heard of Ory. But did you know that there are two ways to use Ory? In this article, we'll explore the differences between the Ory Network and self-hosting Ory open source, and help you decide which option is right for you.

Ory Network and Ory self-hosted

Before we dive into the differences, let's take a quick look at what the Ory Network and self-hosting Ory open source mean.

The Ory Network is a global infrastructure that uses Ory open source to deliver various services and APIs such as login, permission management, oauth2, and more. The Ory Network spans several geographical regions to deliver a fast service anywhere in the world. When you use the Ory Network, you can take advantage of all the features and benefits provided by the Ory team, including continuous updates, support, and security.

On the other hand, self-hosting Ory means you use the foundational building blocks of the Ory Network (Ory Kratos, Ory Hydra, Ory Keto) and run these services yourself. Some things are not available when self-hosting Ory and vice versa. Self-hosting Ory open source is a great way to explore security software, learn software development, and experiment and participate in open source technology.

Feature differences

When deciding between the Ory Network and self-hosting, it's essential to know what features are available in each option. The following table summarizes the feature differences:

FeatureOry NetworkSelf-Hosting
Regulations & compliance
GDPR-compliance⚠️
SOC2 T2 certification⚠️
ISO 27k certifiation⚠️
Automatically OpenID certified
Services and APIs
Ory edge sessions
Identity and user management APIs
Permission APIs
Passwordless login
SMS verification and login🔭🔭
Traditional login
Social sign in
Machine-to-machine auth
Multi-factor authentication
OAuth2 and OpenID Connect provider APIs
Search API🔭
User interfaces
User management UI
Configuration management UI
No-code account experience (login, sign up, …) with theming
Integration and SDKs
Ory CLI
Backwards compatibility guarantee
SDKs for popular programming languages
Operations and deployment
Multi-regional deployments
Zero-downtime upgrades and migrations
Configuration management via API
Configuration management via files
Log access🔭
Organization and multi-tenancy
Multi-environment (for example staging, prod, …)⚠️
Team management
Organization management
Customer-facing multi-tenancy

Legend:

  • ⚠️: your responsibility
  • ✅: solved
  • ❌: not available
  • 🔭: planned

As can be seen from the table, there are several differences between the features available on the Ory Network and self-hosting Ory. For instance, the Ory Network provides GDPR compliance, ISO 27k certification and SOC2 T2 certification. Similarly, while the Ory Network provides features like Ory edge sessions, user management UI, and no-code account experience with theming, these features are not available when self-hosting Ory.

Support

Ory does not offer a support service for self-hosted instances of its software. Here's why:

  • Incident response: When self-hosting, Ory's incident response team has no access to the customer infrastructure. The time it takes to resolve incidents thus increases significantly if Ory Engineers need to be involved. What could be solved in minutes on our own infrastructure, has to go through several communication channels and back and forth when Ory runs on the customer's infrastructure. This delay can result in increased downtime and lost revenue for the customer.
  • Release process: Ory Network releases new features and updates on a daily basis, while open source releases are quarterly. This allows Ory to maintain the highest standards of security, reliability, and performance. With self-hosting, customers have to manage their own upgrades, which can be time-consuming and lead to software running on outdated versions, resulting in security vulnerabilities and performance issues.
  • Upgrade fatigue: Based on open source telemetry data, less than 10% of all Ory open source deployments run on a recent and supported version, while 90% of deployments run on outdated versions that may have known vulnerabilities (e.g. Golang CVEs). This puts businesses and their customers at risk of security breaches and performance issues. Ory Network eliminates upgrade fatigue by providing automatic upgrades and ensuring that all deployments are running on the latest and most secure version of Ory open source.
  • Expertise: Ory engineers are the experts when it comes to running Ory software. They have the experience and knowledge to manage and troubleshoot issues quickly and efficiently. With self-hosting, customers have to rely on their own expertise or hire additional staff to manage the software.

Time savings when using Ory Network

When you use the Ory Network, you can save a significant amount of time that would otherwise be spent on setting up, maintaining, and upgrading the software yourself. Our estimates are based on what we have observed since Ory open source was founded in 2015, but please note that these numbers are rough estimates and heavily dependent on the use case.

Why self-hosted takes longer

Self-hosting Ory open source typically takes longer than using the Ory Network for several reasons:

  1. Initial setup: Setting up the infrastructure and configuring the software can be time-consuming, especially if you're not familiar with the tools and technologies involved.
  2. Maintenance and monitoring: Once the software is up and running, you need to monitor it 24/7 to ensure that it is performing as expected and to deal with any issues that may arise. This can be a significant ongoing time commitment.
  3. Upgrades: Upgrading the software can be time-consuming, especially if there are breaking changes that require you to update your configuration and code. This is particularly true if you are running on an older version of the software and need to catch up with several releases at once.
  4. UI and API development: If you need to develop user interfaces or integrate with the software's APIs, this can add significant development time to your project.

Estimated time savings

The following table shows estimated time savings when using the Ory Network compared to setting up and maintaining the software yourself:

Self-hostingOry Network
Set-UpContinuous effortSet upContinuous effort
Operations
Monitoring and alerting1-14 days365 days / yearAvailableNone
Disaster recovery1-8 hours1 week / yearOut of the boxNone
Configuration management and continuous deployment1-5 daysNot applicableOut of the box in Ory ConsoleNot applicable
Software upgrades0h2-4 weeks / yearNot neededNone
Management
User-facing UIs1-4 weeks2 weeks / yearOut of the boxNone
Administrative UIs2-4 weeks2 weeks / yearOut of the boxNone
Admin API access control1-2 days1 day / yearOut of the boxNone
Integration
New site/service~1-2 daysNone~1-10 hoursNone
Migration site/service to Ory~2-4 weeksNone~1-2 weeksNone

Cost Savings when Using the Ory Network

In addition to time savings, using the Ory Network can also provide cost savings compared to self-hosting.

When self-hosting, you would need to pay for infrastructure costs, such as EC2 instances and a Postgres AuroraDB. You would also need to pay for continuous monitoring and alerting, as well as traffic costs. Using the Ory Network, these costs are included in the subscription plans.

Keep in mind that these numbers are rough estimates and heavily dependent on the use case and cost optimization.

1-1,000 Daily Active Users/Machines

For a site with less than 1,000 active users/machines (regardless of what Ory service you use), two virtual machines for failover, each with 2 vCPUs and 4GB of RAM to run up to three Ory services, and one small sized PostgreSQL instance with 100GB would be needed.

According to the AWS price calculator, this sums up to about $2,080.76 per year.

On the other hand, with the Ory Network's Essentials Plan, these resources are included, along with continuous monitoring and alerting, traffic, and metrics and alerting continuous cost, for only $319 per year. This results in a cost savings of approximately 70-90%.

Self-hostingEssentials Plan
Compute2x AWS EC2 2vCPU, 4GB RAM, 50GB SSD$918.72 / year$0 / year
Database1x AWS RDS Postgres 2vCPU, 4GB RAM, 100GB SDD$879.96 / year$0 / year
API GatewayAWS API Gateway$44.52 / year$0 / year
Load BalancerAWS Load Balancer$237.48 / year$0 / year
OperationsMonitoring, logs, alerting (e.g. Datadog)Depends on solution$0 / year
Total> $2,080.76 / year$319 / year
Cost savings> 70%

1,000-20,000 Daily Active Users/Machines

For a site or application with 1,000 to 20,000 daily active (machine) users, self-hosting Ory open source becomes more expensive. Self-hosting at this scale requires more virtual machines for failover and a larger database instance, resulting in higher costs. With the Ory Scale Plan, you get a cost-effective solution that is easier to set up, manage, and scale.

According to the AWS price calculator, this sums up to about $14,167.78 per year.

For businesses with 1,000-20,000 daily active users/machines, we recommend the Ory Scale Plan for $7590 per year as the cheaper and better option. This plan includes everything in the Essentials Plan, plus additional features such as enterprise-grade support, a dedicated account manager, and priority bug fixes.

Self-hostingScale Plan
Compute4x AWS EC2 4vCPU, 8GB RAM, 50GB SSD$4,695.48 / year$0 / year
Database2x AWS RDS Postgres 4vCPU, 16GB RAM, 500GB SDD$8,780.76 / year$0 / year
TrafficIn- and egress$445.44 / year$0 / year
OperationsMonitoring, logs, alerting (e.g. Datadog)$246.12 / year$0 / year
Total$14,167.78 / year$7590 / year
Cost savings> 45%

Over 100,000 Daily Active Users/Machines

When dealing with a website or application that has over 100,000 daily active users, self-hosting becomes even more complicated and expensive. Here are some reasons why:

  1. The cost of compute and self-hosting explodes further because you need one highly available deployment (at least 4 nodes) in every region. This means that you will need a lot more virtual machines to run your application, increasing your costs significantly.
  2. You need a multi-region capable database. A multi-region capable database such as Spanner is needed to ensure that data is consistent and available in every region.
  3. Ory multi-region technology is only available in the Ory Network due to the software and architecture complexity and reliance on third-party service providers such as Cloudflare Enterprise.
  4. In this scenario, we recommend reaching out to us directly and negotiate custom pricing which starts at 3000$ per month. Our Ory Network platform can provide you with the resources and support you need to handle such a large user base.

By self-hosting in this scenario, you will likely encounter significant issues with scalability and availability. On the other hand, the Ory Network can provide you with the necessary infrastructure and resources to handle the demands of such a large user base.

How Ory achieves these savings

The Ory Network can provide cost savings for several reasons. Firstly, it benefits from economies of scale by serving a large number of customers, allowing it to spread infrastructure costs across many users. Secondly, the Ory Network leverages proprietary code that makes multi-tenancy more efficient, allowing it to run more efficiently on shared resources. Thirdly, the Ory Network is designed and optimized for running Ory services, so it can operate more efficiently than a self-hosted solution.

When self-hosting, businesses have to purchase their own hardware and set up their own infrastructure, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Self-hosting also requires a dedicated team to manage the infrastructure and ensure the systems are always up to date and secure. This can be a significant ongoing cost for a business.

In contrast, the Ory Network provides a turnkey solution that eliminates the need for businesses to manage their own infrastructure. The Ory Network takes care of the hardware, software, security, and maintenance, allowing businesses to focus on their core competencies instead of worrying about IT operations. This can result in significant cost savings for businesses, especially for smaller businesses or those that don't have dedicated IT resources.

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