Linux Foundation: Open Source Code Worth $5B

In an effort to place a more definitive financial value on open source code, the Linux Foundation has released a report that estimates the development costs of its Collaborative Projects.

Larry Loeb, Blogger, Informationweek

September 30, 2015

3 Min Read
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8 Linux Security Improvements In 8 Years

8 Linux Security Improvements In 8 Years

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How much is open source code worth? The answer: $5 billion, according to a newly released Linux Foundation report that aims to illustrate the estimated value of development costs saved by the code embedded in its Collaborative Projects.

The report, "A $5 Billion Value: Estimating the Total Development Cost of Linux Foundation's Collaborative Projects," found that the total lines of source code that are present in the Collaborative Projects are 115,013,302.

The time that would be needed to recreate the total effort of these projects was found to be 41,192.25 person years, meaning it would take 1,373 developers 30 years to recreate the code bases.

And the price tag for that is about $5 billion, the report concludes.

Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects are independently funded software projects that utilize collaborative development. More than 500 companies and thousands of developers from around the world contribute to these open source software projects, according to the Linux Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to "accelerating the growth of Linux and collaborative development."

Why did the Foundation do this report in the first place? It seems to be an effort to establish the relevancy and economic importance of collaboration.

"Over the last few years every major technology category has been taken over by open source and so much opinion has been shared about the proliferation of open source projects, but not about the value," said Amanda McPherson, vice president of developer programs and CMO at Linux Foundation and co-author of the report in a statement announcing the release of the report on Sept. 30. "As the model for building the world's most important technologies have evolved from the past's build vs. buy dichotomy, it is important to understand the economic value of this development model. We hope our new paper can help contribute to that understanding."

The report is based on David A. Wheeler's COCOMO Model, which he pioneered in 2002 to assess the economic value of a RedHat Linux distribution.

[Read more about Red Hat.]

The model assesses the Software Lines of Code (SLOC) in a project as well as the estimated person years and development costs that are associated in order to produce a value of the development costs.

Current Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects include AllSeen Alliance, Automotive Grade Linux, Cloud Foundry Foundation, Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Code Aurora Forum, Core Infrastructure Initiative, Dronecode, IO Visor, IoTivity, Kinetic Open Storage Project, Let’s Encrypt, Node.js Foundation, Open Container Project, Open Mainframe Project, OPNFV, Open Virtualization Alliance, OpenDaylight, openMAMA, R Consortium, Tizen, Xen Project, and Yocto Project.

(Editor's note: This article was updated at 3:24 pm on Sept. 30 to reflect a correction made in the Linux Foundation's press materials.)

About the Author(s)

Larry Loeb

Blogger, Informationweek

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange. His first Mac had 128 KB of memory, which was a big step up from his first 1130, which had 4 KB, as did his first 1401. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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