How Much is Open Source “Worth?” Our New Report.

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Can the principles and practices of Linux be transferred to other industries? We at The Linux Foundation certainly think so and apparently so does the industry. Over the last few years every major technology category has been taken over by open source. Many of those Foundations and projects are being hosted at The Linux Foundation or at other organizations like the Apache Software Foundation and others. Much opinion has been written about the proliferation of open source projects, but not about the value.

We set out this year to do a simple code analysis to answer a question: What R&D value are the people who use these projects receiving?

Today we've released a report that attempts to answer this question, "A $5B Value: Estimating the Total Development Costs in Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects." We've based our findings on a well known code analysis method called COCOMO to analyze all the code in our projects’ code repositories on Git. The results were impressive:

As of last month, 115,013,302 total lines of source code were present in Linux Foundation’s Collaborative Projects. Using the COCOMO model, we estimated the total amount of effort required to retrace the steps of collaborative development to be 41,192.25 person-years.  In other words, it would take a team of 1,356 developers 30 years to recreate the code base present in Linux Foundation’s current Collaborative Projects listed above. The total economic value of this work is estimated to be more than $5 billion. By comparison, the Linux kernel is 15 million lines of code.

According to Wired Magazine, 30 million lines of code is the equivalent of about 300 paperback books filled with programming language. So the code in our CPs would fill 1,200 books.

We think it’s clear the complexity present in modern day software requires an economic investment that is unlikely to be shouldered by one company alone. From cloud computing to new ways of developing and deploying applications, the future of computing is open and collaborative.

Just in the past year we have seen announcements of bitter rivals and competitors collaborating on the same projects. Examples include Cloud Foundry where HP, IBM, Pivotal and others are basing their strategic cloud platforms on this open project. Google itself has joined forces with other vendors to create the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. And the automakers are using Linux and collaboration with one another to build the next platform for IVI. Bitter rivals in the showroom but collaborators on the software that goes inside.

Software is “eating the world” and transforming industries like transportation and health care, yet the software industry itself is undergoing a massive shift. Services and speed to market are key, as well as managing the complexity inherent in managing and deploying all of these millions (or billions) lines of code. Open source is the keystone of both of these shifts. The value shown by this new report and the commercial adoption of this code paints a clear and compelling vision of the future.

The $5B in value has been created in just the last few years. We are hopeful that many of the hardest problems we are facing can be solved with this pace of innovation and economic creation.