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Linux Foundation Releases Collaboration Report

The Linux Foundation has released a report outlining the estimated value of open source projects behind the operating system, and puts the figure at $5 billion.

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The Linux Foundation announced today the release of its first ever report measuring the estimated value of development costs in the wider scope of open source projects in which it participates.

The foundation, a nonprofit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux and collaborative software development, released a report entitled “A $5 Billion Value: Estimating the Total Development Cost of Linux Foundation’s Collaborative Projects.”

The foundation considers Collaborative Projects independently funded software projects which harness the power of cooperative development to fuel innovation across industries and ecosystems. More than 500 companies and thousands of developers worldwide contribute to a variety of open source software projects.

“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 the report's co-author Amanda McPherson, vice president of developer programs at the Linux Foundation. “As the model for building the world’s most important technologies has 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 new report’s findings are based on two sources: David A. Wheeler’s COCOMO Model, which he pioneered in 2002 outlined in a well-regarded study that assessed the value of a Linux distribution, and a similar assessment in 2008 drafted by the Linux Foundation. The latter assessed the Software Lines of Code (SLOC) in a project and the estimated person years and development costs associated to produce a value of the development costs.

The report released today is the first attempt to estimate the cost of how much it would take to develop the technology and to understand the value these projects collectively deliver to the industry.

Using Wheeler’s model, key findings in the report include:

    • The total lines of source code present today in Linux Foundation’s Collaborative Projects are 115,013,302.
    • The estimated, total amount of effort required to retrace the steps of collaborative development for these projects is 41,192.25 person years.
    • In other words, it would take 1,356 developers 30 years to recreate the code bases present in Linux Foundation’s current Collaborative Projects listed above. The total economic value of this work is estimated to be over $5 billion.

"When people have the tools and connections to collaborate on a massive scale, any problem can be solved," said Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin. "We believe only the Distributed Genius of thousands of people working as one can solve the most challenging problems of our time. Collaboration is today’s competitive advantage."

The report is co-authored by McPherson and Jeff Licquia, a software engineer at the Linux Foundation. To download the full report, visit the Linux Foundation’s Publication’s website. Find more information about Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects here.

The Linux Foundation is an organization which sponsors the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds and promotes, protects and advances the Linux operating system and collaborative software development by marshaling the resources of its members and the open source community. The foundation provides a neutral forum for collaboration and education by hosting Collaborative Projects, Linux conferences, including LinuxCon and generating original research and content that advances the understanding of Linux and collaborative software development. More information can be found here.

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