​$5 Billion worth of open-source code and counting

The Linux Foundation does far more than support Linux. Its open-source, Collaborative Projects have created about $5-billion worth of value.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

It took a while, but IT companies finally figured out the basic math of open-source software. You can either 1) Do all the work yourself, the proprietary way or 2) Do all the work with all the interested parties, the open-source method. Guess which one is more cost efficient?

The Linux Foundation's Collaborative Projects produce huge amounts of working code.
Ding! Ding! That's right. The open-source, collaborative method is far more efficient. If, that is, you can work out a way to manage it so people are actually working together rather than working at cross purposes.

That's why, for example, the BSD Unixes are niche operating systems, while Linux has taken over the operating system world on all platforms except the desktop. Torvalds, a strong, charismatic leader, was able to get numerous top developers on board to create a great operating system.

Unfortunately, there aren't that many Torvalds to go around. Fortunately, The Linux Foundation, while it started primarily as a way to support Linux, has mastered what it calls Distributed Genius. This is the idea that collaboration can beat competition.

By working out the principles, practices, and services that make successful collaborative projects, the Linux Foundation has enabled numerous successful open-source projects. These include: the Allseen Alliance and IoTivity, the Internet of Things; Automotive Grade Linux; Cloud Foundry, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud; Cloud Native Computing Foundation and Open Container Initative, containers; and Xen and Open Virtulization Alliance, virtual machine hypervisors. The list goes on and on.

Unlike so many standard groups in the past, these groups of individual developers and corporations don't simply talk about creating software, they make it. The gold standard of Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects is working code.

Indeed, these independently-funded software projects harness the power of collaborative development to fuel innovation across industries and ecosystems. More than 500 companies and thousands of developers from around the world contribute to these open-source software projects that are changing the world in which we live.

In its first over-all report, A $5 Billion Value: Estimating the Total Development Cost of Linux Foundation's Collaborative Projects, which measures the Project's' collective development costs, the Linux Foundation found:

  • The total lines of source code to date 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.

This amount was determined by using David A. Wheeler's Software Lines of Code (SLOC) methodology. Linux, by the way, doesn't count in this total. On its own, by the last count, 2008, Linux would have cost $10.8 billion had it been paid for by old-style programming methods.

The code from these projects is being used in the real world. Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover have publicly stated they will be using Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) in future production vehicles. Cloud Foundry is already deployed in cloud programs such as: IBM BlueMix, Pivotal Cloud Foundry and Pivotal Web Services, HP Helion, and GE Predix. More than 85 million devices currently run the AllSeen Alliance's AllJoyn framework. For example, AllJoyn is included in every version of Microsoft Windows 10, every LG TV that ships with webOS, and Hitachi Smart Wi-Fi Speakers.

In short, this is real code doing real work.

Welcome to the 21st century and the open-source programming paradigm.

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