Linux: $10.8 billion worth of R&D...for free

The Linux Foundation estimates the value of Linux R&D at $10.8 billion, which is exactly $10.8 billion more than you need to spend to tap into it.

Recently, IDC estimated the total value of the Linux ecosystem (hardware, software, services) to be $25 billion. That's a great number, but it doesn't really say anything about what Linux should be worth to you and your organization.

The Linux Foundation has set out to fill that void by estimating the the value of Linux research and development (R&D). For those too impatient to read the report, here's a spoiler:

$10.8 billion.

The total development cost represented in a typical Linux distribution was $1.2 billion. We've used his tools and method to update these findings. Using the same tools, we estimate that it would take approximately $10.8 billion to build the Fedora 9 distribution in today's dollars, with today's software development costs. Additionally, it would take $1.4 billion to develop the Linux kernel alone.

$10.8 billion that we don't have to spend to get an exceptionally robust operating system. $10.8 billion that we depend upon every day when using Google, Amazon, and a dizzying array of websites, as well as many of the applications we use within our own companies. There are countless companies and services enabled by this communal, multi-billion dollar investment, none of which you and I actually pay for.

This Linux R&D would be a hefty undertaking for any one company, but Linux and the open-source phenomenon that powers it didn't have to rely on any one company: Linux is developed by a community of corporations and individuals. In fact, there are over 3,200 developers from 200 companies contributing to the Linux kernel alone, according to the Linux Foundation.

This is the power of open source: much more value for much less money. Just imagine what would happen if we applied this development model to development tools, content management, CRM, web servers, ERP...oh, wait. We already have. It's just a download away.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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