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.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
2 min read

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.