New research from the Linux Foundation reveals that it would cost proprietary software shops more than $10 billion in today's dollars to build their own Linux distribution from scratch. IT Business Edge blogger Paul Mah pointed to the study Thursday. He didn't go into the details of the methodology, but I had a chance to speak to Linux Foundation VP and report co-author Amanda McPherson by e-mail about the study methods as well as its significance.
She said the study's authors used David Wheeler's SLOCCount, which uses the COnstructive COst MOdel:
This methodology takes into account lines of code written, the appropriate number of labor years and salary adjustments for inflation. We wanted to come up with a real number based on the one thing you can quantify in open source -- code.
Similarly, McPherson noted that they chose to base their estimate on Fedora because it is the basis of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which represents a significant chunk of the Linux market as a whole. It also helped that David Wheeler used Red Hat to develop his estimate in 2002. However, they haven't ruled out doing other studies based on some of the other Linux distributions in the future.
As for the study's significance today, she says simply:
The future of software development is collaborative. These systems have grown so powerful and so important that for any one company to fund the development on its own would be a foolish and possibly financially untenable decision. Software development today actually requires collaboration in order to innovate at the pace the market demands. Consider devices like the Kindle and GPhone. They wouldn't likely be available today were it not for the billions of dollars worth of R&D that they can use from the Linux kernel.
The study's conclusions seem to align with conclusions others have made in recent days that even the lines between open source software and proprietary software are no longer clear.