The Linux operating system is the most successful open source project in history, but just how much is the software in a Linux distribution “worth“?

The Linux operating system is the most popular open source operating system in computing today, representing a $25 billion ecosystem in 2008.1 Since its inception in 1991, it has grown to become a force in computing, powering everything from the New York Stock Exchange to mobile phones to supercomputers to consumer devices.

Linux foundation estimated the Total Development Cost of a Linux Distribution. For this estimation Fedora 9 distribution was considered. The approach was to download the source code and installing it properly on test machines and counting the number of source lines of code (SLOC).

Finally, given all the assumptions, the SLOC and estimated production values for Fedora 9 are as follows.

Total Physical Source Lines of Code (SLOC) 204,500,946
Development Effort Estimate, Person-Years (Person-Months)
(Basic COCOMO model, Person-Months = 2.4 * (KSLOC**1.05))
59389.53 (712674.36)
Schedule Estimate, Years (Months)
(Basic COCOMO model, Months = 2.5 * (person-months**0.38))
24.64 (295.68)
Total Estimated Cost to Develop
(average salary = $75,662.08/year, overhead = 2.40).
$10,784,484,309

A separate test was run on the stock Linux kernel that was included within Fedora 9, linux-2.6.25.i686 with the following output:

Total Physical Source Lines of Code (SLOC) 6,772,902
Development Effort Estimate, Person-Years (Person-Months)
(effort model Person-Months = 4.64607 * (KSLOC**1.12))
7557.4 (90688.77)
Schedule Estimate, Years (Months)
(Basic COCOMO model, Months = 2.5 * (person-months**0.38))
15.95 (191.34)
Estimated Average Number of Developers (Effort/Schedule) 473.96
Total Estimated Cost to Develop
(average salary = $75,662.08/year, overhead = 2.40).
$1,372,340,206
 

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