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LF values its Linux and other open source projects at $5B

Oct 6, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 532 views

The LF issued a report estimating the worth of its Linux and open-source projects to be about $5 billion, and launched a “World without Linux” video series.

This week at the Linux Foundation’s LinuxCon + CloudOpen + Embedded Linux Conference Europe in Dublin, the not-for-profit Linux advocacy group launched the first in a video series called “A World Without Linux,” following last week’s release of a report that attempts to quantify the worth of its Linux and other open source Collaborative Projects.

In other LF news out of the Dublin conference, the foundation embarked on two new efforts to address the interconnected challenges of improving the software supply chain and complying with open source licensing. First, the Linux Foundation launched a new OpenChain Workgroup to “standardize common best practices for open software compliance,” as well as ease friction points in the software supply chain to reduce both costs and the duplication of effort. The LF also said it would host the existing FOSSology proect for open source license compliance (see farther below).

Also at the conference, the foundation launched the Real-Time Linux (RTL) Collaborative Project based on the existing, OSADL-funded RTL project.

These upbeat perspectives on Linux, released in conjunction with the 24th anniversary of Linux, were countered by the news that longtime Linux kernel developer Sarah Sharp was leaving the Linux kernel project due to an alleged culture of rudeness, intimidation, and profanity (see farther below).

Estimating Linux’s worth, and imagining a world without it

LF report:
“A $5 billion Value”

Linux and the larger world of open source technology continue to expand rapidly on multiple fronts, but they don’t receive much media attention. The media prefers to talk about companies and CEOs rather than projects and complex licensing and governance schemes. As a result, the understanding and recognition of Linux and open source remains fairly low.

The Linux Foundation now has several efforts in motion to change that, starting with a six-part video series called A World Without Linux. As Jennifer Cloer writes in the series announcement: “For so many people around the world, there is not as much awareness about how this free operating system built together by hundreds of companies and thousands of developers is an integral part of our lives.”

The video series projects an alternate reality in which Linux never happened. In the first episode, for example, a speculative question about the name of a Michael Jackson song requires a lengthy trip to a library instead of a quick session with the smartphone. Presumably, to give the LF the benefit of a doubt, even a non-Linux iPhone would not be possible in a world without Linux because Linux runs much of the Internet on the server end. (If not, maybe they should create a series called “A World Without Linux or Unix” just to be on the safe side.)

A World Without Linux: Episode 1

Last week, the Linux Foundation released a report called “A $5B Value: Estimating the Total Development Costs in Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects.” The analysis uses the COCOMO code analysis method to determine the total lines of code from the projects’ Git repositories. At the end of August, they collectively comprised 115,013,302 total lines of source code, which the LF estimated to require 41,192.25 person-years of coding labor.

If a single company were to attempt this, it would take a team of 1,356 developers 30 years. (Hence, the importance of the “collaborative” part.) The report then goes on to calculate that this collective effort represents $5 billion in total economic value.

Most of these open source projects are dominated by Linux technology. The LF’s Collaborative Projects include enterprise-oriented efforts such as Cloud Foundry, OpenDaylight, and Zen, as well as embedded-focused projects like AllSeen/AllJoyn, Automotive Grade Linux, and Dronecode. There are also more far-reaching projects like Node.js and the new Real-Time Linux Collaborative Project.

LF reinforces compliance efforts

The creation of the OpenChain Workgroup, and the adoption of the FOSSology project as an LF-hosted project follow earlier Linux Foundation efforts to untangle the complex open source supply chain. Earlier this year, its SPDX workgroup released version 2.0 of the Software Package Data Exchange (SPDX), adding features that let developers relate SPDX documents to each other to provide a “three-dimensional” relationship view of license dependencies.

How SPDX handles package relationships

The SPDF format for sharing data about software licenses and copyrights is also used by the 8-year old FOSSology project for its eponymous open source application. With the FOSSology 3.0 release, due later this week, users can quickly run license and copyright scans and generate an SPDX file or a ReadMe containing the copyright notices from their software, says the LF. Siemens is offering a presentation on FOSSology on Oct. 7 at LinuxCon.

The new OpenChain Workgroup also deals with open source compliance, but focuses more specifically on supply chain issues. The workgroup, whose members include ARM, Qualcomm, Samsung, SanDisk, and Intel subsidiary Wind River, intends to bring to light the “security and nature of open source components included in software packages that are delivered throughout the supply chain,” says the LF.

The OpenChain Workgroup will provide a customizable baseline process, as well as set of guidelines for monitoring and developing compliance programs using Debian with SPDF.

Sarah Sharp quits Linux kernel project

Sarah Sharp

Two years ago, Linux kernel developer Sarah Sharp dared to publicly criticize Linus Torvalds for his coarse language and lack of civility in emails and forum postings related to kernel development. Since then, there have been few improvements in the confrontational environment at, according to Sharp, who resigned from the Linux kernel project yesterday.

This time, Sharp, who was formerly the maintainer of the Linux kernel’s USB 3.0 host controller driver and Linux kernel coordinator for the FOSS Outreach Program for Women (OPW), did not single out Torvalds or anyone else. However, she wrote in a blog entry that “Many senior Linux kernel developers stand by the right of maintainers to be technically and personally brutal.”

Sharp goes on to write: “What that means is they are privileging the emotional needs of other Linux kernel developers (to release their frustrations on others, to be blunt, rude, or curse to blow off steam) over my own emotional needs (the need to be respected as a person, to not receive verbal or emotional abuse).”

In a followup blog entry on Oct. 6, Sharp proposes an addendum to a Code of Conflict document that the kernel project released in May, and which Sharp says is sadly lacking in behavioral guidelines. In fact, as Liam Tung points out in a story on Sharp’s departure for ZDNet, the Code of Conflict warns developers that code submissions will be met with “critique and criticism.”

Sharp suggests adding detailed behavioral guidelines to the Code, including “basic human decency,” as well as empathy and awareness, succession planning, diversity, and more. A number of leading edge for-profit companies including Amazon might also benefit from her suggestions.

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