17 October 2004

Estimating The Cost To Develop Software Using Conventional Means

Posted under: at 00:06

Recently, some guy offered to relicense 2.4 branch of Linux kernel for a mere $50,000:

We offer to kernel.org the sum of $50,000.00 US for a one time license to the Linux Kernel Source for a single snapshot of a single Linux version by release number. This offer must be accepted by ALL copyright holders and this snapshot will subsequently convert the GPL license into a BSD style license for the code. In other words, what we are asking for is the ability to snapshot kernel.org at 50K a pop for a license to each 2.<even number> release, then take any even number release private.

The offer regarded as an insult by a number of kernel developers. Aside that it is impossible to offer such a deal, they argued that the amount 50K is far too tiny for a project as big as the Linux kernel. David Wheeler tried to compute the cost required to redevelop the Linux kernel from scratch using conventional means. The result is it would take $612 millions to redevelop the Linux kernel using traditional proprietary approaches. Read his whitepaper Linux Kernel 2.6: It’s Worth More! for more information.

The interesting thing is the tool used for this calculation. David Wheeler used his own creation, sloccount, in order to compute these results. You can use sloccount yourself to estimate the cost needed to develop any software, as long as you have access to its source code. For example, it will take about $500K in order to develop WordPress, the software behind this blog, using traditional means. You can try sloccounting your own projects, assignment from school, your final projects, some random free software, etc! It’s fun!

By default, sloccount uses average programmer salary from United States, so if you live outside the United States, you will need to adjust its parameter to avoid it from overvaluing your software. I don’t know the average programmer salary here in Indonesia, but I think it is between Rp 2-5 millions per month depending on your location. Multiply it by 13 to get yearly figure. If anyone know a better estimate, please post a comment.

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