Linux Foundation’s Open Source R&D Worth $5B

The Linux Foundation on Wednesday released a white paper that puts the estimated value of development R&D costs of its Collaborative Projects at US$5 billion.

The Linux Foundation has provided independent funding for the collaborative software projects since 2008 to fuel innovation across industries and ecosystems. More than 500 companies and thousands of developers from around the world contribute to these open source software projects.

The monetary value of the foundation’s R&D efforts did not come into focus until earlier this year, according to Amanda McPherson, chief marketing officer for the Linux Foundation.

“We have been focusing more on hosting the projects, I would say, instead of analyzing them,” she told LinuxInsider.

World-Changing Reach

The white paper, “A $5 Billion Value: Estimating the Total Development Cost of Linux Foundation’s Collaborative Projects,” offers a state-of-the-industry assessment that open source is changing the world in which we live, according coauthors McPherson and Jeff Licquia, a software engineer at the Linux Foundation.

“Over the last few years every major technology category has been taken over by open source,” said McPherson, “and so much opinion has been shared about the proliferation of open source projects — but not about the value.”

The model for building the world’s most important technologies evolved from the old build-vs.- buy dichotomy, she noted, so it is important to understand the economic value of the current development model. That is one of the primary goals of the report.

Research 101

The report’s findings are based on David A. Wheeler’s Constructive Cost Model, or COCOMO, an algorithmic software cost estimation model established in 2002. It uses a basic regression formula laced with parameters derived from historical project data, as well as both current and future project characteristics.

Wheeler’s initial study became a well-regarded assessment of the value of a Linux distribution. The Linux Foundation performed a similar assessment in 2008.

It evaluates the Software Lines of Code (SLOC) in a project and the estimated person years and development costs associated to produce a value of the development costs.

This report is the first attempt to estimate not only the cost of developing the technologies, but also the value they collectively deliver to the industry.

Big Impact

The report lends credence to the unquestionable growth and importance of open source in today’s world. A side question is how big open source is now compared to years ago, noted Al Hilwa, program director for software development research at IDC.

“It is absolutely bigger. We are seeing some of the big companies like Microsoft and VMware pivot towards open source. It is a force to be reckoned with,” he told LinuxInsider.

Not a day passes that Hilwa does not see some new DevOp startup that is building a model out of open source code. “There is enormous activity around open source code today.”

R&D Findings

Using Wheeler’s model, the report authors made some key findings:

  • The total lines of source code present today in Linux Foundation’s Collaborative Projects are 115,013,302.
  • The estimated, total amount of effort required to retrace the steps of collaborative development for these projects is 41,192.25 person years.
  • In other words, it would take 1,356 developers 30 years to recreate the code bases present in Linux Foundation’s current Collaborative Projects.
  • The total economic value of this work is estimated to be more than $5 billion dollars.

“The results meet the Linux Foundation’s expectations. We knew it would be a big number. I should note we were much more conservative in our assumptions than previous analyses by us and others of Linux,” said McPherson.

What’s Included

The current Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects include AllSeen Alliance, Automotive Grade Linux, Cloud Foundry Foundation, Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Code Aurora Forum, Core Infrastructure Initiative and Dronecode.

The list continues: IO Visor, IoTivity, Kinetic Open Storage Project, Let’s Encrypt, Node.js Foundation, Open Container Project and Open Mainframe Project.

More projects: OPNFV, Open Virtualization Alliance, OpenDaylight, openMAMA, R Consortium, Tizen, Xen Project and Yocto Project.

New Collaborative Projects announced this week include ODPi, ON.Labs and the Open API Initiative. Not all projects were included in the analysis due to a number of them just having become LF Collaborative Projects.

Study’s Impact

The white paper emphasizes how long it would take to recreate the code with a large development team rather than by using open source methods. Open source has passed the point of no return, said McPherson.

“You just won’t see single organizations trying to shoulder the burden of developing complex infrastructure on their own,” she said.

Technical executives may benefit more from the report than developers, as it gives executives who are evaluating their open source strategies fuel for decision-making.

“It shows how valuable the projects are to use as part of a technology strategy,” said McPherson. “It also shows a really interesting progression of open source adoption from people using open source, to open sourcing key technology, to now collaborating together with their peers and competitors on these large scale projects.”

Winning Factors

Software is “transforming industries like transportation and healthcare,” said McPherson. At the same time, the software industry itself is undergoing a massive shift.

Services and speed to market are key. So is managing the complexities inherent in deploying all those billions of code lines.

“Open source is the keystone of both of these shifts. The value shown by our report and the commercial adoption of this code paints a clear and compelling vision of the future for open source,” McPherson said.

Scruffy Days Are Over

“Showing the total economic value of free/libre and open source software helps move from the perception of free software being community theater, and clearly shows it is professional,” said Todd Weaver, CEO of Purism Computer.

“The benefit for software developers is that they can point to cash value for their software released under free licenses,” he told LinuxInsider, “but the largest benefit is to those on the fence about free/libre and open source software, because average users realize that the quality is on par with, or in some cases superior to, the proprietary counterparts.”

Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him onGoogle+.

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How Not To Do CX, Lenovo Style

Customer Experience CX

Sometimes the world of smart technology innovations collides with the planet of dumb customer service provisions. That collision usually does not bode well for the customer.

In my case, that scenario is particularly true. I bought Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 5 for an attractive price from a major national electronics store. In hindsight, that was a purchase I wish I could undo.

The Duet 5 is regarded in numerous reliable reviews as the best overall ChromeOS tablet/detachable computer available this year. Its larger screen and detachable full-size keyboard make a usable and fun tablet experience not available with pure Android devices.

For me, that accolade falls far short of reaching that mark. In fact, if your primary need for a Chromebook is to run Linux apps, think again about not buying Lenovo’s Duet 5. You might get a unit like mine that does not do Linux even though it is supposed to work. That failure is not considered a valid claim under Lenovo’s warranty.

I have become quite fond of Chromebooks. ChromeOS devices supplement my home office cadre of Linux computers. They link to my Android phone and its apps. I can run the same productivity apps and access their data directly on the Chromebook.

What fed my attraction to the Duet 5 is its logical follow-up to the very popular 10.1″ original Duet I bought a few years ago. The Duet line has a detachable keyboard and is a stand-alone ChromeOS tablet.

Putting want versus need aside, I debated the prospect of more productivity and convenience with a bigger screen at 400 nits, larger keyboard, and 8GB of RAM. I knew the manufacturer and the retail store as well as the product line. Or so I thought.

What could go wrong? Three things: a failed product, no support, and a warranty that also did not work!

Maybe One Too Many

The last thing I needed to buy was yet another Chromebook. Over the last few years, I have used four or five models from HP, Lenovo, and Asus.

The Duet 5 seemed to check all the boxes. As it turned out, the check mark fell out of the box for reliable tech support and customer service.

Nope, I could not return the computer. By the time I discovered its defective nature the undo window had closed.

I suppose this incident will nudge me to buy expensive add-on store warranties for less expensive electronic devices. Adding insult to injury, Lenovo tech support said the malfunction was “beyond the scope of the manufacturer’s one-year warranty.”

A final correspondence from Lenovo’s tech support told me that if I shipped the device to its repair facility, all the technicians would do is reset the unit to its original OS status and remove Linux.

Heck, I had already done the same thing twice.

Lenovo Buyers Beware

This account is not intended to be a product review. Rather, it tells what happens when corporate arrogance destroys the customer experience.

I usually write about business technology issues and open-source developments impacting the Linux OS. My reporting beat overlaps with e-commerce and customer relationship management (CRM) issues.

As a tech writer and product reviewer, I am used to manufacturers sending me top-of-their-line products in hopes of showing off their best wares. Marketing marvels often offer high-end configurations to curry consumers’ attention. They go out of their way to make sure the reviewer is fully satisfied.

Too bad that mentality does not always exist when lowly consumers are on the receiving end. But I was not using a loaner unit I would send back anyway, satisfied or not. I bought this model with no plans to review it. I just wanted to use it.

My personal experience hardened my resolve to not buy a Lenovo product going forward. Not because of a bad product encounter. Lenovo lost my customer loyalty because of shoddy customer service and no dedication to resolving my issue with a malfunctioning computer that they built.

The Gory Details

According to Lenovo’s ill-conceived logic, the warranty on Chromebooks does not cover user modifications. Since I activated the Linux partition, ran into a problem, removed the partition, and reinstalled Linux apps not there when I bought it, I was guilty of modifying the device.

To clarify, all Chromebooks require the user to turn on the Linux partition and install Linux apps. That is the same process for using Android apps on Chromebooks.

Chromebooks are built to run the ChromeOS and optionally to run in separate built-in containers Android and Linux software. Google certifies the hardware to ensure the software works.

The ChromeOS similarly enables users to access websites in a browser environment. An added option lets users access those web destinations to run application services within tabbed browser windows or as progressive web apps (PWAs) in their own isolated windows.

That is what Chromebooks are designed to do on any manufacturer’s hardware. Turning these built-in features on/off should not be construed as “modifying” the device.

Tech Support Hell

A few weeks after receiving the Duet 5, I experienced only an intermittent screen flickering issue. That cleared up after a system update. No worries. No concerns.

At that point I turned on the Linux partition and installed the same Linux apps that I use on my other lesser-endowed Chromebooks. Those devices worked fine with the same apps installed.

But the Lenovo Duet 5 froze after loading the Linux apps and running for a few minutes. Glitchy installations happen. So I did what is standard troubleshooting. I reset the ChromeOS to its original status. I then set up the Linux partition and sized it well beyond the Google-recommended minimum size.

Problem NOT solved. So I wiped the Linux partition again. This time, I installed a single Linux app one at a time looking for the culprit throwing the others out of whack. Every Linux app in isolation froze.

Lenovo tech support declined to investigate or test the hardware. The agents suggested finding an affiliated tech center to pursue a solution.

Stuck With No Options

I gladly would have done that. But the nearest such Lenovo repair center was across state lines some 150 miles away.

I reached out to the Google Chromebook support community for an alternative solution. A support person there had me run the “df command” in a Linux terminal to determine the physical health of the partition.

The readout from that diagnostic confirmed the device has a valid and working Linux container. That partially settled the question about the hardware. It did not, however, identify what other hardware issues might be involved.

The Google support forum tech then suggested I look for one or more dud packages by following the procedure outlined above. But, of course, I already did that several times.

Lousy Lessons Learned

If you plan to buy a Chromebook just to have easy access to selected Linux apps, seriously consider my experience. Maybe look elsewhere instead of the Duet 5. Numerous Chromebook alternatives exist.

Who knows? Maybe the Linux apps will work fine for you on your Duet 5. As I said, I have not had this situation on any other Chromebook product I use.

No doubt my experience was a gross anomaly. The aggravating part in all of this is that I will never know the cause.

But if you buy a Duet 5 from a retail outlet instead of directly from the manufacturer, be sure to confirm how that store honors the warranty. You now know how Lenovo honors its warranty.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.
Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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