The value of opensource

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Content Copyright © 2014 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

I’m actually in Budapest for the Cloudstack collaboration conference, but as i try to wrench my mind around to thinking about technology again (I was at Bloor’s 25th birthday party in London last night, and I’m now in Budapest, and I was in Las Vegas last week—and I don’t think I’ve had more than 4 hours sleep a night since whenever), thought I’d take in a bit of Apachecon, which is in the same hotel.

I found a keynote by David Nalley, VP of Infrastructure at the Apache Software Foundation, which was rather interesting, since it touched on one of my minor enthusiasms around working to delivering value rather than controlling cost. So, what is the value of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF)?

Well, it has about a million dollars in the bank, so is it a million dollar organisation? That really annoys Nalley, as he thinks it woefully undervalues the ASF. But Nalley found it quite hard to get economists to give him a hard value for the ASF—they just suggested ideas to think about. Which goes some way to explain IT’s fixation with TCO—it’s easy to put a (sometimes simplistic) number to cost whereas quantifying value is hard. So, Nalley tried using a COCOMO model, to evaluate the value of the software assets within the ASF. This suggested a couple of billion dollars but this is probably also an undervaluation—if the online economy is worth about 8 trillion dollars and about half of this this is served from the Apache web server, can the ASF claim to have a value in trillions of dollars?

Whatever, the ASF has value, and i don’t think it’s measured in mere millions of dollars. There are a lot of people contributing to the ASF. So, to take a different point of view, perhaps (according to Nalley) we’ve moved on from “software is eating the world” (Marc Andreessen) to “opensource software is eating the world” (Dr. Ibrahim Haddad, who is in charge of open source at Samsung)—and the ASF is doing a large chunk of the mastication. Which is extremely interesting….