Monday, February 13, 2012

.. and the price of packaging up software? Billions.

A friend of mine from Perth recently wrote an article outlining the "cost" of Debian Wheezy:

To quote:

"In my analysis the projected cost of producing Debian Wheezy in February 2012 is US$19,070,177,727 (AU$17.7B, EUR€14.4B, GBP£12.11B), making each package’s upstream source code wrth an average of US$1,112,547.56 (AU$837K) to produce. Impressively, this is all free (of cost)."

Now this has apparently caused a bit of a stir among Linux and IT news sites. It's a large number, right? It's all free, right?

However - Debian for the most part is a package repository. Sure, a lot of effort goes into building and maintaining that - and I think _that_ should be assigned a cost - but I think counting all of those package upstreams as part of Debian is hiding the true nature of software development.

According to Ohloh, the cost of producing FreeBSD, at $72,000 a year per programmer, would be $ 243,777,135, _before_ all of the packages in the FreeBSD ports repository. FreeBSD has over 23,000 packages too, just like Debian - if those were also counted, it may start to push that figure far up from millions to billions.

Does it mean Debian Wheezy is equivalent of $20B of effort? Maybe. But then a tiny (comparatively) more effort and you end up with FreeBSD. Or, with different effort - Redhat. Or Gentoo. Or Mandrake. Or NetBSD. Or OpenBSD. Or MacPorts/Fink, which packages this similar software for MacOS X.

What I guess I'm trying to say is this. You get cool stuff from programmers for free. Including that in your project "cost" just seems silly.