Open Source Value and the CMS Ecosystem

6 minute read
Dee-Ann LeBlanc avatar

Open Source Value and the CMS Ecosystem
Black Duck Software recently released a report on how much the current open source codebase is worth, in terms of development costs and manpower. We caught up with their EVP of Marketing and Business Development, Peter Vescuso, to discuss the implications for the Content Management Systems community.

CMSWire: You talk in the report about using money saved by repurposing open source code toward innovation. Are there any examples that you can cite of companies that have already done this? What innovations do you see coming soon using open source as a jumping point?

VESCUSO: Innovation comes indirectly from using open source.

Just to be clear about this line of thought, if a development organization’s budget is $4 million for 2009, and they can find a way to use open source to offset 25% of it, they now have $1 million they could put in their pockets/save (not likely as their 2009 budget is likely lower than it was in 2008) or they can put it towards the list of innovative features and differentiation they’ve been hoping to get to.

Every development group worth its salt has a list of features/functions they’d like to include, but often other priorities have to be addressed first. The application components/segments where they would use open source, by definition, already exist and so are not differentiating as they’re available on the Internet to anyone. It sounds like common sense but many development groups have not made the shift to a multi-source development model and don’t think proactively about where they can save coding. 

One of our customers had a project to create a set of web applications. The project required 159,000 lines of code. They were able to use open source for most of the application saving 88% of the development cost. Savings of 25-50% are more common but this example makes the point about the benefits of using open source strategically.

Open source software and the rise of collaborative development is a fundamental and major innovation in how software will be developed. It has changed the world forever and we think for the better. In terms of innovation from a development group’s perspective, open source is not the source of their innovation. Rather it provides the common piece-parts every application or service may need, and since it’s available to any development group, it is not a source of innovation but a platform for innovation

Developers will become ‘super integrators’ using open source as a foundation, focusing their efforts on the most creative aspects of their work - and that’s where, from their perspective, innovation is created.

CMSWire: Where do you currently see companies using open source savings? Toward putting more resources toward competitive differentiation? Where do you think this will start happening more?

VESCUSO: We see this phenomenon most dramatically in the mobile space. No other industry has moved as aggressively to embrace open source as mobile, spurred in part by competition and by cost pressures. 

Mobile device manufacturers watch every penny of cost that goes into their devices. Using a free Linux-based operating platform, an open source browser (e.g., Safari), etc. reduces costs and frees their own development budgets for value-added features.

The Apple iPhone is not considered an open device, yet it is chock full of open source, with the Safari browser being a highly visible example. Google created the Android mobile platform using Linux and an open source model. 

We did a study back in January on open source mobile projects and reported that the Android platform was the second most popular open source project for all of 2009, second only to the popular iPhone, even though it was only available for the last three months of the year.  

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Black Duck believes this shift to a multi-source development model where development organizations rely on using open source at scale for non-differentiating platform and component functionality is the model of the future. Mobile is the furthest along but we believe this will become pervasive for other software and embedded technology manufacturers and eventually Enterprise IT.

CMSWire: In particular, how would you say the CMS market is affected by these findings? For example, take the popular open source CMS projects Drupal, Joomla! and Plone. What are their code bases worth?

VESCUSO: We looked at the CMS projects in the Black Duck KnowledgeBase, which we believe is the industry’s most comprehensive database of open source projects and associated information (licensing, security vulnerabilities, etc.).  We found hundreds of CMS open source projects which we estimate would cost over $1 billion to develop if developed from scratch. Alfresco Content Management, written mostly in Java, has approximately 2.3 million lines of code (LOC).

Using the COCOMO estimation model we used in our open source analysis, it would cost $120 million to recreate that code base. Joomla is written mostly in PHP, has approximately 200,000 LOC and would cost roughly $9.5 million to develop. The COCOMO model treats all code equally, whether it’s C, Java or PHP, and produces rough estimates.

CMSWire: Typically an open source CMS is going to run, say, on Apache with MySQL as its database. There are other programs/requirements and the OS to consider too, but let's just look at those for now so we don't over complicate things. How much are the popular open source CMS's with Apache and MySQL worth, as far as the combined code bases?

VESCUSO: MySQL has approximately 1.2 million LOC and would cost roughly $62 million to develop. The Apache HTTP server has approximately 200,000 LOC and would cost approximately $9.5 million to develop. Combining Apache ($9.5 million), MySQL ($62 million) with Joomla ($9.5 million) is a roughly $91 million platform any commercial organization can take advantage of for their CMS needs. 

This does not include Linux, of course, which is one of the largest and highest-quality open source projects. The Linux Foundation estimated the total development cost represented in a typical Linux distribution at $1.2 billion.

CMSWire: Do you have any customers that have innovated or differentiated themselves on top of open source CMS projects?

VESCUSO: We don’t know of a customer that has developed on top of a CMS that we can reference, but Infoprint, a joint venture of IBM and Ricoh, is a Black Duck customer in the printer business. They make extensive use of open source and rely on Black Duck to manage and control it.