A Perth-based Debian developer has estimated the commercial cost of labour required to build the forthcoming release of the operating system, codenamed Wheezy, would be $17.7 billion.
Linux developer James Bromberger valued Wheezy using a tool (sloccount) that counts source lines of code and calculates the system's value based on a developer's average wage, which Bromberger put at $67,395.
Keeping the estimate limited to the original software Debian has distributed, Bromberger found there were 419,776,604 source lines of code.
"In my analysis the projected cost of producing Debian Wheezy in February 2012 is $US19,070,177,727, making each package’s upstream source code wrth (sic) an average of $US1,112,547.56 ($A837,000) to produce. Impressively, this is all free (of cost)," wrote Bromberger.
Sloccount, a tool developed David A Wheeler for his 2002 calculation of the value of Red Hat Linux 7.1, found that particular OS would cost over $US1.2 billion to code.
The Linux Foundation in 2008 used sloccount to estimate it would cost $US10.8 billion to build Fedora 9 under that year's wage norms, and $US1.4 billion to develop the Linux kernel.
The study was designed to highlight the value that thousands of Linux coders deliver to the economy through free and open source software.