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How Big is a Billion? Open Source Growth Skyrockets

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How Big is a Billion?

We all remember 1997’s Austin Powers movie with Dr. Evil trying to express a really big number:

Dr. Evil: Mr. President, after I destroy Washington D.C... I will destroy another major city every hour on the hour. That is, unless, of course, you pay me... one hundred billion dollars.

The President: [bursts with laughter] Dr. Evil, this is 1969! That amount of money doesn't even exist. That's like saying, "I want a kajillion bajillion dollars."

For many of us, a billion (or a kajillion) of anything is difficult to image. But needless to say, it’s a really big number.

Why bring this up? Because we are growing in the multiple-billions when it comes to open source components used in our software today.

Billions and Billions of Open Source Components Served

Last year, the Central Repository served over 13 billion download requests. Indications are that Sonatype will manage 18 billion requests from the Central Repository by the end of 2014. And we are not alone.

NPM components are on track for 4 billion downloads a year. RubyGems.org is also nearing 4 billion downloads. Even in the infant NuGet open source community, they have seen 250 million downloads.

Put in a little more context, best estimates from IDC are that we have 11 million professional developers on the planet. When considering the ratio of developers to components consumed (let’s approximate 1 developer : 2,000 components annually), we are well into the big leagues. You can be very confident that all those poo-pooing open source as a fad or not being widely adopted are by far in the minority.

How Many Have You Consumed?

The answer is easier to come up with than you might expect. One of the things that we’ve done over the last few years is to stand up a bunch of services in the open source realm. This includes things like repository health checks in our Nexus product and free scans of applications using our application health checks. Both can help you form a picture of your open source software “bill of materials” -- that is, an inventory of sorts: one for your repository manager that supports development and the other for your applications.

Welcome to the Billion Club

The cool thing? Not that many of us get a chance to participate in something that touches billions. Apple has 50 billion downloads from the app store, but they are serving a much larger community. McDonald’s serves billions of burgers a year, but they are feeding a large portion of the globe. As an open source user -- and perhaps even a project contributor -- feel proud that you are part of the billion club. What a cool feeling to be part of something so big, so important, and with so much impact.

Title page featured image credit: http://bit.ly/1EvDxhy

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