In his talk at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention, r0ml Lefkowitz of Optaros gave a new definition for ROE: Return on Expertise. As summarized in this computerworld article,

For businesses looking to move to open-source software, the metrics used to compare return on investment with proprietary software may not always give the best answers. Basing such decisions on the costs associated with licensing fees, hardware, support and maintenance — all traditional ROI factors — ignores the expertise of workers who can create and use open-source software….


One example he cited is search engine company Google Inc., which built a huge IT system with generic white box computers — creating a powerful network that is unique and efficient with the hardware available to anyone. What made Google different, he said, is that the developers there have done the creative work with open-source software and thinking.

“That’s what Google did,” Lefkowitz said. “The scarce resource there is the expertise.”