Re: Business of Compilers

Jeremy Bennett <>
Thu, 20 May 2010 03:59:35 -0500

          From comp.compilers

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From: Jeremy Bennett <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: Thu, 20 May 2010 03:59:35 -0500
Organization: Compilers Central
References: 10-05-088
Keywords: practice
Posted-Date: 20 May 2010 15:23:55 EDT

On Sun, 16 May 2010 02:03:08 +0530, Seima Rao wrote:

> Twenty years ago, there was buzz surrounding compilers in the ISV
> segment.
> I am eager to know what business opportunities are available in the
> field of compiler technology nowadays. Is it possible to run a
> company purely by selling compiler technology? How sustainable would
> be such an enterprise? What compiler products can possible be sold
> these days?

Hi Seima,

As others have commented, the success of open source compilers has
limited the ability to sell a traditional commercial product.

Which is not to say that you can't make money. GCC is ~4 million lines
of code, a lot of it very complex. So there is money to be made in the
service business.

Which is what we do at Embecosm ( But we need to be
broader than just GCC, so we support the entire GNU toolchain,
integration with hardware models and GCC derivatives such as MILEPOST.
All as an open source business, from which we make money selling our

Our view is that, at least in the embedded space, GCC or GCC
compatible compilers, will continue to grow in importance for two

First, with heterogenous multi-core chips, users are not prepared to
support multiple compiler tool chains, and GNU is generally the only
unified toolchain option available. Indeed processor core
manufacturers of all sizes are coming under increasing pressure from
IDMs to improve their GCC offering for just this reason.

Secondly, the rise of Android and other Linux based operating systems.
These all require a compiler supporting the GNU extensions.

There will still be a place for proprietary compiler technologies,
particularly for niche processors. Companies like ACE (mentioned
earlier) and Target Compiler Technologies have a useful line in
compilers driven from hardware specifications. However in a mature
market, the free and open source offerings will continue to grow in

John added a comment about there being a lot of compiler activity in
India. You'll notice the companies I mentioned earlier are all
European. Contributions to GCC and the GNU tool chain are still
largely from employees of US and European companies.

At the moment offerings from countries such as Indian and China seem
to be mostly noise rather than delivery. It's one thing to offer GCC
compiler expertise, it's another to offer an implementation that works
reliably and is accepted.

However past experience suggests that will change. It's worth noting
that a lot of the GCC project's best internal documentation comes from
Indian academics, and it won't be long before that expertise migrates
fully into the commercial space.


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