eldavojohn writes "It's no secret that the actual cost of software is very complicated. Sure, the companies that write software are spending money on it, but when that software is released, it doesn't stop costing money. You can probably think of a number of relatively tiny things that add up — especially if you're a system administrator — like the man-hours spent patching software to avoid a nasty infection spreading quickly. The bigger debt is that old piece of software you paid a bunch of money for back in 1998 that you're critically dependent on, but it has no support and hasn't been updated in years due to any number of reasons. Well, the National Science Foundation paid Gartner almost half a million dollars to find out what it truly costs to bring an organization to a fully supported environment. According to Gartner, this hidden liability or 'IT debt' is at $500 billion worldwide right now, and in five years it will be at $1 trillion. Along similar lines, a company called Cast that makes software quality tools reported that your average business application comes with a million in IT debt (PDF). And if that's not misapplied enough for you, they estimate that the debt is $2.82 per line of code in the application and also that it's on average higher in the government sector."