Democrats Tap Open Source

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-06-28 Print this article Print

Open-source software will be key in the Democratic National Committee campaign operations.

Open source has expanded into the political world, with open software powering the online operations of the Democratic National Committee and Sen. John Kerrys presidential campaign.

The DNC has embraced open source to run its online operation, including outreach and fund raising, and has been working on this front since 2001 with New York-based consultant Plus Three LP.

This week, the DNC will launch, at, the third version of its Web site, which is designed to mobilize voters on a national and grass-roots level, grow the partys online database, and raise funds, said David Brunton, Plus Threes vice president and co-founder.

Plus Threes Arcos technology, a business application suite based on the open-source LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl) platform, lies at the core of the Democrats online technology infrastructure, dubbed Demzilla by the DNC.

Demzilla is credited with helping the DNC grow its online contributions, as well as its online community, from 70,000 to more than 1.7 million members, said DNC officials in Washington.

So far this year, Plus Threes open technologies have helped the DNC raise more than $60 million online for Democratic presidential contender Kerry and the DNC.

Plus Three, which serves the political, nonprofit and advocacy vertical market, uses Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux primarily, but it has several developers working on Debian. Plus Three also uses Version 1.3 of the Apache Web server, mainly because of compatibility with its Perl engine, but also uses Apache 2.0 for caching.

Plus Three builds mainly on MySQL ABs MySQL database but also works with PostgreSQL for particular narrow and tall indexes, while most of the code generated inside Plus Three is written in Perl, Brunton said.

"Open-source technologies provide freedom for our clients—both freedom from licensing fees, of which we charge none, as well as, in many cases, freedom from the kinds of attacks that can debilitate more closed alternatives," Brunton said.

"We do three kinds of work for the DNC," Brunton said. "The first is customized, technical work on a fixed-price basis. The second type of work is regular maintenance for a monthly fee, while the last kind of work done is a retainer for managing the DNCs online advertising and e-mail enhancements."

The short-term costs of the Plus Three DNC solution are far lower than those of proprietary alternatives, including Windows, primarily due to the licensing fees that would have had to be paid upfront, Brunton said.

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Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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