The presidential campaign wasn't just a battle of political philosophies -- it was also a duel between the two campaigns' IT strategies and tools. Ars technica reports that Obama's team was far more effective than Romney's, and used plenty of open source tools...and some software from Microsoft as well.
The article provides an in-depth look at the IT strategy of the Obama campaign. Ars technica also examined the Romney campaign's IT strategies as well. The differences between the campaigns were stark. Obama's campaign spent far more money building its own IT staff than did Romney's, and used open source and cloud tools to quickly develop apps and technology when needed. Romney's team, by way of contrast, spent much less on internal staff, but far more on consultants.
According to the ars technica article, the Obama campaign spent under $2 million on internal IT payroll, and $9.3 million on technology services and consulting. Romney's campaign, meanwhile, spent $23.6 million on outside technology services. Overall, the article reports, Obama's campaign spent $14.5 million less on IT products and services -- both internal and external -- than did the Romney campaign.
Despite that, Obama's team and technology far outperformed Romney's. For example, Romney's big-data Orca app for turning out the vote was an epic failure.
ars technica notes that Obama's team heavily relied on open source tools:
Key in maximizing the value of the Obama campaign's IT spending was its use of open source tools and open architectures. Linux—particularly Ubuntu—was used as the server operating system of choice. "We were technology agnostic, and used the right technology for the right purpose," [Scott VanDenPlas, lead DevOps for Obama for America] said. "Someone counted nearly 10 distinct DBMS/NoSQL systems, and we wrote something like 200 apps in Python, Ruby, PHP, Java, and Node.js."
Even though the campaign relied on open source, it was also a buyer of Microsoft technology, spending $522,210.04 for software licenses, at about $500 per staff member, reports art technica.
In a sense, the campaigns' differing IT strategies mirrored their different political philosophies. Romney essentially outsourced everything (just as he favors outsourcing many governmental functions), while Obama's campaign relied more heavily on his staff (just as he favors relying on government itself to perform many vital services). In this case, at least, in-house expertise trumped outsourcing, and proved to be more agile and flexible as well.