Ben Bell

Summary

A systems architect specialising in Unix and Linux based solutions with a broad range of in-depth experience in areas including database design, network architecture, client-server and web-based systems. Strong design and implementation skills. Able to provide full end-to-end system design, implementation and release.

Recent Employment

Eigen Ltd

April 2015 to date, "Senior Architect"

Eigen provides services to the Oil and Gas industry. They were a client of Tyrian's for three and a half years and in April 2014 I was persuaded to become a (part time) permanent employee.

I am the principle architect of our software platform and am in charge of the development team. This is still very much a hands-on roll despite the increased management component.

Tyrian Technical Consulting

August 2008 to date, "Technical Consultant"

I formed Tyrian Technical Consulting as a vehicle for providing design, development and integration consultancy focussing primarily on Open Source based technologies.

The technlogies involved depend on clients' requirements but have included PostgreSQL, virtualization and Open Source migration, Asterisk VoIP PBX deployment and integration work and bespoke development in various languages.

Sirius Corporation

February 2010 to August 2011, "Senior Project Engineer"

I accepted a permanent but part-time position as Senior Project Engineer at Sirius, who had become a regular client of Tyrian. Sirius provides systems integration, deployment and support and managed services based around Open Source infrastructure. As a result, we are continually exposed to a wide range of new technologies as the governed by the requirements of the clients we support.

This was still very much a and hands-on role and has included custom development projects for clients in PHP and perl, web-based solutions built in Joomla, Drupal and custom frameworks and infrastructure work including clustered server architecture and deployment and Linux/Windows integration projects. Key technologies have included OpenLDAP, Samba, exim and Cyrus, Asterisk (SIP/VoIP PBX), virtualization in VMWare, kvm and Xen, and iSCSI and AOE SANs.

In addition I acted as an escalation point and mentor for the support and managed services team as it made the move from 9-5pm to 24x7 coverage.

KBC Financial Products

January 2008 to August 2008, "Director"
January 2006 to January 2008, "Associate Director"
August 2005 to January 2006

My role was nominally systems developer or systems administrator. In practice my time was divided between development and engineering work, mentoring, and acting as a last-stop escalation point for Systems problems.

Perl to Python Migration
A decision had been taken to move our core development work from perl to python. I spear-headed this work and implemented most of our core python infrastructure, including tools ranging from basic cross-site, cross-platform utility and data libraries to larger things like an OO interface to Active Directory version control tools and so on.
Development and Deployment Infrastructure
I took responsibility for the maintenance and further development of this infrastructure, implementing a build, packaging and release process where previously things were manual and introducing regression testing.
Larger Development Projects
Password escrow system, automated authorisation work flow, modular user configuration (Unix, windows and database accounts, third party apps) framework, and a secure external document distribution system.
Last-Stop Escalation
Usually this results in teaching junior staff members new things or writing new tools to deal with new situations, but often it's good old-fashioned problem solving ranging from issues developers are having with stability, performance or network and Unix specifics to figuring out what a critical but broken Windows app is trying to do and why it's failing.
Recruiting and Mentoring
I have also been heavily involved in interviewing and expanding the team and have a proven track record at identifying exceptional candidates, both at junior and senior levels.

Goldman Sachs, FICC Strategies

December 2004 - May 2005, "Vice President"
December 2003 - 2004, "Senior Analyst"
January 2002 - December 2002, "Analyst"

I was hired as the first London member of the Install and Infrastructure team in the Fixed Incomes, Currencies and Commodities division of the bank. My role was, loosely, to help develop and run the large multi-platform, multi-continent development, deployment and scheduling systems which underpin the rapid development cycle of the front office trading and risk management systems.

Configuration API/Database
An object database system built on top of Sybase to replace the Infrastructure team's Berkeley DB based system. The database is used to store, amongst other things, configuration information about several thousand hosts, software packages built and distributed to them, the build system itself and the distributed scheduling system. The API provided for database fail-over, permissioning and a high level object oriented interface to the data. A large part of the project involved porting hundreds of thousands of lines of legacy code.
CVS to Sybase bridge
Database and supporting code to store the transactions of FICC division's CVS revision control system in a relational database and support rapid queries of CVS history and extended information used by the proprietary build system.
Package Distribution Verification
The Install team distribute many gigabytes of software, much of it changing fortnightly and some more ad-hoc, to several thousand machines in different continents running different operating systems. This system was required to independently verify the integrity of the files and produce reports flagging problem cases.
Dependency Visualisation Tools
The Strategies department run a distributed dependency based job scheduling system which runs hundreds of thousands of jobs on thousands of machines. This tool provided a quick way to visualise the often complex interdependencies between jobs, annotated with their current status. Shortly after the first version was completed it became clear that several other systems in use could benefit from a similar tool and so the engine was extended to support plugins for various other things, including the risk calculation, software distribution and database replication systems.

A large part of this role was ongoing support and development of legacy systems, rapid response troubleshooting of critical issues and managing development policy.

Copernicus Global Billing Systems

September 2000 - September 2001, "Senior Systems Architect"
June 2000 - September 2000, "Consultant Systems Architect"

Copernicus was an ASP which produced a managed billing service for telecommunication companies. The vision was to provide a system with which telcos could feed in CDR (call record) data, specify billing tariffs and rules and have Copernicus handle the billing, account management and provision of web-based customer account details.

I was hired initially on a contract basis but eventually accepted a full time position.

"Unity" - Multi-lingual Rebrandable Application Framework
Designed and implemented the core framework on which we built our user interface to the billing system. As we were an ASP it was necessary that it be developed in such a way as to make a single installation of the system present multiple diverse look-and-feels to mirror the brands and languages we were dealing with. This was necessary to make the ensure low maintenance of the system once we had scaled to several customers and languages.
Various applications on top of the above framework.
Network and System Architecture
Re-evaluation and design of the company's network and server requirements (firewall, VPN, load balancing web server, mail and file servers etc).
Development Environment
Specified, installed and managed the internal development environment which incorporated tools such as version control, installation management, bug tracking and change notification and archiving.
Web Farm
Load-balancing, fail-safe web farm for the user interface to the billing system for customers, call centre and administration staff

In addition there were miscellaneous external libraries and tools which required abstraction and integration with our systems, and ongoing system and network administration requirements while we didn't have a dedicate resources for the roles.

Virtual Internet

June 1999 - June 2000, Systems Analyst

Virtual Internet were one of the big name ISPs during the dot-com frenzy, and one of the few to have the solid foundations to survive the bursting of the bubble.

I accepted a permanent position at Virtual Internet having had a long relationship providing system administration and bespoke software for the company on a freelance basis during my time at University.

VI Systems Database
Implemented the systems database to provide the management and automated provisioning functions for all web hosting, email and domain name services. This was implemented based on a design I had produced in September 1998 on a freelance basis.
Network Upgrade
Designed the international autonomous network structure and managed the transition from a single leased line to a structure which had redundant lines to our core back bone, an international VPN with firewalls and multiple data centres.
Web Site Stats
One the most popular facilities with VI's clients was a web site statistics page which allowed them to analyse the traffic on their web site. The initial implementation had been a manual, ad-hoc set up turned on for individual sites but to scale it to the thousands of sites VI was now hosting it needed a substantial redesign. The opportunity was also taken to provide more on-demand analysis tools in addition to the static reports generated by the original system.
Technical Feasibility Studies
VI was a very dynamic company with hundreds of ideas for new services and products. I was involved as a technical consultant on these ideas to determine their feasibility and likely implementation costs and requirements.

Apart from the projects above my time was spent managing and mentoring the team which ran the Unix and network systems, usually at a very hands on level.

NTL Internet

September 1998 - June 1999, Development Engineer

Web Application Framework
A generic Perl Web-based application system providing very a easy and versatile frame work for state-preserving web applications (e.g. shopping carts, wizards, control panels). The system cleanly separated wording and look and feel from application logic allowing superficial changes to be implemented without the need for a developer to be assigned to the task. It incorporated a server-parsed HTML derivative with the facility for adding interactive, state-preserving tags in simple Perl code.
Which? Online Shop
Designed and implemented an online shopping cart and order system for Which? Online.
Customer Services Registration
Wrote the web-based front end used by customer care staff to register new customers over the phone for NTL's PC and TV Internet services. Designed a data-driven program flow extension allowing new "packages" to be created and described in the database without alteration of the registration system logic, reducing reliance on scarce developer time.
Various smaller projects and ongoing tasks

Previous Work

1995 - 1998, Freelance Consultant/Programmer/Systems Administrator

My work previous to September 1998 consisted of a multitude of Internet based freelance contracts ranging from a few hours' work to month long projects.

Skills List

I have experience in most areas of Unix, Linux and networking, from a perspective of administration, design and programming, (Java, perl, C/C++/Objective C) and so forth. If you require a particular skill, ask and I can tell you what relevant experience I have.

Design and Programming

Network Architecture

Systems Administration

Database Design and Architecture

Miscellaneous Hardware Development

While I wouldn't claim professional status as a hardware developer, I've spent a reasonable amount of time investigating various microcontroller related technologies which means I have some familiarity with lower level details.

Education and Qualifications

Higher Education (University of Warwick)

GCE A Levels (Corsham School)

Professional References

Available on request.

Contact Details

Tel:07733 113039(mobile)
01293 776336
email: bjb (a) deus net