Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I do

(I can be contacted by email or twitter).

I design and build software solutions that address business needs in the simplest possible way. I'm comfortable operating at the nexus of technology and commerce - bridging the gap between the software / hardware teams and the business drivers and key stakeholders, right up to board level.

Currently I'm the Chief Technology Officer for Eysys (we're hiring by the way!). At Eysys we're using big data combined with machine learning to build a next generation ecommerce platform, with baked-in intelligence to optimise conversion and make efficient use of marketing spend.

In a previous life, I was the Head of Data Engineering and Infrastructure at the Thomas Cook Online Travel Agency, using Master Data Management and big data analysis to drive platform conversion and performance.

Previous to that (sheesh!), I was the Chief Technology Officer for Comtec Group - building end to end systems for clients in the leisure travel industry, primarily in the UK and US. I led the definition and construction of our travel suite, from fast loading of  inventory (e.g. Hotel, Air, Transfers etc.) through GDS selection and with a particular focus on ecommerce. In the ecommerce world we helped our customers to measure and increase online conversion rates, optimize PPC spend, increase SEO scores and overall consumer engagement. We leveraged analytics, A/B with multivariate testing and personalization techniques, to name just a few tools and techniques in the kit bag.

Before Comtec I worked for a financial services company as a software architect and before that again I worked as a consultant for a well-known business and IT consulting company.

In 2000, I became an external examiner and subject matter expert for the Java Enterprise Architect accreditation from Sun Microsystems - now Oracle. I have presented at JavaOne and written numerous articles on many different aspects of software engineering. In 2010, I co-authored the definitive official study guide to the SCEA exam itself.

I am deeply rooted in Computer Science - I have a particular interest in distributed systems and hold a B.Sc (1998 - First Class Honours) and M.Sc (2002) in Computer Science from University College DublinMy M.Sc. thesis focused on building a high-throughput grid-like compute engine using Java and Artificial Neural Networks to solve a well-known bioinformatics problem (protein secondary structure prediction).

Friday, December 03, 2010

Early Xmas Cloud presents from Microsoft, Google..

Just about 48 hours apart, Microsoft and Google have released significant updates for their Azure and App Engine cloud offerings just in time for Christmas.

The 1.4.0 App Engine SDK addresses some long-criticised weaknesses, in particular not being able to keep an instance ready to rock and roll at all times plus the ability to execute long-running requests (> ten seconds). The ole App Engine has been getting a bit of a kicking recently in the blogosphere so this is a timely release (assuming the unplanned outages have been sorted out in parallel with this). There's nothing in the release notes about a more SQL-like persistence store like SQL Azure, so you still need to wrap your head around Google's Datastore and the pros and cons it gives you.

The 1.3 Azure SDK also addresses some weaknesses in Azure, in particular now allowing developers to actually RDP onto their Azure boxen in the cloud, a really big improvement on the current state of affairs (basically you get a headless box with non-straightforward access to log files via the Windows Azure Diagnostics service).

It's interesting how these SDK releases are solidifying the differences between these two cloud offerings - Google are zeroing in on providing a PaaS model, where you have to code in a supported programming language (currently either Java or Python - wonder when they will support Google Go?) against a locked-down set of APIs, where Microsoft are moving more towards an IaaS model where you do what you like cos it's more or less your box. Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses, the overall ecosystem is stronger for having both.