A few words about me, what I'm up to at work and in my spare time, what I enjoy in information technology, what keeps me busy today and these past few years.
I currently work at ITU – International Telecommunication Union. It's the United Nations agency specialised in information and communication technologies. From day one I was thrilled to become part of such a culturally rich working environment. And in my line of work, I take much pleasure in information technology, with a keen interest in a variety of topics comprising software development, testing and operations.
1 At ITU
I currently work on the team in charge of developing and maintaining applications for implementing radio regulation decisions made in World Radiocommunication Conferences. One such application has become the tool of reference for administrations and operators worldwide to submit satellite network filings: e-Submission. Given its instrumental role and high visibility on an international level, thorough, systematic, automated testing of its operation is essential. I'm designing a Node.js behaviour-driven testing framework. I developed a Gherkin parser and an asynchronous test runner similar to Cucumber for massively running tests in parallel on Selenium grids.
1.2 Web Software Engineering
I've written countless small utilities in Node.js making it easier to manage data for efficiently preparing tests. I've developed a proof-of-concept application in Angular for a legacy system we look after. I'm also in the process of implementing another Angular application together with an Express web service for managing the tests my framework runs.
1.3 A Hint of Monitoring
Leveraging the power of that new web toolkit, I've been able to put together a monitoring proof of concept using both custom web services and our databases. I've recently discovered that Grafana has gone a long way these last few years and may act as a fantastic visual replacement for the ad hoc monitoring and alerting tools I've so far put in place using Windows Server technology.
2 At CERN
2.1 Configuration Management
I looked after PuppetDB, the database behind the Puppet infrastructure which keeps information collected by Puppet about servers in the CERN computer centre and everything related to them. It's a PostgreSQL instance sitting behind a Java application sitting behind an HAProxy load balancer. It's a critical component of the CERN Puppet infrastructure. Performance and scalability are amongst our challenges, what with the many thousands of servers relying on it.
This wouldn't go without taking part in the many operational activities related to configuration management: user support, problem solving, tool development, training, ...
2.2 System Image Continuous Integration
Linux is at the heart of computing at CERN. Linux servers – virtual or physical – are being installed all the time and we prepare system images to streamline this operation. To bring image deployment to the next level, I drove a project to submit their creation to a versatile continuous integration framework. Newly-created images will hence be used to install test servers which will then be subject to a collection of tests. Only when they pass the tests will they be allowed to be deployed for the installation of CERN production servers.
2.3 CERN HEPiX Representative
HEPiX conferences are being held twice a year in different parts of the world for computer staff to meet in a friendly community and share their experiences, problems and questions about running a data centre for high energy physics and science. My role was to liaise with everybody in the CERN IT department to collect contributions they wished to present, help participants make their arrangements, present an update of recent events in computing at CERN and give a report of the workshop afterwards.
2.4 ATLAS-IT Coordination Meeting Chairman
The experiments conducted at CERN need computing resources. For some of the most important ones, coordination meetings with the IT department are organised on a monthly basis to ensure we provide the best possible service they need. I chaired such coordination meetings for ATLAS. Common topics which we discussed were the batch system resources, virtualising services, development tools and storage.
I also occasionally had the pleasure to write minutes of coordination meetings for some other experiments.
2.5 CERN Computer Centre Guide
I regularly gave tours in Dutch, English, French or Spanish of the CERN computer centre. We've got a visit point with a massive PRIVA-LITE touch screen where we play a few videos describing the activities of the IT department for high energy physics. We've also got a few museum pieces, old hard disks, tapes, number-crunching and storage servers and one of the first ever web servers (or at least its screen) on which Tim Berners-Lee weaved the first thread of the World Wide Web.
2.6 Batch Computing Service
I was co-responsible for the CERN Batch Service to provide computing resources to the experiments. As part of the grid services the team manages, I was also in charge of the Compute Element service, a key component to routing calculation jobs submitted anywhere from the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid to the CERN batch system. This is how we provide physicists with the means to run LHC data analyses as well as computing jobs for other scientific projects.
For many years, CERN have been running IBM/Platform LSF to manage the batch service. I've been driving the investigation to find a new system which resulted in the deployment of HTCondor. I also initiated projects for several monitoring and reporting applications, share management frameworks and resource provisioning systems.
2.7 Monitoring for the Batch Computing Service
My first job in the Batch Service was to put together a batch monitoring system: we've ended up with many. They offered different interfaces, using different technologies, for different purposes.
2.8 Distributed Storage
As part of the AFS team, I worked on a project to improve the AFS Console monitoring system. AFS – the Andrew File System – is a distributed, worldwide filesystem which is as old as exceptionally good. Sadly, and for reasons which are still unfathomable to me, the world is slowly losing interest in it.
2.9 Business Intelligence
AIS – Administrative Information Services – at CERN run a great many applications offering business intelligence. These applications and their complex interactions need monitoring and I worked on the AIS Monitor project to provide it.
A few years earlier, in the same team, I worked on the database migration from Microsoft Access to Oracle of a document generator. I wrote a batch, autonomous application to do so and provided a graphical user interface for manual maintenance too. It was my one and only experience with Visual Basic. And it was my first introduction to Oracle databases. It sparked in me a keen interest in databases ever since.
2.10 Mac Support
Before the computer centre barn started hosting servers on critical power to run our most important services, it was home to the Mac support team, who offered help and services to Mac users. We got to try the latest Power Macs, got to test Mac OS X before its release (I so love the way it looked like before the Aqua theme), and enjoyed and wonderful atmosphere. It literally felt like Xmas everyday.
3 In My Spare Time
Even more information technology, actually, with a keen passion for software engineering. But for the sake of variety, I also dance Argentine Tango at the CERN Dancing Club, for which I'm the secretary and graphics designer. I also practice Yagyū Shingan-ryū martial arts. I enjoy travelling and learning new languages. I'm currently busy with my fifth one – Arabic – the world's sixth most spoken as well as one of the six United Nations official languages. I do graphics design too, be it 3D modelling, animation, 2D design or photography. I quite enjoy writing as well, and like to think I would have gone for journalism if I didn't have this passion for IT.
4 About this Website
It was generated with entwine, a static website generator similar to Hugo and Jekyll, both of which I tried hard to use before I finally decided it was quicker to reinvent the wheel to suit my needs. In this particular instance, entwine was run on this platform:
|Linux||Ubuntu 18.04.4 LTS|