Jon Topper

(CV last updated January 2013)

Contact details

You can contact me by email: < cv [at] topper.me.uk >

Postal address and telephone contact details are available on request. I am currently resident in London and have no plans to relocate.

My LinkedIn Profile

Note to recruiters

I currently work as a consultant, specialising in Linux infrastructure and systems administration, with a focus on DevOps approaches. I'm happy to hear from you about direct contract work in these fields, but please do not contact me if you are trying to fill a full-time role, or if you are looking for programmers.

Employment History

Date Employer Job
January 2011 - March 2012

ITV

Contracted through The Scale Factory

Infrastructure Manager

In this contract, I was responsible for technical leadership of the Infrastructure team within the Online & On Demand group (responsible for all web and online video delivery) at ITV through:

  • Build out of new primary and DR data centres
  • Migration of production applications to this new infrastructure
  • Consolidation of other hosting environments into this infrastructure
  • Operational troubleshooting on existing platforms

In addition to this I was heavily involved in the infrastructure architecture around new platform delivery, including a from-scratch Linux infrastructure build, with heavy emphasis on Continuous Deployment with Jenkins and Configuration Management in Puppet.

March 2010 - December 2010

Global Radio

Contracted through The Scale Factory

Contract Sysadmin

I was contracted through The Scale Factory along with one of our subcontractors to the Interactive Department of Global Radio, who are responsible for the online presence of the biggest commercial radio brands in the UK.

At Global, my responsibilities included:

  • Maintaining operational availability during a period in which the company was without permanent sysadmin employees
  • Hiring the new permanent lead sysadmin
  • Performance tuning existing systems for increased operational efficiency
  • Addressing infrastructural and architectural concerns with existing platform, including design for a disaster recovery site
September 2009 - December 2009

BSkyB

Contracted through The Scale Factory

Build Engineer

At Sky, I worked inside a small team of external contractors to put together a proposed new approach for systems administration - initially for one specific project, but with a view to implementing this approach within the wider organisation.

This was largely a research and development piece, using a continuous integration tool, Hudson (now Jenkins), along with home-grown orchestration tools working against VMWare ESX and Active Directory, to bring agile development techniques - usually only used by software developers - into the realm of systems engineering.

We also made extensive use of the RedHat Diskless project in order to rapidly provision stateless read-only Linux environments for use inside a cloud/grid type infrastructure.

January 2009 - June 2009 (plus ongoing support).

Songkick.com Ltd

Contracted through The Scale Factory

Consultant Systems Administrator

Songkick aim to create the definitive live music resource - an IMDb of past concerts, along with information about up-coming gigs and a social features to connect with other live music fans.

When I first spoke to Songkick they were running the first version of their website from a couple of dedicated servers, with limited scalability and no provision for high availability. Over the next six months, we worked together to build a scalable, highly-available systems architecture using freely available tools and software, deploying it onto colocated Sun and Cisco hardware.

As well as familiar technologies such as LDAP, MySQL, Apache, Zabbix, keepalived and openvpn, this contract also gave me exposure to Ruby, MogileFS, haproxy, Solr, ActiveMQ, RabbitMQ and memcached; as well as the opportunity to use puppet on a broader scale. We use VMWare ESXi extensively on both development and production hardware, with Ubuntu being the Linux flavour of choice.

In January 2009, I founded The Scale Factory along with one other director in order to build a consultancy business around the provision of scaleable systems architecture.

The engagements listed above are the major positions I've held in other organisations as part of contracted work. I've also built and maintained infrastructure for a number of other smaller clients under shorter engagements, too numerous to list here in their entirety. Please ask for more details.

November 2005 - December 2008

Trutap Ltd

(formerly Hotxt Ltd)

Lead Developer & Systems Administrator

Trutap Ltd is a mobile instant messaging, texting and social network company. The Trutap product is a J2ME midlet running on mobile devices, communicating via a custom protocol with a server back-end built using Perl and MySQL, and a web presence built in PHP.

I joined Trutap in Manchester back when it was known as Hotxt Ltd. I initially took on a dual role in both software development and systems administration, but when we won a round of venture capital, I relocated to London to work under the new CTO as Senior Systems Administrator. I hired two systems engineers in order to build out a scalable LAMP infrastructure for the company's second generation product which now runs on around fifty RedHat EL4 nodes, virtualised on top of VMWare ESX. My team was also responsible for overseeing the internal IT infrastructure, supporting Windows, Linux and Mac users.

As well my systems administration responsibilities, I worked closely with the new Senior Developer to define and implement an iterative and scalable software development process using Subversion and Trac, emphasising the importance of change control and accountability, enabling us to build, test and deploy a new launch every fortnight. As well as a live environment, my team provided a full multi-node staging environment, as well as multiple integration environments, and one development environment per development employee.

Once the new product was fully live, my team and I monitored and supported the running platform and the software development process, working closely with members of the development team to resolve scale problems and performance bottlenecks in the code and MySQL database, or bringing in external contractors where appropriate.

August 2004 - November 2005

Legend Communications plc

(formerly Business Serve PLC, who acquired DSVR in May 2004)

Senior Network and Systems Engineer Responsible for:
  • Responsible for day-to-day running of a network of 200 servers, used by around 3,500 reseller customers covering some 117,000 domains.
  • Deployed new servers into sites in Manchester, and eventually migrated the entire platform to a new site in London.
  • Involved in the architecture and deployment of new system solutions for integration of multiple businesses inside the Legend group.
  • Provided training to new staff
June 2001 - August 2004 Designer Servers Ltd (DSVR) Support Manager / Software Developer
  • Developed control panel software (over 20,000 lines of OO Perl, C/C++ and XSL)
  • Managed team of five support engineers
June 1999 - September 2000

Designer Servers Ltd (DSVR)

(Work placement arranged as part of my degree)

Support Engineer / Software Developer
  • Provided telephone and email support for around 1500 virtual server customers, covering 60,000 domains.
  • Trained new support engineers

Technical Skills

I have used Linux since 1998, having exposure to both RedHat and Debian derived distributions. I have a lot of experience building .deb and RPM packages, as well as maintaining local package repositories to ensure total control over what has been deployed.

I use RedHat kickstart, Debian preseed and puppet, along with centralised LDAP, DNS, DHCP and NTP services to ensure that deployment of servers - either virtualised or real - can be performed centrally in a manner which is timely, repeatable, stable, and secure. In many cases these servers have been part of high-availability clusters using Linux load balancing tools (such as keepalived and haproxy), or dedicated network hardware.

I have a strong background in server virtualisation, and I have worked heavily with Xen and Linux VServer, as well as several products from VMWare. My approach to server management emphasises the importance of being able to treat virtual and real servers as interchangeable.

I'm a strong believer in monitoring and measuring a live infrastructure in the greatest possible detail, and I currently use Zabbix for this, often building custom monitoring tests for pieces of software I've deployed. I'm also familiar with Nagios and Cricket, and I have a good understanding of SNMP.

As well as my skills with Linux, I'm familiar with versions of Windows up to 2003, and Mac OS X. I also have a good working knowledge of Cisco IOS up to approximately CCNA level.

I have programmed professionally in Perl, Ruby, PHP and C. I also have a good working knowledge of bash and the usual set of Unix tools, and I find it easy to learn to read unfamiliar languages.

I've administered and tuned PostgreSQL and MySQL databases and have deployed highly-available clusters using that product's replication features.

People Skills

Colleagues and others find me easy to get on with both socially and in a work context. I am honest and always willing to speak my mind. I have a good grasp of the English language and can express myself well in both speech and the written word. I am a good translator, capable of expressing complicated concepts to the less technically skilled, as well as representing business-oriented concerns to those with more technical roles. As well as one-to-one communication, I'm also a confident and capable public speaker.

I work equally well as an individual; as part of a group; and as leader of a team. I have led small teams for the majority of my professional career, and I would relish the challenge of the additional responsibility a larger number of direct reports would bring.

Academic Qualifications

Personal Interests

I have a keen interest in both video and stills photography in both a studio environment studio and outdoors. I've filmed and photographed art events, stage performances and weddings; often these have involved multiple-camera setups and resulted in quite an involved edit. I enjoy the challenge of capturing the mood of an event, knowing that there is only one opportunity to do so, and without being able to direct the participants to suit the needs of the camera.

I'm also a very able chef, and I find cooking to be a good way of winding down at the end of a working day. My repertoire includes dishes from around the world, and I enjoy experimenting with new ingredients, recipes and techniques. I enjoy eating as much as cooking, and my Yorkshire roots have given me a fondness for a pint (or three) of real ale.

I can often be found at London's DevOps events

Other

References