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IT Life: Open Sesame

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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EnterpriseDB’s Dave Page tells TechWeekEurope why staying focused when concentrating on consumer demand is vital for success

Dave Page is a chief architect at open-source specialists EnterpriseDB, and with 20 years in the IT industry under his belt, has seen a lot of changes since he first started. A veteran of the University of Oxford’s particle and nuclear physics department, he has been at EnterpriseDB since 2007.

Tell us about your company, how long have you been in IT and what are your areas of expertise?

PostgreSQL is, by most accounts, the most advanced open source database for the enterprise. EnterpriseDB integrates performance, security and manageability enhancements as well as database compatibility for Oracle into open source PostgreSQL to meet the needs of large enterprises. EDB also provides services, support and training for Postgres users. Postgres has advanced significantly in recent years combining unstructured and relational database technologies into a single system for enterprises. This combination provides businesses with the performance, freedom, and flexibility needed to handle unstructured and semi-structured data that is increasingly becoming the norm in today’s world of the ‘Internet of Things’.

I am a chief architect at EnterpriseDB and I’ve worked in IT for around 20 years. My interest was piqued at the University of Oxford’s Department of Particle and Nuclear Physics in the electronics group, where I ended up being the guy building anything that needed to interface directly with a computer system. I slowly drifted into unofficially maintaining the computer systems in the computer-aided design (CAD) room, and eventually decided to move into IT. I worked for the next 13 years at Vale Housing (a social housing provider) as IT Manager, where we started using and contributing to Open Source projects as we developed our own in-house systems. In 2007, I moved to EnterpriseDB so I could work on Postgres full time.

Today, I spend about 80 percent of my time looking after our management tools, cloud products and builds, packaging and distribution, and 20 percent of my time overseeing the internal IT team.

Dave Page enterprisedbWhat’s the favourite IT project that you’ve ever worked on?

I completed my MSc whilst I was at Vale Housing, and used my dissertation to develop a mobile application for the managers who looked after our elderly and other vulnerable tenants. This was in the very early days of mobile, long before Android or Apple iOS existed. The system allowed the managers to download tenant and emergency medical/contact data to their devices, make changes and record visit logs – all while synchronising the data with the office based system whenever connectivity allowed. It worked extremely well and the only real problem was the poor data services available back then.

What technologies were you involved with ten years ago?

The technologies I was involved with ten years ago weren’t really that much different to now. I was using PostgreSQL, of course, and had just moved from development of code in VB/C# to C++. I was also maintaining systems running on SQL Server for our housing management. Most of our in-house systems were all on Linux – as were the edge routers on the network. The internal network was a Cisco based WAN on a mix of private circuits and VPN connections, with a company-wide VOIP phone system running across it.

What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?

I’m using Python more and more for new work these days, whilst other technologies like C++ and PHP are used less frequently. On the infrastructure side, we’re moving a lot of our systems into OpenStack at the moment and that is working very well. I expect these trends to continue, though whether it will still be what we’re using in ten years, I have no idea!

What do you think is the greatest challenge for an IT company or department today?

On the software development side, the biggest challenge is supporting our customers with all the different operating systems and other technologies they want to use. It takes a lot of resources to ensure we’re able to support new OS versions when they’re released, and yet still continue to support customers with existing systems that might run for years.

We also face challenges regularly as users want to use software with a multitude of other technologies. For example, Postgres Plus Cloud Database currently runs on Amazon AWS, but we have customers that want to run it on different private cloud environments, such as OpenStack or VMware infrastructures. Other users might also want to integrate our management tools with different third party products that they’re using, to manage other aspects of their infrastructure. It can take a lot of work to provide the features that are important to customers, whilst still ensuring the product remains focused, unbloated and still grows in terms of new functionality.

Open Source © marekuliasz Shutterstock 2012To cloud or nor to cloud?

Definitely to cloud – though not necessarily public clouds. Some of the public services are very useful and I do use them myself in appropriate circumstances, however private cloud systems can be extremely flexible. The OpenStack infrastructure I mentioned above is being used by my colleagues globally and it has taken off far more quickly than we imagined it would. It’s proving extremely useful and is allowing users a great deal more flexibility than they’ve previously had, whilst also proving relatively easy and cheap to build and manage.

Who is your tech hero and who is your tech villain?

I can’t help but admire Steve Jobs to some extent – love him or hate him (or his methods), clearly he was exceptionally good at what he did. Reading his biography was quite an eye-opener about what he was really like, and how he ran and made Apple so successful.

As for villain, I think anyone who stymies the development of open source software and inhibits the growth and contributions of a dedicated community is a villain.

What’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?

Definitely my iPhone – after years of developing code for Windows CE and Windows Mobile, it was an absolute joy to get a phone that just worked without spending hours tinkering with it. Even now, years later, my phone is the one gadget I use constantly, without fiddling with it beyond what was intended by its designers.

Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?

I was always a fan of the late Sun Microsystems. Whilst the business itself wasn’t as successful as it might have been, I loved their hardware and their attitude towards Open Source. I remember moving into a new office many years ago, and one of my colleagues cheekily sent them an email asking if they had anything we could use to help brighten the place up – a couple of weeks later, a package turned up in the mail with posters and other swag for us. Working with some of their engineers now I can still see what a great place it must have been to work.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

My grandfather was a radar engineer in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and my dad was an electronics engineer, so I always wanted to follow in their footsteps – and did for a few years before moving into computing. Even now, I still enjoy tinkering with electronics, though admittedly these days that’s far more likely to mean building a PC for a friend than designing a printed circuit board and burning myself with my soldering iron!

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