Category Archives: Development Services

Development Services section

Getting to know our staff: Silvia Figliozzi, Student Placement Developer

To help put names to faces and highlight the diverse personalities in the Apps department, we run a regular series of short interviews with our staff. These short interviews feature both new and long-standing members of the department.

Silvia Figliozzi works in the Development Services section of the Applications Directorate as a Student Placement Developer.

Tell us about your journey before starting this role:

“I started my educational journey at Edinburgh College where I successfully completed the HND Web Development course. Since the course was associated with Napier University, I applied for the 3rd year of the Web Design and Development course program there. This choice not only allowed me to progress with my studies but also provided me with the opportunity to apply for a placement year.”

What attracted you to the role in ISG:

“I had a number of friends who were students at the University of Edinburgh, and they consistently shared insights about the various services offered by the university. When I came across the advertisement for this position, I did not hesitate to submit my application. This decision was driven by my awareness that the team also uses certain technologies that align perfectly with my personal interests.”

What kind of tasks does this role involve?:

“My role is a student placement developer, a role designed to facilitate my learning and skills development while collaborating with an experienced team of developers. Specifically, I am a member of the student system partnership developer team which takes care of applications around the student system record and supports the entire student lifecycle from admissions through graduations.”

What’s your favourite place or thing to do in Edinburgh?: 

I enjoy immersing myself in nature, and luckily Edinburgh has plenty of parks and natural places where I can restore my energy. If I had to pick favourites, I would go with Holyrood Park and the Pentlands Hills. However, I do end up spending a lot of time in places like The Meadows and the Royal Botanic Garden since they’re closer and more convenient.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself?

I am Italian and moved to Edinburgh about 4 years ago. Throughout my life, I have always been devoted to promoting gender equality and equal rights for everyone. In my modest attempts, I started during my teenage years by encouraging those around me, and eventually, I began openly discussing these ideas with more people, both offline and online. I even got involved with some cool groups and associations along the way.

Getting to know our staff: Sam Henderson, Developer

To help put names to faces and highlight the diverse personalities in the Apps department, we run a regular series of short interviews with our staff. These short interviews feature both new and long-standing members of the department.

“After a trip up to the Ben Nevis CIC hut I couldn’t resist riding this slab, a great way to start the descent.”

 Sam Henderson works as a Developer in Student Systems Partnerships, part of the Applications Directorate.

Tell us about your journey before starting this role: 
“I studied Physics here at the University before trying very hard not to become a researcher – I failed, all the jobs I got offered were research jobs! Doing more and more computational work, I eventually worked my way into software development at my last job – I’m very lucky that I now really enjoy my work, it has been a hugely beneficial change to my life.”

What attracted you to the role in ISG:  
“Well I actually hated being a student, which I feel isn’t the party line working at a University and indeed the one I studied at… But it does make me want to improve the student experience! From a skills perspective I haven’t done much work with databases yet, so there is a lot to learn from the University behemoth. “

What kind of tasks does this role involve?:  
“Frontend development work whilst learning how said websites make the required changes to the student database.”

What are you are working on just now: 
“I’m always on a mission to improve documentation, which I think is something a newcomer can often do better than anyone else.” 

What’s your favourite place/thing to do in Edinburgh?:   
“My favourite thing to do in Edinburgh is leave haha, but that is only because it is so well suited for accessing lots of different outdoor pursuits. If it has to be in Edinburgh, then going to the Dominion cinema, closely followed by eating – Edinburgh has some pretty amazing food spots.”

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself:
One of my more relaxing hobbies is stone skimming, and I am compiling a map of my favourite places with good stones. 

Adrian Mouat on ‘Understanding Docker and Containerisation’

Sometimes, what can seem just a useful innovation in IT infrastructure can have a significant effect higher up. Containerisation is one of those things, and one of its experts outlined the how and why in a Software Development Community of Practice industry talk.

One of the advantages of being in Edinburgh is that we have quite the tech scene on our door step. Sometimes literally, as when one of the pioneers of the now ubiquitous Docker container technology turns out to work out of the Codebase side of Argyle House. And that’s not the only connection Adrian has with us; he used to work at the EPCC part of the university. Which made the idea of inviting him over for a general talk on Docker and containerisation both compelling and do-able.

Being in IS, but somewhat removed from actually running server software, I was about as aware of the significance of containers as I was hazy on the details. Fortunately, I was the sort of audience Adrian’s talk was aimed at.

Specifically, he answered the main questions:

What is a container?

A portable, isolated computing environment that’s like a virtual machine, but one that shares its operating system kernel with its host. The point being that it is a lot more efficient in image size, start-up times etc. than a virtual machine.  Docker is a technology for making such containers.

What problem does it solve?

Containers solve the “it works for me” problem where a developer gets some software to work perfectly on her own machine, only to see it fail elsewhere because any of a myriad differences in the computing environment.

Why is it important?

Because it enables two significant trends in software development and architecture. One is the shift to microservices, which encapsulate functionality in small services that do just one thing, but do it well. Those microservices ideally live in their own environment, with no dependencies on anything else outside of their service interface. Container environments such as Docker are ideal for that purpose.

The other trend is devops- blurring the distinction between software development and operations, or at least bringing them much closer together. By making the software environment portable and ‘copy-able’, it becomes much easier and quicker to develop, test and deploy new versions of running software.

What’s the catch?

No technology is magic, so it was good to hear Adrian point to the limitations of Docker as well.  One is the danger of merely shifting the complexity of modern software applications from the inside of a monolithic application to a lot of microservices on the network. This can be addressed by good design and making use of container orchestration technology such as Kubernetes.

The other drawback is that containers are necessarily not great at sharing complex states. Because each small piece of software lives in splendid isolation in its own container with its own lifecycle, making sure that everyone of them is on the same page when they work together in a process is a challenge.

Overall, though, Docker’s ability to make software manageable is very attractive indeed, and, along with the shift to the cloud, could well mean that our Enterprise Architecture will look very different in a few years’ time.