Ken McDonell

Ken McDonell is the founder and principal of Kenj Consulting.

Ken's initial interest in computing began in 1970 with performance analysis and simulation studies of file access methods at Monash University. In 1977 at the University of Alberta he was awarded a Ph.D. in Computer Science for work on the interface between operating systems and database management systems.

At the University of Alberta, Ken first encountered Unix® in the form of the Bell Labs released Sixth Edition Unix on a PDP11/40 in early 1977. He has been a daily Unix or Linux user from that time.

From 1977 Ken was an academic at Melbourne and Monash Universities, with teaching and research interests in database management systems (particularly implementation efficiencies and the semantics of query languages) ;and software engineering.

During this time the MUSBUS multi-user benchmark was developed and became widely used in early Unix system acquisitions (especially in academia) and by many Unix vendors as part of their internal QA stress tests.  Subsequently MUSBUS was renamed Kenbus and incorporated into SPEC's System Development Multi-tasking (SDM) Suite.

An interest in Unix, and operating systems in general, led Ken to be a founding member, an executive member and the second President of the Australian Unix-systems User Group (AUUG).

Ken left academia in 1988 to take up a position in California with Pyramid Technology, where his responsibilities included management of pre-sales benchmarking, management of the corporate performance analysis group, development and specification of performance-related products, performance quality assurance, and performance evaluation of core technologies for future products.

In 1993 Ken joined Silicon Graphics (aka SGI) to manage the Performance Tools Group in Melbourne (Australia), as part of the corporate engineering organization based in Mountain View (California). This group was charged with the development of the instrumentation and tools required to monitor and manage the performance of very large and complex systems (servers for HPC, visualization, DBMS, file serving). The Performance Co-Pilot (PCP) product was the principal deliverable from this effort and has been used to monitor and manage large and complex systems with thousands of CPUs and disk spindles.  Ken was the principal architect for PCP, and maintains an active role in the development and QA for the product along side his other responsibilities.

As a Director of Engineering at SGI, Ken headed the File Serving Technologies Group based in Melbourne with engineers also located in the USA. This organization assumed world-wide responsibility for SGI engineering projects spanning multiple platforms (Linux, IRIX, Windows, Mac OS X and Solaris) and delivered products and features in the areas of file systems (XFS, NFS and CXFS), file serving (NFS and CIFS), storage software, networking, high-availability clusters, systems monitoring and management, and core operating system services. In this role, Ken had first-hand involvement in setting SGI's strategic directions for IRIX, Linux, storage products and engagement with the open source community.

With Andrew Gildfind, Ken was the inventor of the SGI Guaranteed I/O mechanisms used to deliver constant rate data from a clustered file system for video streaming applications.   A US Patent 7,590,775 (Method for empirically determining a qualified bandwidth of file storage for a shared file system) was granted for this invention in 2009.

Another of Ken's responsibilities was the creation and maintenance of the relationship between SGI and our outsourced software engineering partner, Adacel Technologies Limited, and then the subsequent integration of this team into the SGI engineering organization in Melbourne.

After SGI, Ken joined Aconex as the Chief Technology Officer. Aconex delivers a web-based SaaS solution for collaboration and document management for large projects, especially in the construction, mining and energy industries.  During his time at Aconex Ken supervised significant changes in product planning, engineering, testing and deployment processes that delivered major improvements in quality of service (stability and performance) and scalability — critical for a business that has a sustained growth rate of close to 100% per annum!  Operationally Aconex co-locates in multiple data centers around the world, demanding robust processes to manage change, growth, upgrades and disaster recovery. There was also significant hiring during this time to assemble and grow teams with the required skills in all technology areas (IT headcount grew from 16 to 44 in 18 months).

Ken lists his current interests as:

  • Performance measurement and performance management for large and complex multi-user systems (especially those demanding some mix of big data, intensive computation, high I/O throughput and distributed processing).
  • Software engineering, especially issues of processes, tools and management techniques for very complex projects, software portability and automated quality assurance.
  • Clustered computing for high availability and/or multi-function services (such as web applications, SaaS deployments).
  • Storage software, and in particular file systems and volume management.
  • Intellectual property issues involving software, and in particular licensing and business models for open source projects.
  • All aspects of Unix-like systems, including Linux.
  • Architectures and implementation alternatives for database management systems.
  • Multi-user workload modeling.
  • Architectures (hardware and software) for large-scale, next-generation systems.