Pivotal People—Q&A with Tomcat Expert Mark Thomas

June 4, 2013 Stacey Schneider

Mark ThomasWithin Pivotal, we are inspired by people—people who want to make things better. Whether they are outside the company walls or at the desk next to us, we are excited to work with some of the leading programmers, data scientists, and engineers on the planet every day.

In fact, we are so proud of our people, we are starting a new series called Pivotal People that will help to introduce the world to some of our talent that are helping to build out our vision of a great company.

It’s somewhat special that the first post is on Mark Thomas. Mark was actually one of the first technology leaders I had the opportunity to work with when I first started with SpringSource VMware. Mark has been “pivotal” in helping build out TomcatExpert, a site that provides content for Apache Tomcat users that are deploying apps in large scale, complex enterprise environments. Over the past four years, he’s helped me create fresh new content that sheds light on the development efforts, best practices and tips and tricks for Tomcat.

So without further ado… Let’s meet Mark Thomas!

Q1 | Tell us about your work background and how you came to Pivotal?

A1 | I came to Pivotal through my work with Apache Tomcat. It all started several employers ago when I was investigating SSL client authentication. I was using a closed source application server, and I just couldn’t get client authentication to work. So, I switched to Tomcat and got it working in less than an hour. Then, I moved on to configuring the ciphers that Tomcat was using, and this didn’t work. However, I was able to dig into the source and find out why. What I found was a comment that said “TODO: must make this configurable.” This event led to my first patch submission. Since I enjoy solving problems, I started working through the open Tomcat bugs in my free time. My involvement with Tomcat and the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) grew from there.

At one point, SpringSource was looking to expand their Tomcat expertise and develop what became tc Server—they offered me a job. It seemed too good to be true. I was going to be paid to stay and home and work on my hobby all day? Surely there had been a mistake. There wasn’t a mistake though. Now, via VMware, I am at Pivotal.

Q2 | In your words, what is your role in this new Pivotal organization? What are you most focused on?

A2 | My focus at Pivotal is still Apache Tomcat. I just finished the initial WebSocket 1.0 implementation for Tomcat 8, and I am currently working on the Servlet 3.1 implementation. Alongside that, I’m continuing in the role of Tomcat 7 release manager where I try to make a release once a month. As well, I am also working on Pivotal tc Server, keeping it up to date as new Tomcat versions are released, and providing 3rd line support to our clients who are using Tomcat and tc Server.

Q3 | What do you like to do in your personal time when you aren’t living and breathing Pivotal products?

A3 | A fair amount of my free time is spent volunteering elsewhere at the ASF, particularly with the infrastructure team. For example, I’m watching the upgrade process for the ASF Bugzilla instances in another window while I’m typing this. When I am not in front of a computer, I help out with lighting and sound for a local charity that produces musicals, pantomimes, etc. to raise money for children with special needs.

picture-23 About Mark Thomas:

Mark Thomas is a Consultant Software Engineer for Pivotal. Mark has been using and developing Tomcat for over eight years. He first got involved in the development of Tomcat when he needed better control over the SSL configuration than was available at the time. After fixing that first bug, he started working his way through the remaining Tomcat bugs and is still going. Along the way Mark has become a Tomcat committer and PMC member, volunteered to be the Tomcat 7 release manager, created the Tomcat security pages, become a member of the ASF, joined the Apache Security Committee and joined the JCP expert groups for WebSocket, JSP and Servlet.. He wrote Tomcat’s WebSocket implementation as well as large parts of the Servlet 3.0 and Servlet 3.1 implementations. He also a member of the ASF infrastructure team where, amongst other things, he helps maintain the ASF’s Bugzilla instances. Mark has a MEng in Electronic and Electrical Engineering from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.


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