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eBay names Sun veteran head of data center strategy

EBay has appointed Dean Nelson, a Sun Microsystems veteran, to be in charge of its data center strategy.Nelson will be senior director of global data center strategy, architecture and operations.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

EBay has appointed Dean Nelson, a Sun Microsystems veteran, to be in charge of its data center strategy.

Nelson will be senior director of global data center strategy, architecture and operations. Nelson is founder of Data Center Pulse, a non-profit data center industry group.

The online auction company announced Nelson's appointment in a short statement. Luckily, Nelson elaborated quite a bit in a blog post. Nelson noted that he had worked with eBay, a long-time Sun customer, and ultimately bought into the company's data center vision. Nelson wrote:

In October of 2007, Bob Worrall, our CIO, asked if I would partner up with him to give feedback on the RFP for eBay's massive datacenter project in Salt Lake City, UT.  We couldn't officially respond to the RFP because we didn't have a service offering for design and construction at that point. So, we decided to do a non-response response.  Sounds confusing, right?  But we wanted to give input to our valued customer on a major investment they were about to undertake.  If done correctly, it would enable their growth.  If not, it would stunt it.  We had always valued the trusted advisor status we had earned at eBay and wanted to continue contributing to their success regardless if Sun could charge them for it.  This started a flurry of tours and meetings. 86 people (I counted) from the different lines of business at eBay Inc. toured our datacenter. We also spun up design working sessions and additional information sharing to help.  It was a great experience, and we were able to influence their designs and provide valuable input to their architecture.

And then came the Sun uncertainty, which remains today unless Oracle gets approval from the EU to seal the Sun deal.

In May of 2009, rumors started flying about someone acquiring Sun. Tons of speculation flowed through the media.  When the official announcement came through that Oracle intended to purchase Sun, it caused many people to rethink their future.  I have always believed that if I am challenged in my job, being stretched to continuously learn, have a solid team, executive support, and of course good compensation, there isn't a reason to look for something else.  But with uncertainty, I also believed it was prudent to see what options were out there.

Here's how eBay sealed the deal:

When I returned I met up with two of eBay's executives, the VP or Operations and the Sr VP of Architecture.  They articulated their strategy to reinvest in technologists to fuel the scale of their business.  As I listened to their vision and what role I could play to help it come to fruition, I started getting excited.  I had never truly appreciated the scale and impact of eBay. A huge population of people make their living on eBay. There are 88 million active users at any given point of the day - and the majority of the financial transactions that feed their 170 million listings, go through one of their companies - paypal.  They have also weathered the economic meltdown and are one of the oldest founding internet companies.  What resonated with me, was that their business lives and dies on the performance of their datacenters.  I had understood this before, but not at this level.  They are the epitome of Moore's law.  They have an aggressive tech-refresh program that enables them to keep up with user demand. But with great consumption, comes great responsibility. I witnessed a significant commitment to energy efficiency and environmentally responsible data center management through their green team. Their datacenters are core to the business in more ways than one.

Now Nelson gets to set eBay's datacenter strategy. We'll look to follow up with him.

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