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7/29/2008
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Is eBay Getting Into Cloud Computing?

Another of the Web giants, eBay, may be joining the growing and nebulous (pun intended) field of cloud computing, if a new job listing is any indication.

Another of the Web giants, eBay, may be joining the growing and nebulous (pun intended) field of cloud computing, if a new job listing is any indication.The company's looking for a director of cloud computing engineering, who will be in charge of leading eBay's "Cloud Computing initiative," according to the listing. The question is whether this job is really about managing eBay's internal cloud -- the company's in the midst of a three-year "grid computing" effort -- or doing something entirely new.

The latter seems entirely possible, if not probable. The new manager will be responsible for "strategy and implementation" of a number of things, including the user interface and software development kit "for cloud consumers," "adapter development for CMDB and various provisioning environments," and "Cloud Computing Command and Control and Fluid Capacity Frameworks" (whatever that is). What any of these projects really entails is unknown, and eBay isn't talking.

"At this time, eBay can't say any more currently beyond what's in the job posting, but, in general, the company is always looking to expand its capabilities and expertise base," an eBay spokesman wrote in an e-mail response to my inquiry into the job listing and eBay's cloud computing strategy. "Your interest in this area and in eBay is duly noted for future reference."

It could be argued that eBay already has its own cloud computing efforts under way, depending on how you define cloud computing. After all, eBay owns a number of Web-connected services like Skype. The commerce site has a developer program to tap into (complete with APIs and SDKs), and PayPal also recently unveiled its own developer portal.

There already are thousands of developers writing software that ties into eBay's systems, according to the company. However, there are plans to make eBay a bigger platform for e-commerce applications. Project Echo, currently in alpha, will allow developers to more easily embed third-party applications for buyers and sellers directly into the eBay experience. No sign yet of eBay offering up any real utility computing services like Amazon has or more general application development platforms like Salesforce and Google have. So far, the company's been content to stay in its own e-commerce bubble.

It's not clear if Project Echo has anything to do with eBay's new director of cloud computing engineering, but eBay's potential entrance or expansion in cloud computing could be an interesting one. The company's e-commerce platform is a money maker and store for 243 million registered users, so there's already significant monetized scale in eBay's underlying platform. How will consumers and Web businesses be able to leverage that platform differently going forward? Will other businesses? Will eBay offer some real SaaS? We'll see.

Oh, and a hat tip to The Industry Standard via Data Center Knowledge for passing this news along.

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