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3/1/2010
11:33 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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eBay Kills A Data Center

On a dark and stormy San Jose morning, a busload of eBay IT employees plus one axe set out for Sacramento to kill an 8-year-old data center. Later, the team leader shared the gory details: "I reared back and drove an axe through the final remnant of this once complex, powerful and archaic beast of a data center."

On a dark and stormy San Jose morning, a busload of eBay IT employees plus one axe set out for Sacramento to kill an 8-year-old data center. Later, the team leader shared the gory details: "I reared back and drove an axe through the final remnant of this once complex, powerful and archaic beast of a data center."The story is told in very engaging terms on a blog post written by eBay senior director of global data center strategy architecture and operations Dean Nelson the axe-swinger and Nelson's post also includes some great photos of what a withered data-center carcass looks like.

Nelson describes the challenge, and then the eBay team's response:

eBay, like many of the rising star Silicon Valley companies, had been in constant react mode to keep up with demand. They had amassed a data center portfolio that spanned three states and in twelve different data center sites. Eight years earlier, the Sacramento data center (SMF) was the first to be brought online as a disaster recovery location and it was supposed to be temporary. It quickly expanded to become much more than that. When the idea of shutting it down was raised, the feeling was it was too big a task, too complex and too costly to execute. It would be like rebuilding the engine of a jumbo jet while you were in flight.

But the team rose to the challenge:

I'm now on my fifth month at eBay. I joined this project as it was nearing completion, so I did not have the full context. On the bus ride up to Sacramento I heard from the team just how difficult this project had been. As I listened to them explain the huge effort, both logistically and technically that it took to line this up, I started to see the real power of the team I had joined. When the eBay collective gets behind a problem, no matter how difficult, they swarm and solve it. The collaboration between architecture, product development, domain, site speed, network, the NOC, logistics, Asset Management, corp IT and the business units was simply amazing. Hundreds of people collaborated, planned, tested and executed on this highly complex project for over 18 months and got the job done on time and with zero impact to the site availability.

With data centers becoming more strategic than ever, and as CIOs struggle to come up with the right mix of facilities and architecture and planning to support their business objectives, this eBay anecdote offers some interesting insights into how a high-volume, high-velocity online business approached that challenge.

In addition to the technical planning and execution the eBay team had to undertake, the point that really jumped out at me from Nelson's post was the importance of teamwork from across the entire eBay organization: "The collaboration between architecture, product development, domain, site speed, network, the NOC, logistics, Asset Management, corp IT and the business units was simply amazing."

Not bad-plus, you might even get to swing an axe.

(Over at DataCenterKnowledge.com, Rich Miller covered the data-center shutdown with the headline Euthanizing A Data Center. With an Axe., and we thank him for bringing Nelson's post to our attention.)

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