The eBay Way - InformationWeek

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7/19/2007
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The eBay Way

The Web's premier auction spot has changed the way it develops critical technologies, explains eBay's VP of systems and architecture.

Much has been said about how CIOs struggle to align their technology investments with their business objectives. At eBay, technology is integral to the business, so in a very real sense we don't have to deal with a lot of the hurdles faced by many other Fortune 1,000 IT departments.

There are few role models or best practices for us to follow, says Barrese -- Photo by Jeffery Newbury

There are few role models or best practices for us to follow, says Barrese

Photo by Jeffery Newbury
Of course, we do have challenges. Because of the nature of our business, there are few role models or best practices to follow. When you build so much from scratch, you also create new problems that have to be addressed without a legacy safety net to fall back on. More often than not, we--along with some other leading IT companies such as Amazon.com, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo--must simultaneously develop new technologies, business models, and operational conventions. In many ways, it's like building airplanes while in flight. This situation forces us to take chances and make leaps of faith that many technology leaders would find too risky. The big advantage, however, is that this environment encourages--in fact, demands--that our business-unit and technology leaders inject a continuing stream of innovation into everything we do, and that's what our corporate culture is all about.

These business realities fostered a fertile environment that let us build the world's largest and most efficient online marketplace. Along the way, our technologists have developed and finalized an impressive number of domestic and international patents, and have several hundred additional patents in various stages of approval. This is making us a leading IT software developer as well. Where we can, we like to buy or partner on software development. However, given our size, scale, and business demands, buying off-the-shelf technology usually isn't an option for us.

We deal with a vast range of IT imperatives daily. For instance, eBay hosts 100 million concurrent listings, which are updated at a rate of 500 times per second and searched 3,800 times per second. Our more than 233 million users--a number that increases at a rate of 130,000 users per day--generate more than a billion daily page views. To put that in perspective, we've created and have to maintain a tech platform that supports a transactional volume higher than Nasdaq's.

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