eBay Builds State-of-the-art Green Data Center in Utah

green-data-centers-bannerWelcome to UtahOnline auction site eBay is building a $334 million state-of-the-art, environmentally responsible data center in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah.

eBay says this data center will showcase the best and most innovative thinking in green data center design, technology, construction and operation, and Triple Pundit asked Mazen Rawashdeh, VP Technology Operations, eBay Inc., to fill us in on all the details.

Triple Pundit: Does this new data center represent new capacity, or will it consolidate other eBay data centers?

Mazen Rawashdeh: The new center is being opened as part of a corporate-level, four-year  data center consolidation strategy that is moving us from a handful of co-located data center facilities – largely space that we rent from data center providers – to space that we own and can manage to the highest standards in both cost and environmental efficiency. In short, it’s a consolidation strategy. Our business model is unique; we know the rhythms and availability requirements that are specific to eBay’s platform. By designing an environment for our data and compute power – both in terms of physical data center, hardware and software infrastructure that goes into it – we can innovate and manage it in the most efficient way possible. The facility in Utah will host the core technology that runs our business – including the eBay.com marketplace, PayPal and some of our adjacencies, including StubHub.com and Shopping.com.

3p: Why was it important for eBay to incorporate green data center design at this facility?

MR: It is the right thing to do. Green data center design at the core of our overall commitment to environmental responsibility at eBay. We understand that our business model represents a relatively light footprint, compared to other types of companies – as an internet company, we don’t have a complex supply chain, operate energy intensive manufacturing facilities, or even have bricks-and-mortar locations with individual carbon footprints. The electricity used to manage data at eBay comprises over 60 percent of our overall carbon footprint, making it the company’s biggest environmental liability, and our biggest material impact.  Having a better understanding of our carbon footprint and compute capacity allows us to identify high-impact efficiency projects that help us to conserve resources – both natural and financial.

3P: What are a few of the most innovative green features of this new data center?

MR: At eBay, we see our data centers as ecosystems; they provide the physical space that houses a more comprehensive way of looking at compute infrastructure (IT) and data management across the company.  The physical infrastructure is definitely important, and to that end, the space itself is intended to be highly sustainable, with many details such as using a chemical-free condenser water treatment system and capturing rainwater to irrigate landscape. We are tracking to a LEED Gold certification.

But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. The rest of it, and where we see huge opportunity for innovation, is in not only the technology that sits inside the data center, but the way we manage that technology.  We always “search for synergies” that help us unlock innovation. The synergies between things like a higher utilization enabled by parallel efficiency, 24-month cycle leasing hardware to lower costs, and technology refresh to leverage Moore’s law enable eBay to increase compute performance per watt, reducing the carbon footprint, and requiring  less hardware as services scale. In the past 24 months we performed a technology refresh, software optimization to our infrastructure and data centers that resulted in a 25 percent improvement in energy efficiency.

3p: How will eBay benefit from this facility’s advanced green design? How will the design help the company meet its environmental — and broader business — goals?

MR: The benefits are extensive, both in terms of ROI to the business and in terms of the long term environmental effects. Across the board, creating efficiencies in the way we manage our data comes with cost savings — and obvious environmental savings. It’s allowing us to accelerate our technology refresh program and reduce our power consumption overall. We are taking an infrastructure that consumes roughly 10 mW of power and migrating that to our Utah facility, where it will take only 7.4 mW to run. In other words we are taking the same compute power, and running it with less energy.

This helps us meet not only what we call our “operational efficiency” goals, which contribute directly to the cost of running our business, but also our environmental goals. Earlier this year, eBay committed to an overall carbon reduction goal of 15 percent by 2012 — our overall data center migration strategy, with the opening of our Utah facility in 2010 as a core component of that — will be key to helping us achieve this goal.

Note: RTKL Associates, Inc. designed eBay’s new data center, and Skanksa is the builder. The estimated date of completion is Spring 2010.

As a corporate content specialist and a ghostwriter for C-level executives, Kathryn's work appears at Forbes, Industry Week and other leading trade publications and websites. She focuses on topics related to science, business sustainability, supply chain risk management and marketing. Find out more about Kathryn at www.CorporateWriter4Hire.com . You can follow Kathryn on Twitter: @CorpWriter4Hire.

6 responses

  1. Glad to see this happening. I’d like to know a few more details about how just how green it really is. What did they do to earn the Gold LEED? The fact that it’s located in the suburbs means it’s not exactly going to help invigorate neighborhoods, nor is it likely to stimulate biking to work or transit.

    Also, thestrategist alludes to above, how it it powered? I’m willing to be it’s coal. There are lots of massive coal plants in Utah, but also abundant sunshine. Finaly, why don’t people put these things in places like, say, duluth where you could cool it all summer long with the cold waters of Lake Superior and have no cooling costs in the winter at all!

  2. Site selection for data centers involves numerous factors, including availability of power, local climate, threat of natural disasters (flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes), etc. –all of which have to be part of a risk analysis. In this case, I’m sure it didn’t hurt that the state of Utah offers significant tax incentives to woo new business.

  3. I just finished working at the new data center site in Utah. It is massive and they are just powering up main power. This building is phase one of 4 and they will be built side by side one another. The entire site is built from recycled material except the critical concrete for structure integrity and 95% of the project waste is recycled. The site powers itself with 7 massive generators and also has several back-up systems.

Leave a Reply