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New eBay data center director dishes

Dean Nelson, the former data center director at Sun, discusses his move from Sun Microsystems to eBay and why data center managers should ask server vendors tough questions.

Dean Nelson, a co-founder of the data center user group Data Center Pulse, and once a data center director at Sun Microsystems, started a new job at eBay Inc. on Sept. 8. His title: senior director of global data center strategy. Nelson spoke to about the reasons behind the career change and his plans in his new role.

What impressed you about eBay's data center environment enough to switch jobs?

Dean Nelson: It's pretty simple. Alignment and culture. It's all about technology and innovation. It's not just about operations and day-to-day tasks. It's about, how do you think about the future and really push the industry?

Right now I think the industry is lacking a framework on how we attack the data center holistically.
Dean Nelsonsenior director of global data center strategy, eBay Inc.

So what will you do there?

Nelson: My job is strategy, architecture and operations and how all three things tie together. Right now I'm looking at what we have today, the portfolio, and how efficient it is. What does the future look like? The way we design data centers, whatever happens inside will change, and we need the environment to adapt to that quickly. I love companies that live and die by their data centers. The bottom line is that I need to do my job, or the business suffers.

Can you give details on something you'll examine?

Nelson: Right now I think the industry is lacking a framework on how we attack the data center holistically. People are looking at efficiency and best practices, but from the bottom to the top, how do you address a data center from my industry to telecom? There is no unifying framework, so I think that needs to be developed.

What else?

Nelson: What does the next-generation hardware look like? At eBay, they do a tech refresh every two years. So we're looking at things like clustered systems, which would change the way server hardware would be put together. The elephant in the room is the design of the servers themselves – the airflow, the packaging. We are going to need a new solution and we need to know how to address the vendors: the IBMs and HPs. In the future, we should question every vendor on how they've designed their server hardware.

You left Sun as Oracle is about to acquire it.

Nelson: The Oracle acquisition -- that wasn't the driver for me. I had a small but very effective team [at Sun], and management is all about succession planning. You should be working yourself out of a job. I felt really good that I walked away and there was no interruption. My successor took over and there was not a blip.

At the same time, at eBay I can be open to every vendor out there. I'm not biased toward Sun. So I can build relationships with other vendors, and do whatever is best for eBay.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. Also, check out our blogs: Data Center Facilities Pro, Mainframe Propeller Head, and Server Farming. 

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