EBay's bold new data center efficiency measure

In the past, eBay has carved out a clear leadership position when it comes to sustainable, energy-efficient data center design.

Now, the e-commerce giant is raising the bar again with a new metric that allows it to examine far more closely how changes to its technical infrastructure affect business performance, electricity sourcing needs and environmental impact.

EBay's new Digital Service Efficiency methodology specifically measures how many "buy" or "sell" business transactions are completed per kilowatt-hour of electricity. The company likens DSE to the "miles per gallon" measurement that automakers use to talk about the efficiency of new cars.

"We started to work on this three years ago, because we needed to uplevel the conversation," said Dean Nelson, vice president of global foundation services for the company, which is based in San Jose, Calif.

While the current dashboard is specific to the company's own business, eBay has released the methodology to the Green Grid, a nonprofit focused on improving data center efficiency, with the idea that other companies that rely heavily on data centers might fine-tune it for their own operations, he said.

"There are a lot of engineers that want to discuss the dynamics of how this works," said Nelson, who is chairman of Green Grid's technical advisory council.

Next page: How many transactions per kilowatt-hour?