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eBay's Newest Data Center Uses Half the Energy, Aims for LEED Gold

When your business is global and entirely online, having a reliable and powerful data center is mission-critical, and energy efficiency can at best place a close second.

But eBay's newly opened data center here has managed to achieve high levels of redundancy while also using as much as 50 percent less energy than other facilities that it leases.

In a blog post on Data Center Pulse, eBay's Senior Director of Global Data Center Strategy Dean Nelson lays out what went into building "Project Topaz," the code name for what he calls "the single largest infrastructure project that the company has ever undertaken."

Picture that everything has a backup -- even the backups have backup. Now keep in mind that nothing is really 100% bulletproof, but in terms of a resilient data center, we have built the highest level possible.

Now, many think that when you build a data center with this much redundancy, it will be extremely expensive to operate and very inefficient. Quite the contrary. Besides running the data center operations for the company, I'm also responsible to pay the power bill. So, the datacenter must be built like a tank, be able to brush off major faults, lower our operating costs and be extremely efficient.

We have built a fault tolerant Tier IV level data center that is 50% less expensive to operate than the average of all other data centers we lease today. It is also 30% more efficient than the most efficient data center in our portfolio. At a designed PUE of 1.4, it lowers both our economical and ecological costs. We only consume the energy we need, when we need it. Now, I don't want to go into the religious debate of who has the lowest PUE, but I do want to point one thing out. In the business of on-line commerce, we do not have a choice but to build a highly available data center to support our customers. From my perspective, achieving a 1.4 PUE with a hard requirement to meet this level of redundancy is quite an accomplishment. The point is you can be resilient, efficient and cost effective if you set your mind to it from the beginning.

Inside eBay's new data center

eBay managed this feat in part by incorporating the following energy efficiency practices:

• Project Topaz uses 400V power distribution, eliminating a level of transformers and delivering 230V to servers, saving eBay 2 percent in power costs;
• They cool the facility with a 400,000 gallon cistern that collects rainwater connected to a water-side economizer, allowing the company to use free outside air cooling for half the year;
• The data center was designed to support racks ranging from 1,000 watts to more than 30,000 watts, and uses a fully contained hot-aisle design.

All these efficiencies and more lead Nelson to say that he expects the U.S. Green Building Council to give Topaz a LEED Gold certification.

eBay's data center on the horizon


Photos courtesy of eBay.

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