Ebay’s New Data Centre Is ‘Like An Energy Efficient Tank’

The new site in Utah uses rain water for cooling as well as outside air

Online auction specialist eBay has provided more details of a newly completed data centre which will consolidate all its existing sites into one efficient central facility.

In a blog posting on, the senior director of eBay’s data centre architecture, Dean Nelson, revealed dtails of the newly completed facility located outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.

As resilient as a tank

Nelson said that the facility, known as project Topaz, was resilient enough to earn comparisons with a tank – but the company was also focused on making it as energy efficient as possible. “Besides running the data centre operations for the company, I’m also responsible to pay the power bill,” he wrote. “So, the data center must be built like a tank, be able to brush off major faults, lower our operating costs and be extremely efficient.”

According to Nelson the Tier IV data center is 50 percent less expensive to operate than the average of all other data centers it currently leases. “It is also 30 percent 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.”

Achieving the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) – a measurement of data centre efficiency – was particularly challenging given the critical nature of the facility which will become eBay’s main data centre, said Nealson.

“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,” he said. “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.”

PUE is a metric created in 2009 by energy efficiency organisation Green Grid that determines the amount of energy used by a facility and all the IT gear inside of it. A PUE score is a ratio of total facility power divided by IT equipment power. Ideally it should be less than 2 to 1; the closer to 1 to 1, the better.

The facility also uses water and free air cooling to improve efficiency. “We have a 400,000 gallon cistern which collects rain water and will be used as a our primary cooling source,” said Nealson. “We are using a water side economizer, which allows us to use the outside air to cool the data center for more than half the year instead of running expensive chillers.”

eBay believes that the project Topaz will achieve LEED Gold certification status from the US Green Building Council. “We have created a flexible, scalable and efficient infrastructure that increases the agility of the company,” said Nealson.