eBay’s Data Center Team Cross Pollinates, Recruits Sun’ Dean Nelson to Join

Cross Pollination is proven as effective method to adapt to change.

Cross pollination introduces the plant to different genes which causes the plant to be able to deal with weather changes easier. Also, with cross pollination the plant is more likely to not be extinct because if one plant dies because of the weather or predators the new genes make it possible that the plant can still survive

eBay was able to use this strategy in its data center group and recruited Sun’s Dean Nelson.

Data Center Pulse Founder Dean Nelson to

Lead eBay’s Global Data Center Strategy, Architecture and Operations

San Jose, Calif.—September 9, 2009— eBay today significantly strengthened the leadership of its data center operations, appointing veteran industry thought leader Dean Nelson as its senior director of global data center strategy, architecture and operations.

Dean brings not only his experience and relationship with Sun’s data center teams, but also the Data Center Pulse organization.

Nelson is the founder of Data Center Pulse, an exclusive group of more than 1,100 global datacenter owners, operators and users in 41 countries that influence the industry from the perspective of the end user.  A long-time executive at Sun Microsystems, Nelson has distinguished himself with a long record of innovation managing the company’s global technical infrastructure portfolio.

As cross pollination has mutual benefits, Dean explains his views on leaving Sun.

A Geek In Training


The Sun Will Always Shine

I'm sure I will bore most of you with my historical ramblings, but today signifies a big change in my life. It is bitter sweet. I'm leaving the company that I have literally spent almost half of my life with.

My experience at Sun has been nothing but positive. Every one of my positions has been created from an internal need to solve a problem.  Each has given me a new perspective in considering how I approach and solve these problems. They have also stretched my skills, got me out of my comfort zone and made me grow personally and professionally.

What part of eBay appealed to Dean?

When I returned I met up with two of eBay's executives, the VP or Operations and the Sr VP of Architecture.  They articulated their strategy to reinvest in technologists to fuel the scale of their business.  As I listed to their vision and what role I could play to help it come to fruition, I started getting excited.  I had never truly appreciated the scale and impact of eBay. A huge population of people make their living on eBay. There are 88 million active users at any given point of the day - and the majority of the financial transactions that feed their 170 million listings, go through one of their companies - paypal.  They have also weathered the economic meltdown and are one of the oldest founding internet companies.  What resonated with me, was that their business lives and dies on the performance of their datacenters.  I had understood this before, but not at this level.  They are the epitome of Moore's law.  They have an aggressive tech-refresh program that enables them to keep up with user demand. But with great consumption, comes great responsibility. I witnessed a significant commitment to energy efficiency and environmentally responsible data center management through their green team. Their datacenters are core to the business in more ways than one. Their latest blog entry, eBay's Sustainable Data Center, highlights this. 

But after all the exciting conversations what I was most impressed with was how aligned and excited the leadership was.  They have retooled the approach from the top down and inspired their employees.  I felt the excitement, the energy and confidence in their future. They were experienced, focused, aligned and absolutely going after the market. I kept thinking to myself, that everyone I talked to seemed to be just like me - Geeks, excited by technology.  I could see many of them burning up their own car radios when they were kids!


What I got excited to see is this part on Green Data Centers.

At Sun I was able to beat our carbon reduction goal 5 years in advance and achieving 25% of the new goal within the first 3 months of 2009. Green is Green as long as it is an integral part of your daily thinking. This seems to be the case at eBay.

There is more and more cross pollination in the industry as Google recruited Chris Malone from HP, Microsoft recruited Chris Belady from HP, Amazon recruited James Hamilton from Microsoft, Digital Realty Trust recruited Mike Manos from Microsoft, and Apple recruited Olivier Sanche from eBay.

Individual companies may think the migration of data center executives is disruptive to business. This migration is disruptive, but in a good way as those companies who can attract the best talent have the highest probability of adapting to the changes in the data center industry.

Keep in mind attracting top talent is about providing the right opportunities to solve good problems. Dean made this point when he left Sun the first time.

The only reason I left Sun in 2000 was the lack of another challenging project.