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By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2004-08-30 Print this article Print

Are you happy with your uptime? Is there room for improvement?

eBay has a wonderful culture of continual process improvement, of continually raising the bar. I dont think were ever going to be happy. The biggest step function we made was the elimination of the scheduled maintenance period. So now eBay is available 24-by-7. The systems are never off.

How do you know if something isnt working for a customer?

We use proxy measuring systems, using partners like Keynote [Systems Inc.], to measure ISP performance, and Gomez [Inc.], which measures availability to the customer.

We also have internal monitoring systems that monitor about 45 cities around the world, where we perform transactions against our site and count the error rates.

A key strategy for eBay appears to be international expansion. How do you support that?

We deliver the content for most countries from the U.S. The exceptions are Korea and China, which have their own platforms. In the other 28 countries, when you list an item for sale or when you attempt to bid or buy an item, that comes back to the U.S. We distribute the content around the world through a content delivery network. We put most of the content thats downloaded—except for the dynamic pieces—in a location near where you live. Thats about 95 percent of the activity, making the actions or requests that come back to eBay in the U.S. very lightweight. A page downloads in the U.K. in about the same time that it downloads in the U.S., thanks to our partner Akamai [Technologies Inc.], whose content delivery network resides in just about every country, including China.

Do PayPal [Inc.] transactions that take place in a European country still come back here?

They do—for many of the same reasons. You get to use your capital investment many times over in any country to which you would move. However, PayPal is not yet at the maturity that eBay is. Its an acquisition that we made in October 2002 and still isnt quite up to where eBay is in availability and reliability.

Are PayPal transactions happening on the eBay infrastructure?

Its a separate platform, but its starting to look much like eBays. Our intent is to keep it separate, but the same principles we apply to eBay, we also apply to PayPal. Were starting to disaggregate their systems, trying to ensure that we have appropriate fault isolation and redundancy. Theyre in our Denver and in one of our Santa Clara County facilities.

Next Page: Built-in security.

Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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