The facility features one of the densest and one of the largest modular data centers in the world. Photo by Roy Pena, Digital Forge Media
HP’s EcoPOD module helps lower total power usage as part of a holistic solution for a more sustainable data center. Photo by Roy Pena, Digital Forge Media

eBay’s Salt Lake City Data Center: Turning the Dial on Digital Efficiency

Data center is first in the world to use fuel-cell technology as primary power source

Team Players

CUSTOMER: eBay, Inc. now boasts over 149 million active buyers (as of Q2 2014). eBay Inc. enabled $205 billion in commerce volume at the end of 2013. The company has repeatedly demonstrated its leadership in innovation—not only in the world of commerce, but in other arenas that support its business objectives and philosophy.

ARCHITECT: Winter Street Architects

ENGINEER: AHA Consulting Engineers

As a leader in global commerce, eBay Inc. has long been committed to optimizing its customers’ online experiences. In Salt Lake City, eBay Inc. delivered on that commitment in a big way.

In October 2013, the company’s newly introduced data center was fully commissioned, and the company rolled out the world’s first mission critical data center using fuel-cell technology as its primary power source. It incorporates 30 Bloom Energy Servers™ (fuel cells) that convert natural gas into electricity through a chemical reaction.

The result? A facility with far more available and reliable power in its design that also has less of an impact on the environment.

CONTINUING A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP

For the second phase of the Salt Lake City data center, design and construction team members hailed from many regions. “We all came together in lightning speed to become a high-performing team on a very fast-paced project,” said DPR’s John Arcello. “The freight train was moving.”

Although the team shared a wealth of collective data-center experience, they were in uncharted territory with a design featuring the first use of fuel cells as a primary power source in a mission critical environment. To meet eBay Inc.’s information technology (IT) demands, a separate modular container installation was added, and the team leveraged existing power and cooling infrastructure prior to the rest of the project coming online.

HOLISTIC APPROACH: MEASURING DIGITAL SERVICE EFFICIENCY

eBay Inc.’s decision to change gears from a more traditional design to the cleaner, greener power solution advanced its vision for a more environmentally sustainable future, according to Dean Nelson, eBay’s vice president of Global Foundation Services.

The facility also features one of the densest1 and one of the largest2 modular data centers in the world. The Salt Lake City data center deploys Dell Inc.’s new EPIC module, which packs more than 1 megawatt (MW) of power capacity into 24 racks and, Hewlett-Packard Co.’s EcoPOD module, which adds 1.4 MW of power capacity in 44 racks of gear. It also includes white-space buildout, a spine building, site work to support two modular data containers, 6 MW of initial Bloom Energy fuel cells, a generator, uninterruptible power supply, high efficiency cooling systems, and infrastructure for future expansion.

PAVING THE WAY FOR RENEWABLE POWER

The project also broke new regulatory ground. Leading the charge, eBay Inc. helped pass a new Utah state law—Senate Bill 12—in 2012, which allows non-utility companies to invest in and purchase power directly from renewable sources. For eBay Inc., this led to its partnership with Ormat Technologies Inc., which will be developing an off-site waste heat recovery solution that will provide cleaner energy to its data centers and the rest of the company’s facilities in Utah.

“By challenging the status quo on how data centers have been designed for the last 30 years, we’ve yielded even bigger returns,” said Nelson. “In implementing a design like this, we’ve been able to ‘move the needle’ as we measure the increased efficiency of each transaction for our business.”

Mike Lewis, eBay’s director of Mission Critical Engineering, credits the project team. “I know the magnitude of the hurdles that they had to overcome with one of the coldest winters in half a century, equipment delivery and the like,” he said. “Their ability to be flexible and to support new and different ways of doing things to get the project completed were key.”

Read more about the project in the extended case study.


1 According to Dell, eBay Inc. is deploying the world’s densest modular data center (called EPIC), which has 24 rack positions and 1 MW of power, the Dell EPIC is the densest modular data center in the world.

2 According to HP, eBay Inc. is deploying the world’s largest modular data center, with 44 rack positions and 1.4 MW of power, the HP EcoPOD is the largest modular data center in the world.