I started this blog in the summer of 2004 when I had finished at Sun and not yet started at eBay. After 16 years at Sun this was a big move. I knew people at eBay from the time in 1999 when they had a big outage and many Sun people got involved in helping them get up and running again. My thinking that summer was that web services platforms were where the real innovation was taking place, and I see eBay and PayPal as the leading transactional web services platforms.
My first year at eBay was in the Operations Architecture group, where I was working on figuring out new platforms and upgrades, and helping with capacity planning tools and processes. I also figured out a lot about how eBay and PayPal really work, and the challenges of scaling a rapidly growing and changing high availability transactional platform to a size that is beyond most people's comprehension. I had some entertaining meetings with hopeful vendors who would come in with solutions to common industry problems (e.g. low utilization) that eBay doesn't have, and their largest existing deployment would be an order of magnitude too small to be useful. After describing a bit about how eBay works, they would get big eyes, admit that their product wasn't appropriate, and wander off to look for more normal customers... A lot of what eBay does is built internally because the generic products don't scale and we can build what we need ourselves for less.
In the summer of 2005 I moved internally to help form eBay Research Labs. Since then we have hired some very experienced researchers and are becoming the focal point for innovation within eBay. This was another opportunity for me to change gears and greatly increase the scope of my work. Part of my role is to continue to research new platforms and technologies for the datacenter operations, and I've been joined in this work by my friend Paul Strong. Paul was in the N1 group at Sun, and is also the drummer for Fractal. Paul and I were both involved in the Enterprise Grid Alliance, he ended up as chair of the Technical Steering Committee, and edited the EGA's Grid Reference Architecture. He's now working on how to enhance the automation of eBay's datacenters.
The other cool thing that came my way in 2005 was eBay's purchase of Skype. Its not just a VOIP tool, its a huge and fast growing community (something eBay understands very well) and an extremely innovative development platform. The Skype API is a fun place to do innovative research, and the Skype network has between 3 and 5 million active nodes at any point in time (up by a million in three months). I've been interested in the telecom market ever since I was one of the Sun Systems Engineers working with British Telecom in the early 1990's. Now I get to play with the future of telecom in the form of Skype, and I'm also very interested in mobile/wireless applications.
In another sense I am changing gears with this post. I've changed the title and description, and it is now also being included in the Best of eBay Blogs site. I've been encouraged by the example of other bloggers at that site to discuss a bit more openly what I get up to, but if you ask me what I'm really working on, all I can say is "The future of e-commerce".
p.s. I just tried to spell-check this posting, and the built-in spell checker at blogger.com decided that the first error was the word "blog", which I find highly amusing, so I gave up and any spelling errors in the above are my fault.