eBay has developed a methodology that enables the company to see the full impact on its business of customer buy and sell transactions. The Digital Service Efficiency (DSE) metric gives a holistic way to balance and tune technical infrastructure.
It’s described by eBay as essentially a ‘miles per gallon’ measurement that connects what customers do and the fundamental business metrics they influence — including cost, performance, environmental impact and revenue. Among other things, DSE measures how many business transactions are completed per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy consumed.
Using the metric, eBay can make more informed decisions on how to optimise its technical infrastructure, including the sourcing of electrical power, data centre infrastructure, IT infrastructure, and the software that delivers services to users.
While the actual services and variables are specific to eBay, the methodology can be used by any company to make better business decisions. eBay is sharing the methodology and its results in order to stimulate a wider conversation on how measurement can drive the tuning of technical infrastructure.
Review: It’s an interesting addition to the debate on reducing the power used and emissions generated in data centres and aimed at overcoming the limitations of the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric. PUE only really measures how much power is ‘wasted’ in driving the IT infrastructure, for instance in cooling down a data centre. It doesn’t take account of other factors such as the effectiveness of the IT load itself, in terms of the hardware and software, etc. eBay’s solution is a more holistic approach, tying in various infrastructure measures to actual customer listings.
But DSE only provides an internal view of how well a company has optimised its technical infrastructure, since the services measured will normally be company-specific. eBay points out that comparisons between companies are only important in as far as they will show commitment to greater transparency in reducing environmental impact.
But that’s where the PUE scores. It may have limitations, but it does at least allow comparisons between companies and that creates competition to be seen as more energy efficient. At this stage in the game there’s still a lot to be done to persuade companies of the need to do better. The PUE will help push companies into taking action, but metrics such as the DSE will help them do better once they’re on the right path.