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Supercomputing Databases Programming Software IT

eBay Makes Huge Gains In Parallel Efficiency 47

Posted by kdawson
from the free-servers-and-a-pony dept.
CurtMonash writes "Parallel Efficiency is a simple metric that divides the actual work your parallel CPUs do by the sum of their total capacity. If you can get your parallel efficiency up, it's like getting free servers, free floor space, and some free power as well. eBay reports that it amazed even itself by increasing overall PE from 50% to 80% in about 6 months — across tens of thousands of servers. The secret sauce was data warehouse-based analytics. I.e., eBay instrumented its own network to do minute-by-minute status checks, then crunched the resulting data to find bottlenecks that needed removing. Obviously, savings are in the many millions of dollars. eBay has been offering some glimpses into its analytic efforts this year, and the PE savings are one of the most concrete examples they're offering to validate all this analytic cleverness."
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eBay Makes Huge Gains In Parallel Efficiency

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  • Finance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Exanon (1277926) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @08:10AM (#25430483)
    Huh, that should hopefully make their stock price go up a little bit. Whatever mitigates the financial crisis is great...
    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      Whatever mitigates the financial crisis is great...

      Why would stock prices go up if the value of a dollar is in the process of doubling?

      The values of the stock markets have almost nothing to do with anything real. Far more important are the numbers of real and imaginary dollars in existence.

      Or put another way. Want the stock markets to go up? Well, persuade your bank to stop taking dollars out and shooting them.
       

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Why would stock prices go up if the value of a dollar is in the process of doubling?

        Doubling? Against what benchmark has the value of a dollar doubled? The euro? Gold? UK pound? Canadian dollar? Swiss franc? The price of oil has dropped dramatically, but that has more to do with the oil market realizing that a world recession is going to reduce demand for oil.

        The values of the stock markets have almost nothing to do with anything real.

        Slightly true. A share is a real, small fractional ownership of a real co

      • [quote]...The values of the stock markets have almost nothing to do with anything real....[/quote]

        i call bullshit! the worth of the stock market tonight is what everyone is worth tomorrow. i don't have a single dollar in the stock market, but i can see how it effects the few i do have in my wallet...
      • The values of the stock markets have almost nothing to do with anything real.

        Exactly. Even if eBay has made real efficiency improvements, few investors will comprehend the meaning of the claim in terms of "anything real," e.g., power consumption, productivity, seller satisfaction, etc.

        They'll just think, "That's a good place to put my money."

        Right after that, they'll think, "Isn't it?"

    • They have just successfully raised their PE simply by sending their per share stock price from 32 to 16. What an achievement!
  • Good for them! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vintagepc (1388833) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @08:15AM (#25430497) Journal
    Kudos to them for taking the initiative to be more efficient rather than to just buy more servers to increase capacity. On a side note, I wonder if this makes their servers able to process their data faster... If so, it means more getting sniped (and possibly snipers getting sniped) for the average joe.
    • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @10:57AM (#25431119) Journal
      They talk about improving efficiencies, 1.6X etc, but ok so what got improved?

      What interesting things did they learn? What were they doing wrong before and what did they change?

      I don't see any hard facts or much useful info.

      Car analogy: it's like Ford says we've improved engine efficiencies 1.6X.

      But you don't even get new MPG figures, no comparison of 0-60 before and after (to show whether there was any impact on performance), no torque curves, not even a mention of "high intensity electric fields reducing viscosity".

      So to me it's as good as some PR firm bullshit and should not be on Slashdot.

      Heck it's about as much useful news as programmer productivity improving because Slashdot went down for a day.
      • by beav007 (746004)

        So to me it's as good as some PR firm bullshit and should not be on Slashdot.

        This is called a slashvertisment, and is not uncommon in these parts.

        To paraphrase: You must be new here...

  • Of course (Score:5, Funny)

    by transporter_ii (986545) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @08:20AM (#25430509) Homepage

    With the extra millions saved, they are going to lower their fees...as well as spend some time trying to figure out how to quit pissing everyone off...right?

    Transporter_ii

  • WOW, way to go IT techs for ebay! I find it fascinating reading articles on the removal of bottle necks. Its interesting the tools and methods that are used to monitor specific parts of the company's IT System (servers, network, applications and more).

    It is interesting how one bottle neck is overcome only to find yet another bottleneck. Very cool.

  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @08:40AM (#25430571) Homepage

    Today, ebay announced that it obtained a patent on using warehouse-based analytics to increase parallel efficiency in server operations.

    • by Kris_J (10111) * on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:03AM (#25430671) Journal
      And if you want to deal with them, you have to use their warehouse-based analytics.

      Oh, and PayPal and Ebay fees will be going up next week.
    • by Cylix (55374)

      Today, ebay announced that it obtained a patent on host monitoring.

      Seriously, doesn't everyone already monitor every tiny metric and application hook?

      I know one company that had an awesome metric accounting system. Tons of data, down to the second, and extremely efficient.

  • That is an impressive gain eBay received through those analytics. I have to wonder, though, why it took so long for their network team to remove bottlenecks. Was there some breakthrough technology that just recently allowed for this kind analysis, or were the engineers lazy all these years?
  • by bboxman (1342573) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @08:49AM (#25430621)

    I can imagine this: Some eBay hotshot comes up and says: "we only use 50% of our servers, we've got to do better here". So:
    1) They don't buy new servers. Workload increases, better utilization, no analytics involved.
    2) Or, someone got clever, and added an idling process to each idle server. Presto, we've improved our PE -- and we've got a nice yearly bonus as well.

    The article actually says nothing, besides claiming a supposed 1.6x improvement, besides a very vauge refrence to analytics. This ./ post is actually meant to promote www.xlmpp.com.

    • by rhizome (115711)

      I can imagine this: Some eBay hotshot comes up and says: "we only use 50% of our servers, we've got to do better here". So:
      1) They don't buy new servers. Workload increases, better utilization, no analytics involved.
      2) Or, someone got clever, and added an idling process to each idle server. Presto, we've improved our PE -- and we've got a nice yearly bonus as well.

      I'm guessing their improvement figure of 50% -> 80% doesn't include the machines and processing overhead necessary to run the datawarehouse an

  • by Adult film producer (866485) <van@i2pmail.org> on Sunday October 19, 2008 @08:55AM (#25430633)
    Right now is the time to soothe investor fears caused by their recent tapping of a $1 Billion line of credit..

    http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSTRE49G7L420081017 [reuters.com]

    Analyst forecast lower revenue for Ebay in coming quarters, DOH.

    http://tinyurl.com/5e69mt [tinyurl.com]
  • ...and Paypal makes all your transactions safe and worry free.

    Pull the other one.

  • self promotion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jcookeman (843136)
    Is xlmpp.com a site for three egoists to drown in their own self promotion?
  • by Ron Bennett (14590) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:54AM (#25430851) Homepage

    eBay today isn't the same type of place as 6 months ago. So much has changed; it's essentially a just facade of its former self.

    eBay sellers have been leaving in droves, and there have been more glitches, some quite serious, on both eBay and PayPal lately.

    It would have been more interesting to see such an article discussing parallel efficiency gain at say Amazon or some other large retailer whose business model / activity level had remained similar during the time period being measured.

    Ron

    • eBay has been pissing people off for years, but the main problem is that a functioning marketplace requires a critical mass of buyers and sellers, and none of the competitors (e.g. Yahoo Auctions) have managed to build nearly enough of a critical mass. Just about the only exceptions are in product-specific areas, for example eBay has never really owned the used book market, where Amazon Marketplace et al do a brisk business.

  • Slashvertisement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bendodge (998616) <.moc.sremmargorpgsb. .ta. .egdodneb.> on Sunday October 19, 2008 @10:13AM (#25430911) Homepage Journal

    Yes, we know eBay is trying to boost it's stock value and xlmpp.com wants more traffic.
    Tag it what it is an move on. There's not much real info here.

  • This means the scammers can rip buyers off even more efficiently. Good job, eBay!

  • This of course explains why eBay fees have increased yet again - as sellers we're paying for increased eBay efficiency meaning that we will get higher prices for our stuff and will not be answered by a useless eBay tosser after sitting in a call queue for 30 minutes.

    Cool!

  • I mean, they're already increasing the "parallel efficiency" of their human workforce [mercurynews.com].

    Servers of the world, unite!

  • After all, with all the stolen goods from TSA showing up on eBay, it makes sense that they'd need to beef up their servers. :3

  • "The secret sauce was data warehouse-based analytics. I.e., eBay instrumented its own network to do minute-by-minute status checks, then crunched the resulting data to find bottlenecks that needed removing."

    Performing this number-crunching on idle CPUs/cores is responsible for 90% or more of the improvement from 50% to 80% Parallel Efficiency?
    • It's just free advertising for the corporation mentioned in the second link with no useful information, ie no "News for Nerds", about the process they used beyond the vague "data warehouse" in the summary. If /. was always like this, everybody would stop reading the articles.
    • by yukk (638002)

      Performing this number-crunching on idle CPUs/cores is responsible for 90% or more of the improvement from 50% to 80% Parallel Efficiency?

      Nah, they just realised that by turning off all that heavy monitoring they could suddenly get more performance out of the original servers.

  • If you actually look for where the performance bottlenecks are and remove them, you get better efficiency. Who would ever have guessed?

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