Dean Nelson Enlisting “Infrastructure Masons” to Advance Data Center Industry

eBay’s former data center chief launches industry group for builders of infrastructure for the digital age

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

April 26, 2016

2 Min Read
A data hall inside eBay's Phoenix data center
A data hall inside eBay's Phoenix data centereBay

Dean Nelson is on a mission. The majority of internet users expect instant connectivity to their online services without much awareness of the complexity and scale of the physical infrastructure that makes those services possible.

Like water, electricity, or transportation, people take connectivity for granted, and eBay’s former data center chief wants people that enable connectivity to get more recognition. Earlier this month, he launched Infrastructure Masons, a data center industry group he hopes will help him advance this mission.

Nelson left eBay this year, following about six and a half years leading the company’s data center strategy as vice president of its Global Foundation Services unit. During his time at the helm, eBay launched some of the most innovative data centers, using modular data center containers, warm-water cooling, fuel cells, and other unorthodox technologies.

Read more: A Closer Look at eBay’s Bloom-Powered Data Center

Read more: eBay Shifts to Water-Cooled Doors to Tame High-Density Loads

The advisory council Nelson has put together for his industry group consists of people who are in what he calls the Billionaire Builders Club, which is a comment on the value of infrastructure they are responsible for having built rather than their personal wealth.

“These individuals have personally built and managed more than $1B in infrastructure projects, each,” Nelson wrote in a LinkedIn post announcing the launch of Infrastructure Masons.

Members of the advisory council are Joe Kava, VP of data centers at Google; Christian Belady, general manager of data center services at Microsoft; Eddie Schutter, who replaced Nelson as head of Global Foundation Services at eBay; Tom Furlong, VP of infrastructure and data centers at Facebook; Rob Roy, founder and CEO of data center provider Switch; and Jim Smith, former CTO of Digital Realty Trust, one of the oldest and biggest data center providers and developers.

“I am proud to be part of the global community of people who build and manage this digital infrastructure,” Nelson, who has worked in the data center industry for 27 years, wrote. “I think it's time the world recognizes them and appreciates the work that they do.”

The group’s mission is to advance the industry and develop the members’ fellow masons. Nelson’s vision for Infrastructure Masons is to empower use of data center infrastructure to improve “the economy, the environment, and society as a whole.”

Its LinkedIn group currently has 115 members, and Nelson is recruiting more peers who consider themselves infrastructure masons to join the organization. The group’s definition of an infrastructure mason is “a person entrusted with building or managing the physical and logical structures of the digital age.”

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