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Glitches arise as eBay fine-tunes systems

A move by the company to improve the long-term stability of its computer systems has resulted in some near-term headaches for the online auction giant.

    A move to improve the long-term stability of eBay's computer systems has resulted in some near-term headaches for the online auction giant.

    In recent days, the San Jose, Calif.-based company's Web site has been hit by intermittent problems and at least two full-blown outages, including one last night. As a result of the problems, members have been at times unable to put items up for auction or to access their personal My eBay pages.

    eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said the problems have occurred during the past 10 days. He blamed them on a project the company has undertaken to improve its systems to make sure eBay can handle further user and auction growth.

    Pursglove declined to say whether the company's hardware or software was to blame for the system problems and declined to give a timeline on resolving them.

    "We're trying to deal with expansion and improvements on a timely basis," he said. "We're working hard to make sure these interruptions do not happen."

    eBay has spent millions of dollars in the past year to improve its system reliability, depressing the company's operating income. Part of the company's effort included hiring Maynard Webb to be its technology president, installing a backup system to limit downtime, moving some of its back-end systems to AboveNet from Exodus, and renewing its contract with Sun Microsystems for servers and data storage.

    The effort came after a slew of system outages last year.

    Pursglove said the company's recent system problems pale in comparison to last year's troubles. "Since last year, our reliability and uptime have improved," he said. "Our backup system has been extremely successful."

    The most recent outage happened last night, according to eBay's announcements board. The downtime, which the company blamed on a "hardware failure," lasted from about 7:15 to 8 p.m. PT.

    This morning eBay had further problems that kept sellers from listing their auctions and prevented bidders from viewing the bids placed on individual items. The problems have also hit My eBay, which allows members to view auctions they are listing or bidding on.

    eBay said it has since corrected these issues.

    On the message boards at eBay and AuctionWatch.com, eBay members expressed their frustration with the recent troubles.

    "eBay's been slow, unavailable, etc. for weeks now," one seller complained at AuctionWatch. "Tonight, it's completely down, and a bunch of my auctions are ending without any bidders able to bid."

    "This happens time after time," said another eBay member, upset about the problems with My eBay. "As an e-tailer I can't afford this level of service. Period."