Shedding light on Internet auctions

From Beanie Babies to new cars, you can find everything you want and more at Europe's biggest auction site

From Beanie Babies to new cars, you can find everything you want and more at Europe's biggest auction site

Get yourself a shed if you want to be successful in IT. Bill Gates started off in one, as did Obi Nwosu, deputy technology officer at Europe's biggest Internet auction site QXL, writes Roisin Woolnough.

Nwosu explains, "When I joined QXL it was two people in a shed in Ladbroke Grove, above the entrance to a car park. It was not very easy to work - you would be on the phone and a car would go past and you couldn't hear anything. In the winter you wore thermals and were still freezing, while in summer you were boiling because there was no air conditioning."

But Nwosu says the working conditions were the least of his problems - the real test was getting the site up and running in time. "When I started, the remit was they had this auction site which was close to completion and needed to go live in two weeks. When I got there, however, I found out they had three computers, no network and the site had been developed in-house and was no good. I threw it away and developed another one from scratch called Open site. I wrote it in the two weeks and put the network together," Nwosu explains.

That was two and a half years ago and since then the site has been relaunched several times, with Nwosu adding extra functionalities each time. The last major relaunch was seven months ago.

Nwosu says they keep relaunching because it is imperative they keep abreast of other sites. "It is the first or second e-commerce site, depending on who you talk to. We sell almost everything - cars, beanie babies - and sell in 11 different countries officially. This is why we have to update the process continuously," he says.

To ensure this all happens, there is a strong team working on the site - 30 people working on the database, security, research and development and technical support, another 30 developing the site, plus some software consultants as well.

QXL runs on Unix on Solaris with Sun Solaris hardware and an Oracle database, using a number of high-power machines. The software was mainly built in-house. "Everyone's requirements are specific," explains Nwosu, "So the best option is do it yourself." He used a mix of C, Perl and Java. "C for high performance, Perl for speed and Java because it is somewhere in between."

The back-end of the site was developed using NT with an SQL server database. The hardware used was Perl, Visual Basic and NT.

  • Name: Obi Nwosu

  • Job title: deputy technology officer

  • Age: 24

  • Qualifications: degree in computing

  • IT skills: project management, resource management, technical architecture, C, Perl, Java, Lotus Notes

  • Hobbies: travelling, bungee jumping, unusual vehicles - tanks, sports cars

  • Favourite film: Grease

  • Favourite book: The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

  • Nwosu on Nwosu: surprising, action-packed, romantic

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