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September, 2008 - Microsoft UK Schools blog - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The UK Schools Blog
News and views from the Microsoft UK Education Team
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September, 2008

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Running out of space/power for your servers?


    Just one of the things on head teachers’ minds these days is the budget gap created by rising electricity and gas costs. Some schools talk about 150% increases, and the knock on to other school budgets could be immense. And ICT is surely playing its part in the increase. Since 2002, the number of computers in a typical school has doubled, and with that more power-hungry servers have also arrived (a typical rack-mount server might have a 700 watt power supply).

    So it makes sense to think about your power consumption. I’ve written before about power-saving on your desktop/laptop computers here, but what about servers?

    One of the easy wins is to plan your strategy for virtualisation – reducing/restricting the number of physical servers you need in your server room, and giving you more flexibility in your ICT infrastructure. To be honest, we’re probably in the foothills of the Virtualisation Alps, which is why it’s a good time to build a strategy.

    There are a pair of education case studies worth looking at, to compare others’ strategies:

    Kentucky’s virtualisation strategy

    The Kentucky Department for Education run 900 servers on behalf of their schools – 200 in a data centre, and 700 spread across their school system. They found they were each running at typical 10% of capacity, because they had dedicated servers for each task. By deploying virtualisation (they were lucky to be on our early adopter programme for Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V) they estimate that they’re going to reduce their physical servers by 60%, reduce data centre space by 50%, and reduce power use by 25%.

    And their goal is to reduce any downtime by building in redundancy – ensuring that there are less interruptions to learning across the schools. And then to enhance their disaster preparedness as a result.

    Warwickshire’s central virtualisation hub

    The education team’s ICT Development Services started virtualising applications to better support their 250 schools. Their model uses a delivery model of applications served from a central hub, to give them network and device neutrality – so that users can connect to applications from anywhere on the Internet, not just within school. Not only does it save cost, and reduce hardware costs, but they have also seen that it can enhance data security rights across the system.

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    What Photosynths would help your teaching?


    How about something to help your teaching colleagues. Now that you know what Photosynth can do, are there any places that you’d really like a Photosynth of, to use in a lesson?

    I’m currently sitting at a desk between the marketing managers for Health and Government, and I’d be happy to ask them to get one of their customers to create a synth. But what would be useful? What other types of Photosynth would you want? Although I don’t know them all, I bet I could find somebody in Microsoft who deals with organisations that would have interesting buildings or locations for Photosynthing.

    Here’s some ideas:

    Add your thoughts by adding a comment, or dropping me an email, and I’ll see if I can get some going…

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Becta – pouring oil on troubled water


    It’s been nice to see some thawing in the relationship between Becta and Microsoft. To be honest, this has taken too long, because Becta’s snappy catchline “Leading Next Generation Learning” is what we’re all about too.

    Yesterday they published their press releaseBecta welcomes substantial progress in discussions with Microsoft”, which has sparked off a series of articles, like Merlin John's "Peace at last? Becta and Microsoft edge closer", The Journal's "Becta Gains Ground in Interoperability for Education" and ZD Net's "Microsoft licensing switch pleases Becta"

    The press release also previews a pilot of a new licensing scheme that will be available next year, to supplement the existing Schools Agreement option. Although the detail isn’t yet available, some of the changes are highlighted in the Becta release:

    “The UK will pilot a new Microsoft licensing scheme that removes the requirement for schools using subscription agreements to pay Microsoft to licence systems that are using their competitors' technologies. So for the first time schools using Microsoft's subscription licensing agreements can decide for themselves how much of their ICT estate to licence.

    Schools opting to use the pilot licensing programme can choose to stop paying Microsoft licence fees for Apple Mac or Linux computers which are not actually running any Microsoft software. Computers running open source products such as would also no longer attract Microsoft licensing fees. Importantly such schools will also be able to decline to licence products such as Vista on systems that are technically incapable of running it. There are also now options for schools to license based on the number of users, rather than the number of PCs, or a combination of the two.”

    The Becta release is very specifically comparing the new scheme to Schools Agreement, even though the majority of schools don’t use it. So don’t panic – after reading their news release, you might think you’re being forced to license computers you don’t run our software on! You’re not. With Select licences, you license as many or as few as you want, for a perpetual licence. Schools Agreements are mainly used by schools who want to simply count all of their computers, and license them all for a standard set of software. Not only does it save hassle, but the initial cost is lower.

    When the details start to emerge on the pilot scheme, I’ll definitely cover them here.

    Licensing is complex* – if you want an easy to understand story, then take a look at this blog post (it’s one of the most popular on the blog!)

    How to get the best deal on Microsoft software in education

    * Yes, licensing is complex. Even the spelling is complex. In the US, they just say “license”. Whereas we say “licence” for the noun, and “license” for the verb. So I’m constantly confused over sentences like “To license 10 PCs I need 10 licences

  • Microsoft UK Schools blog

    Creating my first Photosynth


    Today, I’m in London, and inspired by Alan’s IT Suite Photosynth yesterday, I thought I’d have a go. And I am astounded at how easy it turned out to be.


    I took my photos of Westminster Cathedral, which is right outside of our office. Just before you say “But that’s not Westminster”, then re-read the last sentence. It’s the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral, not Westminster Abbey.

    Before I first worked in Victoria Street, I had no idea that this impressive building was a few hundreds yards from the Abbey. It is well described on its website: “Westminster Cathedral is one of the greatest secrets of London; people heading down Victoria Street on the well-trodden route to more famous sites are astonished to come across a piazza opening up the view to an extraordinary facade of towers, balconies and domes.”

    Anyway, I stood in front of it, and kept taking photos – 103 of them – including close ups of the statuary, and the left hand-side of the building, and then loaded them into the Photosynth software. I didn’t have to tag them, or arrange them, or shoot in any particular order – it did all of the work. And after about an hour (analysis, upload and display time, I guess) that was it – a 3D model of the cathedral was made.

    You can see a snapshot of a part of it on the right, and you can see my whole synth here.

    I tried a few tricks, to see how they would work:

    • Walking in the left-hand door, and you can too, but the lighting made it impossible to take photos inside - LINK
    • A close up of the notice board by the door – LINK spot the bargain!
    • And a view around the side, with a close up of the mosaic over the door – LINK

    I was astounded at the “3D dot” model it created, as it is an amazing trick from a few photos!

    Have a go at Photosynth yourself. I think this whole model took less than 30 minutes of my time (plus the background uploading)!

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