Now for something a little bit geekier! Last week I was at a meeting at Microsoft’s UK base in Reading to look at a wide range of different topics. One of the agenda items was covering the cloud and as expected topics including Live@Edu and Office 365 were covered. One aspect of the discussion I did not expect was a presentation which showed the changing anatomy of the data centre. I managed to get some shots of the 5 current stages of Microsoft’s data centre evolution which I thought you might like to see. Whilst not a fully fledged geek I was fascinated to see how things are evolving and later on I will show you the latest thinking on what data centres will look like in the next year and beyond.
1st Generation Data Centre
Servers on shelves Ikea style
2nd Generation Data Centre
The development of racked servers
3rd Generation Data Centre
The modern data centre with flashing blue lights!
4th Generation Data Centre
We were then shown what the modern day Microsoft data centre looks like. The focus is on size, reliability and scalable units with entire shipping containers ready to go. These units are dropped into place and instantly activated into the centre. They are also sealed and for efficiency they still run and will not be opened unless 35% of the environment has failed. The video also shows the cooling system which again is locked straight into the units.
Sitting there I thought this was very cool…. and then I was shown the real future of data centres in terms of mobility and the private cloud. More of that later.
Filed under: Cloud Computing, SharePoint, SharePoint 2010
It has been an interesting month for talk of Cloud Computing and specifically the availability of Office in the cloud. Microsoft announced a much needed upgrade to its BPOS and Azure offerings by launching Office 365. Using Microsoft’s extensive data centres Office 365 will bring together 4 key pillars of Microsoft’s productivity and communication tools in Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync. Whereas the lack of maturity within current cloud offerings was a barrier to moving resources off site the ‘full fat’ nature of Office 365 is likely to represent a big change from the view that hardware must always be on premise.
Check out the video below which gives a 5 minute overview of Office 365
Are schools likely to be moving to the cloud with all services in the near future? At a meeting I attended last week opinion amongst Network Managers was divided with a number needing to see the level of functionality available off site before commiting. Of course the greatest concern remains the quality of broadband connection into the school. As this hopefully improves we are likely to see a big move to the cloud over the next 3-5 years.
Staff and student access to software away from school is always an issue especially when the software is subject specific and unlikely to be owned by individuals. The Twynham Learning Gateway overcomes this by making software available from the school servers. Staff and students simply need to go to the ‘My Programs’ section of the Gateway and open the relevant software.
The software is made available through terminal services.
It is easy to use jargon when talking about IT in education and I did this myself on Friday when referring to ‘Cloud Computing’ What is more I did trip between the concept of Cloud Computing and Software as a Service as interchangeable ideas when they are not. Quite a few people have contacted me asking for clarification on these terms when I have used them recently and so I thought it was worth a post. Before I try to define the differences in the terms myself I thought it might be useful to employ the use of YouTube! Here is a short (5 minute) video on Cloud Computing which is a big buzz word in IT at the moment.
If you are still thirsting for more then take a look at The History of Cloud Computing. Alongside this is the idea of Software as a Service. Take a look at this video here for a quick input.
So the difference? Cloud Computing is a broad term which refers to the availability of Internet based services on a ‘pay as you go’ basis replacing the traditional need for significant hardware and software investment for businesses to run their online operations. Software as a service is a much narrower concept based on cloud computing where software is hosted in the cloud and available to users via the Internet instead of on their machines. So thinking about education what is a managed Learning Platform like Fronter or Frog? Does it represent Cloud Computing or Software as a Service? I think it is both but am keen to be corrected by someone more knowledgeable. Surely though it is software (e.g. SharePoint) which is hosted in the cloud and is easily scalable dependant on the number of users. I knew this post was a bad idea!
This is a big technology week with CES on in Las Vegas and Macworld in San Francisco. Hidden among the news at Macworld was an announcement by Microsoft in the form of their Macintosh Business Unit. It looks like SharePoint will be getting some much needed input to help with interoperability.
This is great news and we look forward to seeing how we can develop this at Twynham School. At present we have a couple of Mac suites and various machines dotted around the site so this may help us to better connect up our network facilities in 2009. What is really interesting is to see how Microsoft’s ‘Software plus Services’ model is starting to roll out. We are really excited by the opportunities and have started to work on a model for how this might take shape in Schools.
Over the last 6 months we have been working on a plan to roll out laptops to all our 1600 students with a contribution of some form from parents. This is not in itself unusual and many schools are embarking on this but alongside the roll out we would like to put Office in the cloud for all our staff and students. The principle of students having access to high quality software through our Learning Gateways that can be accessed in all areas of the school site, at home and on the go promises to be a revolutionary development. I will explain how we are trialing this in SharePoint tomorrow!