How the weak pound actually benefits me

With everything about the economy being as dire as it is now it is infrequent that good news comes out where money is involved, so when it does I feel compelled to document it.

The pound is currently very weak against the dollar. This must be bad, you would think from the phrasing. Weak is generally perceived to mean not good, but it can be beneficial. If you are selling goods or services in USD then you will receive more GBP for your dollar.

In June of this year you would get £1 for every $2. Today you will get £1 for every $1.50. So, if I was to receive $200 from a client and convert it to pounds, in June I would have received £100 but now I will get £133.

This is particularly important for me as I do freelance programming and a lot of my work comes from across the pond in the United States. Paypal does the converting from dollars to pounds and with it being as it is right now, I am earning approximately 1/3 more than I was 6 months ago.

Of course, it’s the total reverse if you’re converting your money from pounds to dollars. You will be spending 1/3 more than you would have 6 months ago. $200 spending money for a trip to the USA will now cost you £133 whereas 6 months ago it would have only been £100 and of course buying goods in dollars will also be more costly, this will affect businesses who buy stock from the United States.

Other stuff from Microsoft’s ‘Technologies to change your business’ event

Apart from the Windows Cloud stuff there were some other speakers and demos that interested me, including a neat use of Silverlight at the Hard Rock Café website which you may have seen before as it has been bounded around as the pièce de résistance of Silverlight 2 since about March this year.

When you click that link you are presented with the Hard Rock Café memorabilia website, in the middle you will see an image that can be ‘Deep Zoomed’ into and each different node (item) can be interacted with separately. The resolution on the pictures of the items is amazing and the detail to which you can zoom in to is awe-inspiring. I have just spent a few minutes reading a contract drawn up for a Beatles performance in 1965, the text is so clear and takes no time at all to load, according to the speaker (whose name I forget, sorry) image optimisation has been a big part of the development of ‘Deep Zoom’ in Silverlight 2 in an attempt to deliver the best quality content to the widest range of users, narrowband and broadband of all speeds. This is definitely something that I can applaude as when I find myself on the road and using my 3G data stick I still want to view high resolution pictures in order to send them on or post them to the web but find myself hanging around, usually having to start again more than once after passing through tunnels, for what seems like an age for rich content to load, which is more than mildly frustrating.

The hot topic of the day however was Hyper-V and OS virtualisation.
All but two Windows Server 2008 editions come with Hyper-V services built in. If you don’t know what Hyper-V is, let me try explain it as quickly as possible so that we can move on;

You have one server. Hyper-V can then split this server into two (or more) ”virtual” servers which means two servers running on one piece of hardware. To anyone but the sysadmins they respond and look as two completely seperate pieces of kit, but they aren’t. (Something VMWare has actually been doing for years)

The whole point of all this is that, if it suits your business model, you could potentially chop your server and datacentre spend into tiny little pieces and make huge savings. Servers these days are so powerful and often only a small percentage of that power is utilised, so one could easily gobble up three others and still have power (CPU, RAM, etc.) to spare in an emergency.
For example, if you had four file servers each running pretty steadily at 10% utilisation, why buy 4 pieces of kit that are only going to be using 40 out of 400% when you could buy one piece of kit that would use 40 out of 100% and do the same job? It’s the choice between paying £10,000 for 1 server or £40,000 for 4, in the end they’ll both be doing the same job. The green freaks amongst you too will be happy, because only 1/4 the power is being consumed.

OK. Maybe that’s a little simplistic, but you get the gist of what I’m trying to say, right?
Of course, it ends up introducing other problems such as single point failure, but even if you ran it as a high-availability cluster then you’d still be saving 75% on your hardware bill by only buying 2 servers instead of 8.

Also, by happy coincidence, Microsoft Hyper-V Server (notice no ‘Windows’ as there is no GUI) was released yesterday, October 1st as a free download and is free to use by anybody. It doesn’t support clustering, it doesn’t have a GUI, it doesn’t support high-availability clustering, in fact, it doesn’t support very much, but, it would be great in a development or testing environment.

During these times of recession and depression and smaller purses Hyper-V may have just come at the exact right time for Microsoft to maximise profit. Way to go Steve.

Windows Cloud @ Technologies to change your business

Steve Ballmer

I travelled across to London yesterday to attend the Microsoft Technet event, ‘Technologies to change your business’, the keynote speaker was Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO.

He came on stage at around 13:15 and proceeded to do his usual thing, he’s a great public speaker and very knowledgeable about the company that he is running and what they are doing now and what is coming from them in the future. He must have to read hundreds of updates daily from the R&D labs just to keep up with it all.

During the proceedings, between talking about virtualisation and Windows Mobile he mentioned something, for what I think was the first time, about a new operating system that was going to be announced in 4 weeks, which is going to be called Microsoft Windows Cloud, or as he put it, ‘something better than that’ by the time the announcement comes out.

Tied with the announcement today of Amazon’s intent to run Windows Server on their EC2 service it looks like Microsoft may be entering the supercomputer OS market for the first time, is this where ‘Windows Cloud’ comes in? This was all brought up in the Q&A including the the need to have datacentres across the globe if the service really did take off, Steve B did say that partners would need to be sought to provide the datacentres as Microsoft building and running them all would not be viable, which is probably true.

We wait to here further information about ‘Windows Cloud’, I’m just glad that I was there, in the second row, to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.