This year Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie starts the PDC 2008 conference by talking about the data center in the cloud.
He introduces a new flavor of Windows called Azure, a version of the Microsoft operating system built for cloud computing (but still based on existing technologies like Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, ASP.Net 3.5, etc.).
Windows Azure will not be available for installation at customers site, but will be deployed at Microsoft data centers (currently available in US, soon worldwide).
Microsoft says that the new OS is powered by a highly scalable hypervisor (doesn’t specify which one but it’s probably Hyper-V 2.0) which acts as a fabric controller and manages both servers and services through roles, channels and interfaces.
All components of this cloud manager are redundant.
Over time Microsoft will unlock new Azure capabilities, like data synchronization, reporting, etc.
It seems that Microsoft plans to call the platform ready for production not earlier than 2010.
Meanwhile a Technology Preview program can be enrolled here.