Microsoft is using its own, massive online services as proof-points for its next generation of cloud and data center technologies, it announced in TechEd 2012 opening address.

Microsoft is pitching its cloud services to Fortune 500 companies ranging from ING Direct to Aflac. But, before it rolls out the next iteration--an infrastructure-as-a-service play that will see Azure leverage new capabilities in Windows Server 2012--the company is using the technology to run its own massive online services.

"We run 200 very diverse workloads," said Microsoft server & tools president Satya Nadella, during a keynote Monday to open the TechEd 2012 conference in Orlando, Fla.

Nadella noted that Microsoft's cloud services include numerous offerings, each with millions of users, from Office 365 and Dynamics CRM, to Xbox Live and the Bing search engine. Last week, Bing went live on Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate, said Nadella. "We are battle-testing every piece of software." Nadella noted that, just for its own services, Microsoft is already operating 16 major data centers, where, for Bing alone, it's managing more than 300 petabytes of data.

Nadella said data centers that can provide services at such scale need four characteristics--they need to be scalable and elastic, be always up and always on, provide shared resources, and offer an automated, self-service environment. "That's what inspired us to build Windows Server 2012," he said.

[ Take a look at Windows 8 Server: Hands-On First Impressions. ]

Nadella said Windows Server 2012 supports the first requirement through its ability to handle as many as 64 virtual processors and 1 terabyte of data per virtual machine (VM); the second through features like the ability to update clusters without having to bring down entire cluster nodes; the third through simplified consolidation and virtualization through Hyper-V; and the fourth, automation, through new add-ons like an expanded PowerShell interface through which "you can automate pretty much anything that's there."

Windows Server 2012 is expected to be released later this year, around the same time that Windows 8 drops. It's the key lynchpin in Microsoft's vision for a cloud computing environment that extends from Windows phones and tablets, through private clouds in enterprise data centers, and up into the public cloud on Windows Azure.

"We want to virtualize workloads that were not considered virtualizeable," said Windows Server program manager Jeff Woolsey, who demoed some of the advanced features in Windows Server 2012.

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