Microsoft revealed a bit more about its container system for data centers, giving us some pause about it as a symbol of the cloud itself.

These boxes represent the future of cloud-based infrastructures for both shared and dedicated networks. Microsoft, Amazon, HP and a number of other vendors use these containers to operate cloud networks. They are becoming fully automated systems that physically represent how we are seeing a fundamental shift in how IT services are managed and deployed.

In his keynote at the Microsoft Management Summit, Executive Bob Muglia featured the company's container system used at its Chicago data center, illustrating the company's new datacenter and cloud management capabilities for mass deployment of virtualized technologies.

Muglia said the new container system is 10x less expensive than traditional data center infrastructures and 10x faster, too.

"Everything moves faster in the cloud,"Muglia said.

The container is an independent, high-speed network optimized with virtualization technology. Muglia said every piece of the data center is tightly fit, almost bound to make one network that stores data and provides raw processing power.

The news serves to represent Microsoft's ability to model and deploy applications across platforms. Microsoft owns the management tools, the developer tools, the applications, OS and the cloud platform. That's Microsoft's value statement to data center operators and the new generation of IT professionals and developers who will become wizards of sorts in these new environments.

It also shows the move to automate IT. Bing, for instance, has a few hundred thousand servers that are manned by a handful of people. Bing servers do not get patched. Instead, IT will deploys an updated OS image with the apps pre-installed.

It also highlights some key trends in cloud computing and data center environments.

As Mike Kirkwood wrote in his post today about Hitachi, server management is moving from three steps (OS, network and storage) to one system to orchestrate them all.

Microsoft is providing both shard and dedicated services. It's the container model, though, that makes this interesting for us. By offering an automated data network, it opens up in some respects the data center market. It's an OEM environment that can be plugged in to a data center for offering virtualized and cloud-based services.

Companies like Hitachi, Microsoft and Eucalyptus are defining a new container model that binds "compute, storage, network" with templates that can allow resources to move quickly.

These types of systems will become predominant as virtualization gains mass acceptance.