Microsoft has created a new group within Microsoft Research called Cloud Computing Futures headed by Dan Reed, who has a long history in academia and is a former director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. An interview with him about the new group was recently published here:
The group will be focusing on research around large scale datacenters, networks, sotware architectue, etc. This passage describes it pretty well and has a great analogy at the end:
"Building data centers using standard, off-the-shelf technology was a great choice in the beginning. It let the Internet boom race ahead without the need to develop new types of computers and software systems. But the resulting data centers and software were not designed as integrated systems and are less efficient than they should be. One common analogy is that if one built utility power plants as we build data centers [today], we would start by going to Home Depot and buying millions of gasoline-powered generators.
Quite an interesting read and links to a bunch of research efforts.