I recently saw a great article by Greg Shields on TechTarget, called Defining the Hyper-V Cloud. (You'll need to register [free] to read it, but TechTarget is an excellent third-party source for IT insight, so it's well worth the effort.) In it he not only describes the Hyper-V Cloud programs, but has a good take on how CIOs and IT managers need to regard cloud computing and private cloud computing in particular.

Over the last two years, cloud computing implementations have necessarily fragmented the concept into several specific categories. The private cloud concept is heavily based on virtualization, and many IT managers wrongly dismiss it as simply another virtualization perspective. But as Shields points out, virtualization is merely one of the key mechanisms that define a private cloud - merely virtualizing your data center won't get you there. A true private cloud provides a virtualized computing resource that offers end-users near immediate response times to new business requirements via optimized authentication, self-service technology and often access to off-premise computing resources (with or often without their knowledge). Implementing such an engine is several steps beyond simple virtualization, and IT managers need to explore these new areas not only to learn how to build a private cloud infrastructure, but also to get a handle on the exciting new possibilities this computing model can offer their users and businesses.

The Hyper-V Cloud programs that Shields cites are an excellent place to start. Utilizing this program will allow you to access technical resources with which to begin building your own private cloud pilots, check pre-validated configurations from numerous OEM partners who've become part of Hyper-V cloud, and even locate a private cloud partner or consultant in your area. Leverage these programs and you'll get first-hand information on how Microsoft customers and partners are deploying private cloud, with direct views into technical assessments, proofs-of-concept and actual deployments. You'll also get a much better understanding of how to extend you private cloud to a fully-powered public cloud resource, like Windows Azure.

Cloud computing is the future of enterprise IT - that's a given across the industry. Programs like Hyper-V Cloud are a great way to get your head wrapped around these concepts early and make the best use of this new model as soon as possible.