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External cloud providers have garnered much of the publicity of the initial wave of cloud computing. But that is not necessarily where the market is headed. While cloud computing services come in many forms, IT analyst firm Gartner predicts that through 2012, IT organizations will invest more in private cloud services than in offerings from public cloud providers.

"For now, private cloud computing will not just be a viable term, it will be a significant strategic investment for most large organizations," said Phil Dawson, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement. "We predict that through 2012, more than 75 percent of organization’s use of cloud computing will be devoted to very large data queries, short-term massively parallel workloads, or IT use by start-ups with little to no IT infrastructure."

Private cloud computing is a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to internal customers using Internet technologies. This definition is very similar to Gartner’s public cloud computing definition; however the focus on internal is related to who can access or use the services in question and who owns or coordinates the resources used to deliver the services.

"With cloud offerings coming in the form of services, this means that the IT organization will be replaced by relationships to many cloud computing service providers, each for one or a handful of services, Dawson said.

The reality of the future IT organization will be somewhat a combination.

"Larger organizations will continue to have an IT organization that manages and deploys IT resources internally," Dawson said. "Some of these will be ‘private clouds’, but not all. IT departments will also take on IT service sourcing responsibility — determining when to leverage external providers, when to deploy internally, and when to leverage both for specific services."

Gartner predicts that private cloud services will be a stepping-stone to future public cloud services. For many large organizations, private cloud services will continue to be required for many years, as public cloud offerings mature.

Gartner says there are two characteristics that companies need to consider when investing in private cloud computing delivery, as opposed to public cloud computing delivery. First, private cloud services are implemented for an exclusive set of consumers (that is, only approved members can participate, and approval is contingent on some characteristic that the general public or other general businesses cannot gain easily). The access will frequently be controlled by a centralized organization, such as a company’s IT organization or an industry association, but this control is not essential to the concept of the private cloud. Second, they can be built on top of a public cloud infrastructure or in a hybrid model.

In addition, the scope of internal cloud services around intimacy and integration can be compared to external cloud services that are dependent on interface and independence from the organization. IT services used in the public cloud are standard across businesses, and not differentiators. These services are separated from the business — independent, not customized and not integrated. They focus on creating a self-service, easy-to-use, and are generally not end-customer facing. They are also a relatively static service.

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