The move to cloud computing is the biggest technological shift in a generation. But while cloud computing has proven extremely disruptive, moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be. There are a number of steps you can take to ease the process and successfully transition to the cloud with a minimum of upheaval.How to Make a Smooth Transition to the Cloud

David Crilley, Proofpoint Inc.‘s senior director of channel and international marketing, advises in this article that organizations should take a “hybrid” approach: seek out a vendor that offers services delivery both based in the cloud and as an on-premise deployment. You’ll be able to slowly transition your applications and infrastructure at your own pace, and be able to address and resolve any issues around security and control, Crilley said.

Tom Nolle, president of strategic consulting firm CIMI Corporation, also advocates for a hybrid approach, but in a technology sense. Nearly all enterprises say cloud computing’s primary mission in their business will be a combination of offloading peak demand and backing up critical applications, Nolle said. This explicitly demands a hybrid cloud in which applications, data and users form a public-private ecosystem. Nolle says there are two ways to achieve this: with virtualization or with the use of service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Nolle writes that if “your company has made a significant commitment to either of these technologies in your data centers, you can build on that commitment to create a hybrid cloud.” He goes on to add: “In fact, the more you have invested in virtualization or SOA, the less you’ll likely have to spend to exploit cloud computing.”

If you’re going down the virtualization path, Nolle points out that all virtualization tools can be extended into the cloud and, in conjunction with public cloud resources, can be used to build a hybrid cloud.

If you’re going to use SOA as the basis for your expansion into the cloud, Nolle says all of the popular SOA-based middleware frameworks — including those from IBM, Microsoft and Oracle – will also support extension into public cloud resources. Here, he explains, you can either choose from a vendor-specific cloud with Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) functionality that’s compatible with your internal SOA middleware or host your middleware on an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud. There are always organizations for which SOA evolution won’t work, Nolle said. For those businesses, adopting virtualization technology is the best option.

Unless, your current servers aren’t good candidates for virtualization. If that’s the case, it pays to upgrade your data center to obtain efficient hosts. The cost savings and efficiency gains alone will offset any initial investment, in most cases.

Once you’ve made it this far, it’s time to focus on the details. Crilley suggests that security and control are the two issues you’ll want to deal with immediately.

He adds that for security reasons, you should make sure your cloud provider’s data center documents their physical security as well as uptime assurance with a SAS 70 (and new standard SSAE 16) audit. Also, service providers should encrypt your data, both in motion and at rest.

When evaluating your path to the cloud, it’s critical to do your research and to accurately assess your motivators and the main concerns about moving to the cloud to avoid many of the obstacles and sticking points. But with the right knowledge, insight and a little patience, moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be a struggle.

Author Bio: This post is written by Rackspace blogger Sharon Florentine. Rackspace Hosting is the service leader in cloud computing, and a founder of OpenStack, an open source cloud operating system. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support to its customers and partners, across a portfolio of IT services, including Managed Hosting and Cloud Computing.