Multi-Tenant architecture for Enterprises?

By Subraya Mallya - January 2011 | Topics - SaaS

The world is shrinking and the traditional boundaries between Desktop, Client-Server, Web and Cloud technologies are getting blurred. While some of your business applications should be strictly on-premise, some have to move to the private cloud and some travel to the public cloud.

The users community of today’s applications are spread across

  • Product divisions
  • Geographies
  • Business units
  • Upstream vendors
  • Downstream partners and
  • Customers.

The needs around

  • Configurability
  • Customization requirements
  • Security and Data-access policies
  • Data isolation
  • Scalability requirements
  • Administration and
  • Reporting needs

all these can be quite diverse. The challenges of creating an architecture and engineering such applications are many.

While SaaS as a business model may not be relevant to an enterprise application, multi-tenant architecture and SaaS like features can substantially reduce the operational and infrastructure costs of an enterprise.

Let us look at some examples that we have recently come across:

  • A enterprise with a strong franchisee model, is thinking of migrating its application to a multi-tenant architecture. The objective is to bill its franchisees for the usage of IT infrastructure and applications on a monthly variable model, instead of a fixed upfront cost.
  • A BPO is building a multi-tenant platform to manage its processes, but would be sharing the same application with all its clients.
  • And then there is a large enterprise that is wondering whether it would make economic sense to build a single multi-tenant app. to be used by various SBUs, products, geographical units and subsidaries (each unit to be treated like a tenant).

Why would you not?

Data isolation, data scoping and access control, horizontal scaling, tenant wise customizability and configurability, hosting on a hybrid but elastic infrastructure, single code base, ease of maintenance, reduced opex all these could indeed give this enterprise unparalleled cost savings and benefits.

Vendor management and e-procurement are some other examples where a multi-tenant architecture must be considered.

So thinking about the cloud, is not just about moving or not moving your existing applications and infrastructure to the cloud. It is also about re-thinking your application development framework and how you can leverage the benefits of a Multi-tenant architecture.

So whether you are building a new application or planning to migrate an existing application, you should carefully evaluate the kind of engineering stack that you would like to build (or buy).

Thoughts shared by readers (2)

  1. Bala Girisaballa Says:

    Great insight. Most companies miss out the rethink required when moving to the cloud. In my view, that’s as important that just “migrating” to the cloud.

  2. Subraya Mallya Says:

    Thanks Bala. Agreed it is very critical that the assessment is done right by enterprises and not get caught with all the hype

Trackbacks For This Post (9)

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