Why the multitenant cloud still matters

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Multitenant cloud architectures have fallen out of favor with some enterprises. With the low cost of cloud computing, why bother sharing resources with someone else when you can reserve your own?

But there are many reasons to go multitenant, provided you use it for the right workload.

Shared resource benefits

A multitenant cloud is like an apartment building. Each tenant has its own secure space, while all tenants share common resources, such as power, maintenance and other services. Each tenant has the privacy to do as they please, while basic operational and infrastructure costs are shared by all.

A single-tenant environment, meanwhile, is more like an office building that is fully leased by one company. All spaces (instances) are in the same place, so there can be a high degree of interaction between them, but the overall cost is higher because the entire ecosystem is paid for by a single owner.

One of the major knocks against multitenancy is its perceived lack of security. How can you trust the sanctity of your own workload with all of these unknown actors sharing your cloud? This is something of a misunderstanding. Much like in an apartment building, all tenants in the cloud have the key to their own instance. If someone decodes your key, they can get to your data. But this is true whether you are a single tenant, one of many, or on a public, private or hybrid cloud. What is unlikely to happen is that someone accesses your data by hacking another tenant’s instance.

Also, as noted recently by New Relic, cloud providers have a vested interest in maintaining the highest security standards, particularly across a shared infrastructure. In a single tenant or private deployment, the primary responsibility for security falls the client.

Resource consumption considerations

Multitenancy requires active management of resource consumption. The cloud is highly scalable, but it cannot adjust workloads in real time.

If a few tenants in your cloud suddenly experience a dramatic spike in traffic, as in an e-commerce scenario, you may temporarily see some degradation of service as the cloud attempts to rebalance the load. This is what many cloud experts refer to as the “noisy neighbor” scenario.

But exactly what types of workloads should be hosted on multitenant cloud solutions, and what should remain single? This is a very nuanced question. Generally speaking, the more important functions are likely to be more suited to single tenant, while a multitenant cloud solution will be reserved for larger, less critical applications.

Single-tenant solutions tend to be more stable and predictable than multitenant cloud solutions. As a result, many organizations use them in support of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) deployments. Since these architectures tend to serve multiple functions, usually over a lengthy period of time, they are more amenable to deep integration with established environments in a private cloud setting.

SaaS solutions advantages

When it comes to software as a service (SaaS), however, multitenancy has many advantages. Digital Guardian notes that, besides the cost advantages, multitenant cloud solutions can be configured in a wide variety of ways so that organizations can customize a given application’s performance without having to alter any of its code. This also makes it easier to maintain the app and implement upgrades on an ongoing basis since the vendor doesn’t have to deal with multiple iterations of its product.

For the cloud provider, offering SaaS products on multitenant architectures makes even more sense, according to ITProPortal. For one thing, it’s easier to bring on new users when everyone is using the same version of the software. In many cases, this process can be fully automated, right down to domain and subdomain configuration. Setting the default data and configuring the application can also be automated. At the same time, the multitenant cloud helps maximize resource consumption, giving the provider the highest ROI for its infrastructure investment.

Multitenancy is not appropriate for all use cases, but neither should it be ignored simply because it features shared infrastructure. In today’s environment, you have the luxury of selecting the right architecture for your workload, not the other way around.

Learn more about moving the right IT assets to a multitenant cloud architecture so you can start innovating sooner.

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