One of the core challenges of any company, especially if you are working on a digital transformation strategy, is to find the right type of SaaS service provider. The provider should be complementary with your business requirements, work culture, help you handle multiple customers and focus on the type of tenancy that you require. There are 2 types of tenancies and for this article, we are focusing on the basics of multi-tenancy architecture.
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Major types of tenancy in SaaS software
There are two major types of tenancy in the SaaS environment, namely single-tenancy and multiple-tenancy. Let us understand both of them in detail before you have to decide which one is right for your business.
1. Single-tenancy cloud computing
In a SaaS environment with single-tenancy, the main tenant is the SaaS client. As per the design, this type of architecture only allows a single software per client on the server. Even if they tried, the architecture will not allow more than one piece of software to the client.
Let’s suppose that the server environment is a business ecosystem. In the ecosystem, every client has their own office building. The street on which these buildings are situated in the main server. All of the SaaS clients operate from that one server but from their own office buildings. If they want a new building, then they will need to purchase an additional one for their business. They will run their operations within their own offices while being side by side with other companies, some of whom might even be their competitors.
2. Multi-tenancy cloud computing
Continuing the business ecosystem example, in a SaaS environment with multi-tenancy, the clients still have their own offices but all the offices are located within one multi-story building. This helps them operate from their own space in a large SaaS software product.
The terms single-tenant and SaaS multi-tenant are probably taken from the world of real estate. Which is why we took this example to help you understand it better. But when we are talking about technology, there are various benefits are drawbacks of their own. To understand the same, we will need to go into even more detail on the same topics. Since our main focus for this article is the multi-tenancy application instance, let us understand it in terms of technology.
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What is the difference between single-tenancy and multiple-tenancy?
To understand some of the major differences between both the architecture types, it is necessary that you first understand both the types thoroughly. For this reason, we have explained single and multi-tenant architectures below. Take a look at them to understand them better.
How does single-tenancy architecture work?
Single-tenancy architecture is a software application and supporting infrastructure that does not serve multiple customers at a time. This is usually used in SaaS delivery models or by companies that provide cloud services to other companies. In this type of architecture, the customer – who is known as a tenant will have a dedicated singular software application of the SaaS model.
The hosting provider also aids in the management of the software application and infrastructure. However, despite the role of the provider in this scenario, the client will still have nearly complete control. The client is able to customize the software and infrastructure as per their business requirements. The only thing that they are not allowed to do is make changes in the core code of the software application.
An important point to note here is that every tenant in a single-tenancy SaaS model will get their own database and software instance. In this way, the data of all the tenants is kept separate from the others. Each software is often built with customization for every new tenant or the tenant will get a standard software that they customize after the installation process is complete.
For additional security of the data, every tenant also gets isolated backup in case of any type of data loss for restoration purposes. Also, tenants get to choose when they want to install any pending updates and don’t have to wait for the hosting provider to help them with the same.
The adoption of a single-tenancy structure in cloud computing is also rather commonplace. In the majority of the cases, if a user is using private cloud services or a third-party cloud service, then there are high chances that it follows the single-tenant system. This is so because the user would be the only customer that has access to a particular single instance. It increases the security and gives more options for management and individual controls to the tenant.
How does multi-tenant architecture work?
In the multi-tenancy architecture, a single software application has the ability to serve multiple tenants. Every customer or client is termed as a tenant. These tenants are usually allowed to customize some aspects of the application that they take. The aspects could vary from the color of the UI or the rules for their business. However, one thing that they cannot make any modifications to is the core code of the application. This is to ensure that nobody tampers with the basic functionality of the application and that it remains intact.
In the multi-tenant database structure, typically there are multiple ways and occurrences of applications and the way they are supposed to operate in an environment that is shared. The architecture of this type of database works because you can integrate every tenant or client physically but keep them separated logically. What this means is that a single software will run on one server and then it will continue to serve multiple tenants instead of a single one.
In this way, a software app that is hosted in a multi-tenant database is able to share dedicated configurations and data. It can also share user management and several other properties.
Moreover, multi-tenant SaaS software applications are able to share the same users, rules, and displays too with some modifications and customizations by the users. They are also allowed to share and customize database schemas.
Many cloud computing service providers have adopted the multi-tenancy architecture. These types of architectures are in both public as well as private cloud environments. They allow every single tenant to keep their data separate from the other even though it is stored in the same server or software instance. For example, multiple users may use the hosting from the same server for the hosting environment in a multi-tenant database public cloud. Each user has a separate and ideally secure environment to store data within the servers.
Multi-tenancy architecture is important for better scaling of public and private cloud computing. It has been helpful in making multi-tenancy a standard preferred over the single-tenant architecture. It also helps in providing a better return on investment (ROI) for various organizations. Multi-tenancy is also useful in speeding up the maintenance and quick updates for the tenants.
Benefits of using a multi-tenant architecture
1. Better cost-cutting with the help of scaling
In a multi-tenant architecture of cloud computing, the scaling process has much fewer implications of infrastructure when compared to a single-tenancy cloud computing provider. How does this happen? New users get easier access to the same basic solution software, thereby reducing the costs for the hosting or service provider.
2. Shared infrastructure leads to lower costs
Many SaaS providers allow companies to share infrastructure and the data center. By doing so, they are also sharing the operational and management costs of the same. The companies are of varied sizes, both big and small, and the SaaS provider charges them an amount only as per the services that they are using. This makes it pointless to add any additional applications or extra hardware to the same environment. Without the need to provision or manage any additional infrastructure or software that are beyond their own internal resources, business is able to focus on their core tasks in a much better way.
3. Continuous maintenance and constant new updates
When a business is paying public or private cloud computing service providers a certain amount on a monthly or yearly basis, then they don’t need to worry about any extra overhead charges or hidden costs. The tenants don’t need to pay high maintenance charges to ensure that their software application stays up to date. Vendors make sure that they are continuously doing the maintenance so that their clients do not face any issues. They also roll out new features and updates every so often in order to keep up with the latest trends and technologies. This benefit is mostly inclusive in all SaaS subscriptions from vendors.
4. Easy to configure without touching or modifying the core codebase
In single-tenant solutions, vendors often provide custom-made applications after doing the necessary changes to the application’s core code. However, depending on the level of customization that the client requires, the prices could be exorbitantly high. These customizations often make it difficult and time-consuming to get new upgrades as well if the upgrade and new features are not compatible with your cloud environment.
That, however, is not the case when it comes to multi-tenancy solutions. The architecture is easy to configure and is very flexible. It helps the businesses in making sure that the application performs however they want it to work. There is no need to make any changes to the code or the structure in which they have saved the data. This makes it very easy to get new features and upgrades as soon as they roll out.
Multi-tenancy architecture also enables various computing service providers to serve everyone more efficiently. The vendors provide their services to small companies that may not be in need of dedicated infrastructure. They also provide the same to larger enterprise-level companies who need to access the cloud’s unlimited computing resources for their usage.
If you want to understand about knowledge management and how it will benefit you, check out this blog: What is knowledge management?
What are the three multi-tenancy models?
When it comes to main model types for multi-tenant architecture, there are 3 major types on the basis of the levels of complexity and cost.
- Single shared database schema with multi-tenancy database
- Single database with multiple schemas
- Multi-tenancy architecture with multiple databases
Let us understand the models one by one below.
1. Single shared database schema with a multi-tenancy database
A single shared database schema with a multi-tenant database is the first and most basic type of multi-tenancy model. The complexity level is the simplest out of all three and it is available to users at a relatively lower cost. The cost is lesser because the tenants share the resources and that reduces the cost of management as well. This multi-tenancy SaaS model makes use of a single application and database instance for providing hosting to the tenants and for storing their data. By making use of a single, shared database schema, the provider or vendor ensures that it becomes easier to scale their application. However, if a tenant wants quicker scaling, then the operational costs will be much higher than expected.
2. Single database with multiple schemas
The second model for the multi-tenant SaaS database makes use of a single database with multiple schemas. This system of hosting makes use of a single application instance with various different databases for each and every tenant. In addition to that, the architecture of this model also has a higher cost in comparison to the previous model. The reason for this is that there is more overhead with each database. The structure is very valuable when different tenants want their company’s data to be treated in a different manner. Think of it this way – if a parcel has to be processed after going through the geographic regulations of different countries, then it would be difficult to transport the same. It would also cost a lot more in transportation. Similarly, the charges and complexity level for this database increases with the increase in the number of schemas used in a single database.
3. The multi-tenant architecture with multiple databases
The third model for multi-tenant architecture hosts data and information in multiple databases. The model is definitely much more complex when it comes to the management and maintenance of the database. It is also more costly than the other two types that we discussed previously. The tenants in this model are separated from the chosen criteria by the vendors.
1. Why multi-tenancy is important?Answer:Multi-tenancy is the ideal architecture for supporting public cloud computing and making it work. It is important because it supports multiple customers, data and other applications easily. Here are several other benefits of multi-tenancy:
- Better cost-cutting with the help of scaling
- Shared infrastructure leads to lower costs
- Continuous maintenance and constant new updates
- Easy to configure without touching or modifying the core codebase
2. Is AWS multi-tenant?Answer:Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a multi-tenancy software called Lambda. It is a server-less technology introduced by them.
3. What does a multi-tenant cloud mean?Answer:A multi-tenant cloud is a cloud computing architecture that allows tenants to share their resources in a public or private cloud. In this architecture, each customer’s data is kept separated and isolated from the others.
4. What is multi-instance?Answer:In multi-instance architecture, multiple customers are able to run their own separate instances of an application and operating systems. They can do so on separate virtual machines, with common hardware.
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