Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is Multi-Tenancy an Essential Attribute of Cloud Computing Service?

Though heavy weights like Gartner, NIST and Forrester have thrown their weight in favor of Multi-Tenancy camp yet there are technology evangelists who think otherwise. Check the following excerpt from an interview published at Cloud Computing [source]:

Cloud Computing Journal: Does an app need multi-tenancy to be SaaS-enabled on the Virtual Ark SaaS Application Management Platform?

President & CEO of Virtual Ark, *Marty Gauvin: No, not at all. Virtual Ark can manage dedicated instances of the application for specific customer needs as if they were "one" application instance. In our view, the security, integration and performance requirements of our target market, large enterprise customers, are ill-suited to multi-tenant solutions. We think this is a key reason why SaaS has not been taken up more strongly by this market segment, and why many ISVs have not modified their applications to be multi-tenant. Virtual Ark sees this as an important differentiator in its value proposition.

*Marty Gauvin is a successful, visionary serial tech-entrepreneur. Prior to Virtual Ark he has founded & lead many successful ventures viz. Tier5, Hostworks. Also a member of many advisory & government innovation committies.

Let us check the opinion of a few of the who’s who of Indian Cloud Service Arena. The following content is based on the opinion shared exclusively with Techno-Pulse…

Disclaimer: I am NOT associated with any of the companies mentioned here.
[Opinions published in the order they were received]

Suresh-Sambandam-CEO-OrangeScape Suresh Sambandam - Founder & CEO of OrangeScape, a pioneer Platform as a Service(PaaS).

The only Indian company listed in research reports of Gartner and Forrester on PaaS. OrangeScape's patent pending rule engine based PaaS platform enables entrepreneurs to build scalable SaaS based business applications easily.

Multi-tenancy is about sharing of set of infrastructure resources be it hardware or software across multiple clients to cross leverage utilization and hence drive cost efficiencies. The dilemma on multi-tenancy is no different than the dilemma between choosing a FLAT and a INDEPENDENT House. A multi-storied apartment complex a perfect metaphor of shared infrastructure like lift, swimming pool etc for all the tenants in the complex. Individually most tenants can't afford to buy a house with swimming pool. However, as a builder once has to provision for a lift as a high raised building brings in new challenges of reaching the higher floors. Hence lift becomes a mandatory feature. I see similar things happening in the cloud computing space. Once you have to share common infrastructure among many clients you also end up building some additional infrastructure to take care of volume of customers etc. While mostly it is a vendor phenomena, customers also have to understand multi-tenancy (very similar to the way they understand FLATS today)!


Kishore-Impel-CRM Narasimhan (Kishore) Mandyam - CEO of PK4, a company that delivers a SaaS Impel CRM for India.

Started as a developer at Infosys in 1986, Kishore has built and run companies in software services and in products in India and the US. Prior to PK4 he has lead many successful ventures viz. Ampersand, Aprisa & zeroCode. In 2006, he co-founded PK4 with the objective of changing the way traditional software is built and sold. Impel CRM is the first large software system from that effort. Kishore is an Electrical Engineer from UVCE, Bangalore.

Multi-tenancy, IMHO, is an essential part of any SaaS service (which can be considered a subset of Cloud Computing Services). That’s the only way today for a customer to be confident that the Service s/he signed up for will actually be there when s/he wants it. And that's the only way for a vendor to provide it at an affordable price-point.

Alok-Misra-Navatar-GroupAlok Misra - Cofounder & Principal at Navatar Group, a global Cloud service provider.

Navatar is a longtime partner and one of the top resellers of salesforce.com. Alok spent his early career in senior roles at Deloitte Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers. In addition to driving the go-to-market strategy for Navatar and other ISV clients, he writes for several Cloud publications and blogs. He is also the co-author of the recently released cloud computing book, "Thinking of ... Force.com as your key to the Cloud Kingdom."

It may be hard to argue with Marty when he says “large enterprise customers, are ill-suited to multi-tenant solutions.” Large customers, usually, are too “high-maintenance,” both in terms of their unique requirements as well as their highly political environments. Had they been simple to deal with, consulting firms like Deloitte or PwC, that make most of their money from organizational complexities, would have gone out of business by now. No wonder, it’s hard for a vendor offering a multitenant solution to convince a large customer to buy.

So if you’re an ISV targeting large enterprise customers, an easier option may be not to be multitenant, so you can tailor for each customer’s unique needs. It’s a perfectly valid (and maybe lucrative) business model. The issue is that eventually you will turn into a services company – or, in other words, most of your revenues will come from services.

If you want to be a viable cloud vendor selling products, you have no choice – your product must be multitenant in order to survive in the cloud world.


Sahil-CEO-DeskAway Sahil Parikh - Founder & CEO of DeskAway a Cloud based Project Collaboration & Management software. He is the Author of The SaaS Edge

Sahil has been involved with the web since the last 10 years. He is passionate about the fusion of design & technology and that of building scalable web businesses

Yes, to be a true SaaS player you need to be multi-tenant and manage one code-base so that you can scale and improve your product faster. Without multi-tenancy you are like a web development service company managing multiple codebases and servers for each client - which is a huge headache!

Wolf-Director-Sunny-Ghosh Sunny Ghosh - Director Wolf Frameworks, a browser based On Demand Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for rapidly designing and delivering database driven multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications.

Sunny is responsible for developing & evangelizing the business model embedded inside the WOLF Platform. A COBOL, RPG, CL programmer by origin, with strong career foundation with Motorola, Sunny started his career in the Telecom domain & holds an honors degree in Mathematics with specialization in Competitive Product Strategies, Intellectual Capital & Software Business Management from NSRCEL, IIM-Bangalore. A voracious reader, core committee member of the prestigious CII - Knowledge Management Community of India, he has published series of papers on how Digital edge empowers large Diasporas & communities, “Mobilizing knowledge management towards digital rights” in assistance from World Bank & UNPAN and dreams of a world filled with choice, service, freedom and optimism.

A multi-tenant Cloud architecture permits a vendor to service its customer base effectively using shared operational instances of the infrastructure. In addition to significantly lowering service delivery cost as well as operational expenses and efforts, this model brings several benefits to the customer.

The obvious benefit is the lower TCO for customers. With optimal utilization of its infrastructure, the vendor can deliver higher value at lower cost. Applying the economies of scale, a growth in the customer base would enable the vendor to offer further benefits.

An important feature of this model is that it affords portability and helps minimize risk for customers. By maintaining identical instances, the vendor can easily shift a customer, in case of unexpected failure or growth, from one instance to another without the need for major architectural changes.

Eliminating the need to maintain individual instances (code bases, infrastructure, etc.) for customers equates to frequent upgrades and easier maintenance.
Dennis Howlett summarizes it perfectly: “Long term, I believe the ability to powerfully slice, dice, form and reform data out of multi-tenant systems will become the place where customers see huge value that is way beyond TCO.”


Jamal-Mazhar-CEO-Kaavo Jamal Mazhar is Founder and CEO of Kaavo. He possesses 15+ years of experience in technology, engineering and consulting with a range of Fortune 500 companies including GE and ING.

He has BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and MBA from NYU Stern School of Business. Kaavo Inc.  provides solutions for managing distributed applications in the clouds.  Kaavo’s core product, IMOD, takes an application centric approach for managing infrastructure and makes it easier for businesses to run secure and scalable services and applications in the clouds.

For the cloud computing services two critical things are elasticity and on-demand delivery.   Arguments about multi-tenancy are often simplified, unless you are running one application on one physical server and no network connectivity, every application shares some resources (network, compute, storage) with other applications. 

The core issue here is to understand the trade-offs between flexibility and resource requirements; fundamentally this is a cost vs. agility trade-off.  Based on your requirement you have to pick the right model.  For example I was speaking with a provider that offers web hosting platform to customers, most of the web applications running on their platform get only few hits per day, so it doesn't make sense for them to give a dedicated virtual server to each application.  Because of the shared platform they can offer better pricing to customers and in return customers give up some flexibility.  If you have custom applications requiring special tweaking and your specific middleware, shared platform model wouldn't work for you. This what Marty Gauvin of VirtualArk referred to in his comments. 

IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS represent various level of sharing of resources.  To understand these trade-offs better, I recommend watching this 5 minute on IT evolution and benefits and challenges of cloud computing.  To see how SaaS, PaaS, IaaS fit in the overall big picture refer to this 4 minute video.

Hope, after reading the Cloud Expert opinions, as a Provider or Customer, now you know what to expect from a Cloud Service in terms of multi-tenancy.

Is Multi-tenancy a prerequisite for a Cloud based Service? Do share your views…

Cloud Computing Articles & Interviews at Techno-Pulse

1 comment:

  1. yes, it is necessary property or characteristic of cloud computing. thanks for post ..