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Multi-Tenancy Architecture Models

Ben Obear
January 10, 2022

The Multi-Tenant Architecture Advantage

  • Through economies of scale, lower costs: Scaling has far fewer infrastructure implications with multi-tenancy than with a single-tenancy-hosted solution as new users get access to the same basic software.
  • Reduced costs thanks to shared infrastructure: SaaS lets businesses of all sizes share data center operational and infrastructure costs. You won’t find any need to add more hardware and applications to their environment. Above and beyond internal resources, not having to manage or provision any software or infrastructure enables businesses to focus on other tasks.
  • Ongoing updates and maintenance: Users won’t have to pay expensive maintenance fees to ensure their software is up to date. New features and updates are rolled out by the business and are often part of the SaaS subscription. More incentive for customers to partner up with you.
  • You can leave the underlying codebase unchanged to get the configuration done: Single-tenant hosted solutions require changes to an application’s code and are often customized. This customization can prove to be expensive and can make it time-consuming to work on upgrades as the upgrade may not be compatible with your environment.
  • Multi-tenant applications are designed to be really configurable so that businesses can make the application perform the way they need it to. You don’t have to change the data structure or code, which makes the upgrade process easy.

Multi-tenancy architecture lets your business serve everyone efficiently, from big enterprises that require access to the cloud’s unlimited computing resources to small customers whose scale might not warrant dedicated infrastructure. Software maintenance and development expenses are shared, reducing expenses, resulting in savings for your business and investors.  

Multi-tenancy: Different types of architecture

“Share Everything” model

Here the resources such as application, database, and infrastructure are typically shared among the tenants. It ensures optimal usage of resources as these resources are shared commonly among the tenants. When it comes to operating efficiency, this architecture can give the best results, but it also comes with its share of complexities/risks.

  • This model needs quite a complex architecture to implement multi-tenancy at every level.
  • As the data in this model is shared between all tenants, this creates a business risk.
  • With this model, it can become hard to provide customized data restore/backup services.
  • Hard to ensure the right distribution of load. For instance, say Tenant A is heavily using the system and stores lots of data, while Tenant B is minimally using the system and stores less data, there is a good chance that Tenant A will cause bandwidth and other performance issues for other Tenant B and others. Moreover, there is no method of limiting a particular Tenant from using excess resources.

Single Tenant Database

The application layer in this model is commonly shared among all the tenants. Say the application server layer has 4 clustered servers; then all the 4 servers can serve any of the clients. However, the database is different for each tenant. The tenant architecture determines the level of separation.

  • You can have different schemas within the same database, and each schema can contain the tables for the respective tenant.
  • You can go for different databases within the same machine. Here each tenant gets a different database. With this model, one has the flexibility to provide specific services like restore services and customized backup. Supporting customized services is easier in this model.
  • You can even have different databases residing on different machines. Here independent machines are allocated for every tenant. From a data isolation/storage perspective, this provides the highest level of security. When dealing with varying levels of usage scenarios, this model can really help. Say a tenant is going to use it extensively, and the data growth rate is bound to be very high. Here you would want to have a large enough instance as your database server. A medium instance will be sufficient for normal usage. Based on the infrastructure they demand, you can charge your customers. But with this model, you have that flexibility.

Single Tenant Application

Here the Database layer is kept common across all the tenants, but the application layer is isolated. There are certain cases wherein this model will come in handy.

  • If you want to charge a tenant based on usage, you can meter the usage of this layer.
  • This model gives you that flexibility. Depending on their needs, for different tenants, you can also go for different instances.This model allows you to run customized applications for every tenant. Customization can be in the form of changes in business logic, display, rules, etc. But the database layer remains constant across the tenants.

Each of the 3 data models has its own advantages and disadvantages. When designing the database, that important layer, take into account the number of your tenants and their business needs. Choosing the right approach in some scenarios may not be as easy. You will need a larger SaaS development effort if your application stores tenant-sensitive data, as you will need to prepare a security strategy before the application can be ready for production.

Evolution in the capabilities or performance of the software is often driven by the business. Customers expect a lot from today’s software. Solutions will ideally have to be fast, reliable with varying traffic loads, and available globally. Development solutions, too, will have to be cost-effective and scalable. Developers should be able to update the code, then test it and deploy it to various locations with high velocity and precision.

Today, solution functionality could be applied to various use cases with few alterations, despite differences in data sets. This need has driven various cloud providers to build innovative tools and solutions, allowing development teams the ability to reuse hardware, thereby optimizing the cost of the infrastructure. Now to take advantage of all the opportunities the cloud provides, one needs to adapt the architecture of the software they write.

That new architecture will have to align with the specifics of the hosting environment to leverage the benefits of the cloud. This is truly where the multi-tenant architecture shines. To ensure maximum security, our team has adopted the OWASP Top 10, end-to-end encryption and encrypted data at rest and in transit. We are PCI, HIPAA, GDPR compliant. Multi-tenant architecture gives you the versatility and power to build your application with resource-sharing in mind. Start a conversation with our team today to understand the specific advantages multi-tenancy can bring you.

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Ben Obear
San Francisco