Why Cloud is not always enough

While it’s generally accepted that cloud is the future, clouds still come in many forms, and understanding the respective merits of each can be, well, cloudy, to say the least.

Industry analysts sometimes squabble over the pros and cons of single-tenant versus multi-tenant deployment. While single-tenant deployment may have been a viable solution for some organizations in the recent past, multi-tenant deployment offers numerous benefits for organizations looking to modernize their operations. As a true cloud-based platform, multi-tenant deployment can offer vast amounts of storage, a speedy implementation, and advanced security capabilities.

The difference between single-tenant and multi-tenant

It’s important to understand the characteristics of these two deployment platforms in order to take note of key differences between them.

Single-tenant architecture typically provides separate software and server resources for each customer. This gives the customer’s enterprise plenty of control over the system, but it also requires more effort and a larger investment than with multi-tenant. Some organizations “lift” their legacy system with all its existing strengths and shortcomings and “shift” it to the cloud in a single-tenant deployment. Unfortunately, this process perpetuates many of the same outdated processes organizations are hoping to evolve away from.

In addition, single-tenant architecture requires the same resource-intensive and expensive upgrade processes as on-premise solutions. Also, the often-rigid structure of a single-tenant deployment limits the extent of changes that can be implemented, which can impede an organization’s growth.

A multi-tenant environment gives several customers the use of the application within the same operating environment on the same shared hardware. This model provides all the benefits of cloud computing, such as greater agility and security, plus the costs are shared across more business users. This helps reduce the cost for the provider even while it leverages more robust technology. This in turn, enables providers to offer lower prices. A multi-tenant environment also requires the customer to adopt and adhere to proven, standardized processes, an approach which helps avoid a “modification mindset,” which can unnecessarily complicate upgrades. Well-engineered cloud-based software enables personalization by using extensibility and platform tools, rather than code modifications, and organizations get flexibility, scalability, reliability, and value.

Why deployment matters

In their rush to the cloud, organizations often have to make a decision about whether to leverage single-tenant or multi-tenant deployment, without the full breadth and depth of information available. CIOs and IT directors planning a cloud strategy really need to be well-versed in the scope and limitations, and fully understand the long-term ramifications of each approach. Some assume single-tenant deployment is safer and adopt that model, only to be surprised at the limitations. Others may want a highly customized single-tenant solution, and accept the huge upgrades every few years as an acceptable trade-off. However, in our experience, particularly when it comes to complex manufacturing organizations, a multi-tenant model with extensive industry best practice built in, which can be implemented rapidly and is updated frequently, is the preferred option.

This is typically because if the single-tenant deployment falls short of expectations, it may eventually need to be re-implemented on a true multi-tenant cloud solution. Making the wrong decision can waste resources, capital, and time. 

The multi-tenant advantage

The differences between single-tenant and multi-tenant are often greater than people think and the responsibilities retained by the organization also differ. Multi-tenant deployments typically bring a range of advantages over single-tenant.

When it comes to security, multi-tenant brings the continuous scrutiny of experts who are vigilant to new attack approaches. In self-hosted, single-tenant environments, organizations need to hire an entire team of highly experienced IT security specialists but, in some regions, those skills may be difficult to find in the available talent pool. This has an impact on costs too, with no need to pay for extra staff to take care of security or to even manage the solutions. Ultimately, you’re freeing-up your IT team from maintenance tasks, so that they can focus on more strategic issues.

Multi-tenant provides elastic storage capacity, which is the type needed for advanced technologies relying on large amounts of data, such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. You also aren’t faced with additional expenditure for excess capacity for peak periods, or extra space for full redundancy and disaster recovery. In addition, you can easily adjust capacity as needed for mergers or new branches.

Rather than scheduling large-scale events every two to three years for a major upgrade, multi-tenant deployments typically receive smaller updates as they are released. They’re implemented by the provider, which means you don’t need to make your own changes that can potentially break future upgrades. Reports can be created, interfaces personalized and more without having to alter code because of the multi-tenant architecture’s no code/low code tools. Modern multi-tenant solutions should provide tools to support extensibility and offer the ability to personalize without the need for cumbersome modifications. In addition, the regular updates mean that you’ll have access to the latest changing regulations, even across multiple regions, supporting growth and organizational change.

Multi-tenant solutions have been, and continue to be, highly scrutinized by the provider. For software to be viable in a multi-tenant environment, it must meet continued, rigorous testing and quality control standards, so not only will you benefit from the most modern, up-to-date solutions, but the highest quality, most sophisticated technology too.

Also, the opportunity to streamline operations with a multi-tenant approach is not to be sniffed at. Proven best practices can be adopted in order to move away from processes that have prevailed simply because “we’ve always done it this way”. Migrating to a multi-tenant deployment is the chance to change workflows, priorities, and even culture through steering new thinking and attitudes amongst staff. For example, you can put the customer at the centre of your enterprise or focus on product innovation. Eliminating modifications will help keep teams focused on new accomplishments, rather than preserving a familiar methodology. And, it also enables discipline for the future, providing a barrier to add-on projects that could adversely impact the software code.

Multi-tenant resilience and agility

Choosing the right kind of cloud is critical in building the resilience and agility necessary for optimized performance in a modern economy. Whether single-tenant or multi-tenant is the preferred option, it’s important to fully understand the difference between the two in order to ask the right questions and ultimately select the most appropriate model.

Z Nautic (formerly known as Zodiac) a global inflatable boats brand, opted for a cloud solution deployed in a multi-tenant environment, to eliminate time-consuming maintenance and upgrade processes.

The brand’s IT manager, Anthony Chapeltegui, explains how a multi-tenant option offers real advantages in flexibility and scalability on demand, while respecting the customer’s needs and financial capacities: “There were three main reasons for this choice. The first was (the) ability to offer us standard business functionalities that were perfectly adapted to our equipment sales (including rental), spare parts management, procurement and stock management issues. The second is our desire to switch to a SaaS mode configuration for security, scalability, simplicity and reliability. The last is the integration of embedded analytical modules to be able, in the long term, to give our users control over the production of tables and reports, particularly by geographical area and by product.”

Often, the IT department leans towards a single-tenant option to retain more control. The board, if fully informed on the respective merits of each model, are likely to favor a multi-tenant approach as it is not only cheaper, with more efficient resource usage and lower maintenance requirements, it has the flexibility to leverage greater computing capacity as required.

Ultimately, multi-tenant is the future, representing the basis for a long-term strategy and operational action plan. Migrating to a multi-tenant deployment is likely the last major implementation you’ll ever have to do because it will continue to adapt as technology changes. It allows organizations to take advantage of the features that make cloud computing so attractive: agility, security, and the ability to adopt advanced AI-driven functionality, aligning ambitious digital transformational goals with wider strategy and effective long-term change management.