The general consensus is that we are in the midst of transitioning to a new model for computing – a “third era”, if you will. While there’s not much consensus on what the new era should be called or even exactly what it will be, it’s clear that multi-tenancy plays a significant role.
The first era of computing was based on mainframe computers accessed via dumb terminals – or even dumber punchcards. Computers were very expensive and processing was centralized. We can still find vestiges of this model in the terminal emulation solutions that are used by many well-established businesses such as airlines, insurance companies and government organizations.
The second era of computing was based on the development of personal computer and workstation technologies. This era was driven by “client-server” infrastructures that are still widely used today: while some data and applications may be stored and delivered by a centralized server, computing is mostly done on distributed PCs and workstations, each running its own software.
The new era of computing is being driven by the cloud. Computing and software are once again being centralized, as in the first era, but are now accessed online – often wirelessly – from anywhere. Users on the go can enjoy the computing power of a server or high-end machine from almost any endpoint device, including their phones.
What is Multi-Tenancy?
Multi-tenancy, a vital feature of cloud computing, allows a single instance of software to support multiple customers or “tenants” – each comprising its own separate group of users. In a conventional single tenant architecture, each customer must have his own installed software instance, which must be maintained and updated. In a multi-tenant architecture, one instance of the software can serve multiple customers or tenants. Each tenant may be able to modify certain features of the software, such as colors or choice of user interface, but they don’t have access to the actual code. In addition, each tenant is fully isolated from every other tenant, so they have no way to access one another’s data.
Multi-tenant architectures are particularly attractive for hosting companies and cloud computing providers, whose many diverse customers share a common computing infrastructure. Multi-tenant architectures are also attractive for large corporations with different divisions or branches, each using the same software instance with its own set of specifications and data.
Benefits of Multi-Tenancy
The biggest advantage of multi-tenant architecture is cost savings. This manifests in several ways:
- Optimize computing & administrative resources. Each instance of software that’s run requires its own IT resources such as CPU, memory and administrative overhead. Running one instance of software instead of many can add up to substantial savings, if there are a large number of customers. For instance, it may be possible to reduce the number of servers needed, as well as the attendant costs.
- Save on software licensing fees. While multi-tenancy licenses are likely to be more expensive than single-tenant licenses, they are still more cost-efficient than multiple individual licenses.
- Simplify patch and release management. Software updates and releases need to be installed on only one server – there’s no need to go through the time and expense of installing the update on each customer. That makes it easier to keep all customers running up-to-date software – of particular importance when it comes to security patches.
- Enhance scalability. There’s no need to install new software instances or purchase additional hardware to support additional tenants, making it faster and less costly to scale up or down to accommodate an elastic pool of tenants.
Multi-tenancy is a key driver of the transition to the “Third Era of Computing.” In order to support the computing architecture of the future, software must provide features such as multi-tenancy that can help you optimize resources and ensure rapid elasticity. Ericom Connect, for example, is built on a hyper-scalable and multi-tenant ready grid architecture, allowing hosted service providers and large enterprises to leverage one scalable installation to support tens of thousands of users across multiple isolated tenant environments.