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Multitenancy - Working, Architecture and Applications

Multitenancy - Working, Architecture and Applications

In this blog, we’ll explain multitenancy in cloud computing. We’ll show you how it works and why it’s great to save money and resources. We’ll also talk about its downsides. Plus, we’ll give real-world examples to give you a clear picture of multitenancy in cloud computing.

Table of Content

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What is Multitenancy in Cloud?

Multitenancy in cloud computing refers to a software architecture where a single instance of an application or system serves multiple customers, known as “tenants. Multiple users share the same infrastructure, including servers, databases, storage, and other computing resources, leading to cost efficiency and optimal resource utilization.

In the cloud, this means that multiple users can access and use software or services simultaneously, each with their own isolated environment. This approach maximizes resource utilization, reduces costs, and allows cloud providers to efficiently serve a large number of customers on shared infrastructure. It’s a key factor in making cloud computing cost-effective and scalable for various applications and businesses.

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How Does Multitenancy Work

Step 1:Application Design
Multitenancy begins with the foundational design of a software application. This design involves structuring the application’s architecture and data model to ensure efficient segregation and isolation of each tenant’s data, configurations, and user access within the shared environment.

Step 2:Authentication and Authorization
The application implements strong authentication and authorization mechanisms to ensure that users from different tenants can access only the data and features that they are authorized to use.

Step 3:Database Isolation 
Each tenant’s data is isolated from the data of other tenants. This can be achieved in several ways, such as by having separate database schemas or tables for each tenant.

Step 4:Shared Resources
Common resources, like the application’s codebase and infrastructure, are shared among all tenants. This minimizes resource duplication and reduces maintenance overhead.

Step 5:URL Routing
Typically, a URL routing mechanism is used to direct incoming requests to the appropriate tenant’s data and settings. For example, a URL like myapp.com/tenant1 or tenant1.myapp.com might be used to distinguish between tenants.

Step 6:Tenant Onboarding
When a new tenant signs up, the system provides a new and isolated space for them. This includes creating a new database or schema and configuring tenant-specific settings.

Step 7:Runtime Isolation 
At runtime, the application must be able to differentiate between tenants and serve the correct data. This often involves inspecting the request (e.g., URL, headers, or tokens) to identify the requesting tenant.

Step 8:Configuration Isolation
Each tenant can have its own configuration settings, allowing them to customize aspects of the application to suit their needs, like branding or business rules.

Step 9:Monitoring and Scaling 
Continuous monitoring is essential to ensure that the application is performing well for all tenants. Depending on the usage patterns, the application may need to be scaled horizontally or vertically to meet demand.

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Benefits of Multitenancy Architecture

Multitenancy architecture offers several benefits, particularly in the context of software-as-a service (SaaS) applications and cloud computing. Here are some of the key advantages:

  • Cost Efficiency: Multitenancy allows multiple tenants to share common resources, including hardware, infrastructure, and application code. This reduces the overall operational costs for both the service provider and the tenants.
  • Scalability: Multitenant applications can be easily scaled horizontally to accommodate the growing number of tenants and their increasing resource demands. This scalability ensures that the system remains responsive even as the user base expands.
  • Efficient Maintenance and Updates: Updates, patches, and maintenance tasks can be applied to a single instance of the software, benefiting all tenants simultaneously. This reduces the complexity and effort required for maintenance.
  • Rapid Onboarding:  Adding new tenants to a multitenant system is streamlined as the architecture is designed to support it. This allows for rapid onboarding and provisioning of new clients or users.
  • Customization and Branding: Multitenancy architecture can support tenant-specific customization, enabling each tenant to tailor the application’s appearance and behavior to meet their unique requirements and branding.
  • Data Security and Isolation: Each tenant’s data is logically or physically isolated from others, enhancing data security and ensuring that data breaches in one tenant’s data do not affect others.
  • Efficient Resource Utilization: By sharing resources, multitenant systems use resources more efficiently, reducing waste and optimizing server and infrastructure utilization.
  • Centralized Monitoring and Analytics: Multitenant systems allow for centralized monitoring of all tenants, making it easier to track system performance, troubleshoot issues, and identify usage patterns.
  • Faster Deployment: Multitenancy can accelerate the development and deployment of software applications, reducing the time it takes to bring new features or services to market.

Drawbacks of Multitenancy Architecture

Multitenancy architecture offers many advantages, but it also has some drawbacks and challenges that need to be considered.

  • Complexity: Multitenancy can make the application more complex to develop and maintain. The need to handle data, configurations, and user management for multiple tenants can increase the complexity of the codebase.
  • Resource Contention: In a multitenant environment, resource contention can occur when one tenant experiences high usage, potentially impacting the performance of other tenants. Proper resource allocation and monitoring are crucial to addressing this.
  • Upgrades and Maintenance Challenges: Rolling out updates and maintenance tasks in multitenancy can be complex. Ensuring that updates do not disrupt services for any tenant requires careful planning and execution.
  • Data Migration: Data migration can be challenging, especially when a tenant decides to leave the service or when changes to the database schema are required. Migrating data while minimizing downtime and data loss is not always straightforward.
  • Security Risks: Multi Tenant systems can be vulnerable to security risks if not properly configured. A breach in one tenant’s data can potentially lead to data exposure for other tenants if not adequately protected.
  • Performance Variability: Performance may vary among tenants, depending on their usage patterns. Some tenants may experience slower performance during peak usage times.
  • Tenant Lock-In: Tenants may find it challenging to migrate from a multitenant system to another platform due to the complex data structures and configurations specific to the multitenant architecture.

Single-Tenant vs. Multi-Tenant Architecture

In single-tenant architecture, you have a setup exclusively for one user or organization. Meanwhile, in a multi-tenant architecture, multiple customers share a single instance of the software application. Here are the key differences between these two:

AspectSingle-Tenant ArchitectureMulti-Tenant Architecture
DefinitionDedicated setup for a single user or organization.Shared setup accommodating multiple users or entities.
IsolationComplete isolation between tenants, ensuring privacy.Shared resources among tenants, limited isolation.
CustomizationHighly customizable to specific needs or preferences.Limited customization due to shared infrastructure.
ScalabilityLess scalable as resources are dedicated to one user.More scalable, resources shared among multiple users.
Resource UtilizationUtilizes resources efficiently for a single user.Shared resources may lead to varying utilization levels.
Cost EfficiencyHigher cost due to dedicated resources and maintenance.More cost-effective due to shared infrastructure.
MaintenanceEasier maintenance and upgrades for a single user setup.Complex maintenance due to the shared environment’s impact.
SecurityBetter control over security and compliance measures.Security challenges with shared resources and tenants.
PerformanceConsistent performance tailored to individual needs.Performance might vary based on shared resource usage.

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Application of Multitenancy

Here are the five major applications of multitenancy:

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): Multitenancy is widely used in SaaS applications to serve multiple customers or organizations from a single instance of the software. Examples include CRM systems, project management tools, and collaboration platforms.
  • Cloud Hosting Services: Cloud hosting providers use multitenancy to host multiple websites, applications, or virtual machines on shared infrastructure, optimizing resource utilization and cost efficiency.
  • Content Management Systems (CMS): Multitenancy is employed in CMS platforms to manage and host multiple websites, each owned by a different organization, from a single CMS instance.
  • Email Hosting Services: Email hosting providers use multitenancy to serve multiple organizations or clients from a single email server, ensuring data isolation and resource sharing.
  • IoT and Device Management: In the context of the Internet of Things (IoT), multitenancy is applied to manage devices and data for multiple clients or organizations from a single platform, allowing efficient device monitoring and control.

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In conclusion, multitenancy is a pivotal concept in the field of cloud computing. It exemplifies efficiency, scalability, and cost-effectiveness by allowing multiple users or organizations to share a single instance of an application while maintaining data isolation. This architectural approach has revolutionized the delivery of services in the cloud, empowering businesses to leverage shared resources, streamline maintenance, and adapt to evolving user demands. As the cloud continues to shape the digital landscape, understanding and harnessing the potential of multitenancy remains paramount for both providers and users of cloud-based solutions.

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About the Author

Application Architect

Rupinder is a certified IT expert in AWS and Azure, working as a DevOps Architect and specializing in cloud and infrastructure. He designs and builds entire IT setups for important apps in banking, insurance, and finance.