Long gone are the days when we had no other choice but to install and update the software ourselves. Now, the vast majority of services are managed in the cloud, so we don’t have to worry about the maintenance of the services we use.
Software as a service or SaaS played a significant role in this shift. Not only does it provide access to automatic updates, but it also offers many benefits, including cost-efficiency, disaster recovery, flexibility, business continuity, etc.
However, the ability of the SaaS system to deliver these benefits depends on how mature it is. This is where comes multi-tenancy – the key element to making SaaS perform the best way.
This article will unveil why you need multi-tenant SaaS architecture, what benefits you can get with it, and the best practices that will help you succeed.
What is multi-tenant architecture in SaaS?
Levels of SaaS architecture can be divided into single-tenant and multi-tenant. What is the difference between them, and why do you need multi-tenancy? Let’s take a look together. Spoiler alert – multi-tenancy makes solutions more efficient.
A single-tenant approach, also known as the siloed model, is an architecture of the cloud used by one organization. In this case, the application has its own infrastructure, hardware, and software ecosystem.
This approach works fine if you don’t have entities that have to be managed separately. But, for instance, if you have five different sub-organizations to manage, you need to create five different environments if you go for a single-tenant approach. The creation of separate environments comes hand in hand with more maintenance, which leads to higher costs.
Multi-tenant SaaS architecture is a model where a single environment serves multiple tenants. Tenant defines a group of users that share access to certain software.
The infrastructure, in that case, is shared, logically isolated, and has fully centralized services. The multi-tenant architecture evolves depending on the organization logged into the application and is transparent to the end-user.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the main advantages of multi-tenant architecture.
Strengths of multi-tenant architecture in SaaS
Multiple tenants mean that the cost for the environment is shared. As a result, multi-tenancy allows reducing labor resources.
Also, the cost of a multi-tenant environment depends on the number of devices that send data, not the amount of data itself. So, adopting multi-tenant SaaS architecture gives you a predictable cost of ownership, which, in turn, simplifies budgeting.
2. Secure shared analytics and intelligence
Introducing multi-tenant architecture often comes together with a need for data analytics. However, to maintain high security, measures should be taken. For instance, some vendors use the data anonymity approach to do that. Basically, they remove all the information that can help trace it down to a specific tenant. It, in turn, helps to achieve more security of your data.
3. Prompt response to changing market needs
Different SaaS providers compete for the customers. Introducing new features to their system is a way to win this competition. And it is easier to do when you have a multi-tenant architecture in SaaS.
Let’s say your competitor does not have multi-tenant software architecture in place. It has ten separate virtual machines on the cloud. In that case, they have to introduce changes to all the machines separately. At the same time, you can introduce changes to all tenants at once, which takes way less time.
4. Fast deployment and setup
When it comes to multi-tenant architecture, provisioning a new tenant can be done quickly and easily. So, new customers can set up their environment promptly, which frees up resources for new technology adoption.
What’s more, as businesses need to adjust to ever-changing market needs, the ability to configure your system is of the essence. Muti-tenancy can help you with that: you can change the system according to new requirements and have broader space for experiments.
Despite the considerable advantages of multi-tenant architecture, it also has some weaknesses you should be aware of. Let’s discover them.
Challenges of multi-tenant architecture and ways to overcome them
Secure access to the systems for different tenants is critical when it comes to multi-tenant SaaS architecture. To overcome security issues, you must pay attention to data encryption and comply with international security standards.
To ensure the highest possible security level in multi-tenant systems, you should apply the combination of general SaaS security practices together with specific practices for multi-tenancy. Keep in mind that practices like network security, encryption, availability are easier to achieve in multi-tenant systems compared to their single-tenant equivalents.
Learn more about secure software development
N-iX experts have come up with a list of best security practices that will help you mitigate security risks.
Best security practices for multi-tenant architecture:
- Enhanced authorization mechanisms;
- Data encryption in transit and at rest (which is easier on multi-tenant architecture);
- Introduce multi-factor authentication;
- Tenant based data segregation in transit and in storage;
- Availability and reliability of software system which includes its data as well;
- Data anonymization for analytics.
Different approaches to multi-tenancy can be used separately for certain business cases or combined to satisfy sophisticated product needs. Let’s take a closer look.
Approaches to multi-tenant software architecture
The biggest concern of multi-tenant architecture is data security. So, it makes sense to distinguish ways to manage data in multi-tenant architecture in SaaS according to how the data is managed. There are four main approaches. They are:
1. Unified database
This approach presupposes the highest density of tenants to infrastructure, so it is the least expensive of all approaches. It can reduce the management overhead since there is a single database to manage, back up, and secure. It is your best fit if you need comprehensive analytics of multiple tenants.
2. Sharding approach
This model implies deploying multiple separate databases that contain data from one or more tenants. Unlike the previous method, sharding doesn't require the entire infrastructure duplication.
3. Different databases for different tenants
This model presupposes deploying a single multi-tenant application, where each tenant has a dedicated database. Each tenant's data is isolated from the others, and you can support advanced configuration abilities for each tenant.
4. Geodes approach
It is designed for geographically distributed multi-tenant solutions. It supports a high load and high levels of resiliency. In this case, the data tier has to replicate the data across geographic regions, and support multi-geography writes.
Choosing the best fitting way for your data management is vital for your project’s success. So, you must choose a partner with comprehensive data expertise that can help you find the right way.
For instance, we typically use the first three approaches to ensure maximum efficiency and security on our projects.
Multi-tenant software architecture: the success story
Fluke Corporation is a US-based manufacturer and distributor of software for measuring and condition monitoring.
This client needed to get better visibility into asset conditions and required the high performance, customization, and scalability of their solutions. Also, they needed solutions' seamless integration with CMMSs (e.g., Emaint X4/X5, SAP, IBM Maximo.)
The N-iX experts provided teams in charge of maintenance with critical asset information and tools to process it to improve asset maintenance efficiently. As a result, Fluke achieved increased equipment uptime, reduced maintenance costs, better performance, customization, and scalability of Fluke products.
Also, our professionals have ensured high-security standards for Fluke SaaS applications that have multi-tenant architecture. N-iX team has used the full spectrum of design, technology, and testing approaches to ensure the security of the system.
What's more, N-iX professionals are also engaged in improving the system's usability. We have also ensured the best quality and reliability of the solution.
Adopting a multi-tenant architecture is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The multi-tenant architecture in SaaS is more beneficial for complex organizations that have many entities. It offers effective solutions for handling a complicated system within one system. Also, it is easier to maintain and introduce new features. However, to benefit from multi-tenant software architecture, you have to partner with a vendor that has long-standing experience providing data and cloud services. Also, the security expertise of your partner-to-be is of prime importance.
How can N-iX help you with multi-tenant architecture?
- N-iX has strong expertise in cloud, big data, data science, business intelligence, and many other technologies;
- N-iX boasts a talent pool of more than 2,000 specialists that can help you boost your project delivery;
- We offer different cooperation models, including a dedicated development team, T&M, and fixed price.
- N-iX is a global software development service company with offices and development centres across Europe and in the USA.