Multi-Tenant Architecture

Multi-Tenancy in Cloud Computing: Basics & 5 Best Practices

What Is Multi-Tenancy in Cloud Computing? 

Multi-tenancy in cloud computing refers to a single instance of software running on a server that serves multiple tenants. Tenants are separate entities, such as businesses or users, that share the same resources, infrastructure, and databases, but maintain individual secure and virtual application instances. 

This architecture allows the cloud provider to deploy updates, optimize resources, and scale services quickly. By centralizing administration and pooling resources, multi-tenancy reduces costs and increases efficiency. 

Each tenant behaves as if they are functioning in an isolated, single-tenant environment despite sharing underlying resources. This model is common in SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, enabling providers to manage maintenance and updates centrally.

This is part of a series of articles about multi tenant architecture.

In this article:

How Does Multi-Tenancy Work? 

Within a multi-tenant architecture, the software partitions data to prevent tenants from accessing others’ information. This segregation is achieved through database schemas or partitions designed for security and data isolation. Despite the shared environment, each tenant’s data and services appear as dedicated to that tenant alone, ensuring privacy.

The application typically operates over a shared infrastructure, where management tasks like load balancing and resource allocation are handled centrally. This setup allows for better utilization of resources, leading to cost reductions and increased performance stability. It also simplifies the administrative burden by providing common infrastructure and application updates without disruption to individual tenants.

Benefits of a Multi-Tenant Cloud 

Organizations can benefit from the following when using multi-tenant infrastructure in the cloud:

  • Cost efficiency: Multi-tenant clouds offer significant cost savings and enable easier cloud cost management, primarily due to shared resources and economies of scale. Instead of purchasing individual infrastructures, tenants share the overall infrastructure cost, which drives down expenses. This model also reduces operational costs as it spreads the cost of updates, maintenance, and infrastructure management across numerous tenants.
  • Customization: Users can configure settings, manage data, and access application functionalities that appear tailor-made. This level of personalization allows organizations to tailor their experience without the need for a separate physical infrastructure.
  • Portability: Organizations can migrate their services from one cloud provider to another or scale as per their requirements. Tenants retain the flexibility to adjust their resource usage without significant downtime or data migration challenges.
  • Continuous updates and improvements: Cloud providers deploy upgrades and patches centrally, ensuring that all users receive the latest software versions. This ongoing maintenance provides improvements in security, functionality, and performance.
  • Scalability and improved productivity for tenants: Multi-tenancy allows tenants to scale on demand. New users can access the same software instance, and tenants do not need to scale up software or infrastructure.

Challenges and Considerations of Multi-Tenant Cloud 

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to multi-tenancy in the cloud:

  • Data security and privacy: Despite isolation techniques, the shared environment poses risks of unauthorized data access. Providers must implement security protocols and regular audits to mitigate risks. 
  • Complexity of database management: Managing databases in a multi-tenant environment adds complexity due to the need for data isolation and resource sharing. Database schema must adapt dynamically to balance load and performance without compromising security. 
  • Compliance and legal issues: Different tenants may be subject to different laws depending on their location and industry, demanding a flexible compliance strategy. Navigating these legal conditions often requires expertise in both technology and law.

Multi-Tenant Cloud vs. Single-Tenant Cloud 

Multi-tenant and single-tenant cloud models differ primarily in their resource distribution. 

In multi-tenant environments, multiple customers share the same application and infrastructure, benefiting from cost reductions and scalability. With a centralized architecture, all tenants are serviced by the same version of the application, streamlining management and updates.
A single-tenant cloud provides a dedicated infrastructure for each customer. This isolates data and resources completely, offering optimal security and control, which is crucial for businesses with stringent compliance needs. While more expensive, it allows for greater customization and can potentially offer higher performance as resources are not shared among different users.

Best Practices for Multi-Tenancy in the Cloud 

Here are some of the recommended practices for ensuring a successful cloud implementation in a multi-tenant environment.

1. Physical and Logical Isolation

Physical isolation involves using separate hardware for critical components, while logical isolation separates tenants’ data within a shared environment through software controls. Extended logical isolation techniques include database schemas and virtual private networks (VPNs). Combining these strategies ensures the security and integrity of data and minimizes the risk of data leakage between tenants. 

2. Data Masking and Redaction

Masking converts data so that unauthorized viewers cannot decipher it, but it remains usable for operational needs. Redaction removes sensitive data altogether, either partially or entirely, based on user permissions or regulatory guidelines. These strategies help keep sensitive tenant data confidential and secure, even in a shared environment, protecting individual tenants.

3. Dynamic Resource Allocation

Dynamic resource allocation optimizes the use of shared resources among tenants to enhance performance. This involves automated scaling of resources like computing power and storage based on real-time demand from tenants. Algorithms predict loads and distribute resources to maintain performance without over-provisioning, reducing latency and avoiding bottlenecks.

4. Access Control

Access control mechanisms like access control lists (ACLs), multi-factor authentication, and continuous monitoring ensure that only authorized users can access specific resources in a multi-tenant environment. Role-based access control (RBAC) systems can govern what data and operations are available to different users based on their roles. This segregation helps prevent accidental or malicious access to sensitive information.

5. Data Sovereignty

Data is subject to the regulations of the country in which it is stored. Multi-tenant cloud providers must ensure that they respect national laws regarding data residency and transfer. This involves strategic decisions about where to locate data centers and how to architect data flow across borders. Providers should offer clear policies and solutions to manage data across jurisdictions.

Related content: Read our guide to multi tenant authentication

Multi-Tenant User Management With Frontegg

Frontegg’s PLG-centric and end-to-end user management platform is multi-tenant by design. 

By developing the platform to the essential requirements of the B2B SaaS ecosystems, we know that each tenant has its own configurations, user sets, and security settings. Frontegg allows each environment to hold segregated sets of tenants, assign users to each one of them, and hold a separate configuration for each one of them in a way that doesn’t affect the neighboring tenants in any way or form.

In the complex B2B world, each customer requires fine grained control on each configuration. That requires professional products to keep pace with these requirements and develop a multi-tenant capable infrastructure from day 1. Frontegg just makes it easier.

Looking to take your User Management to the next level?

Sign up. It's free