Table of Contents
- 1 What is multi-tenant vs. multi-instance?
- 2 What is cloud architecture?
- 3 Why cloud architecture matters
- 4 What is SaaS? What is iPaaS?
- 5 What is multi-tenant architecture?
- 6 What is multi-instance architecture?
- 7 Disadvantages of each architecture
- 8 Which architecture is best for iPaaS?
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions
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A guide to multi-tenant vs. multi-instance, explaining the differences between the two architectures and why it will help determine your iPaaS selection
What is multi-tenant vs. multi-instance?
Multi-tenant and multi-instance are two different types of cloud architecture that determine how and where your data is stored when using software as a service or integration platform as a service – whether a shared or isolated database.
What is cloud architecture?
Cloud architecture is a mixture of components that are required to deliver cloud-based software and services, such as SaaS and iPaaS. Think of it as the structural building blocks to enable cloud computing.
The two core elements of cloud architecture are the front-end platform and the back-end platform.
The front-end platform is the customer-facing graphical user interface, such as a client or application, that enables users to access the cloud-based services and/or resources.
The back-end platform contains all the elements that enable providers to deliver a cloud-based product or service, such as the resources, the application, storage, security, infrastructure and management tools.
Why cloud architecture matters
The type of cloud architecture that the vendor or provider supports in a SaaS or iPaaS environment will determine how your data is stored, the level of security, customisation possibilities and the access management capabilities.
It is therefore paramount that you choose a vendor that uses a cloud architecture that meets your requirements and adheres to your business protocols.
What is SaaS? What is iPaaS?
SaaS stands for software as a service. In principle, SaaS products are applications and software platforms that are hosted in the cloud by a vendor, such as eCommerce (Shopify Plus, BigCommerce etc.), ERP systems (SAP Business ByDesign, Sage Intacct, Epicor Kinetic, NetSuite etc.), CRM applications (Salesforce, HubSpot etc.) and payments systems (PayPal, Stripe, WorldPay etc.).
Rather than purchasing the software and then hosting it on your own servers, you simply rent access to the software in the cloud on a pay-as-you-go basis. All the data is stored on the vendor’s servers, and they are responsible for accessibility, security, maintenance and performance.
iPaaS (integration platform as a service) has a similar concept to SaaS, whereby the platform is hosted by the vendor and responsible for data management, security and upgrades etc. However, iPaaS is solely responsible for integrating business systems, automating business processes and managing data that exists in in different business applications, whether on-premises, cloud-based or a hybrid combination of the two.
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What is multi-tenant architecture?
With SaaS and iPaaS offerings customers rent access to the services making them a ‘tenant’ of the provider. In return for the rental fee they can then access the application, services and components via the internet and their data will be stored on the provider’s database.
In a multi-tenancy architecture, the SaaS or iPaaS product you use will be employing a shared database meaning that multiple customers’ data (tenancies) will be stored in the same environment, obviously with mechanisms in place to protect data privacy.
What are the benefits of multi-tenancy?
Utilising a shared database means that the infrastructure requirements are reduced, such as the resources and management, making it a lot easier to add new tenants, which in turn reduces the costs. This can then be passed onto the tenant making SaaS and iPaaS relatively cost-effective.
When an upgrade is required to the application, it will be rolled out simultaneously to each and every tenant.
All security updates and management will also be managed by the vendor, although each tenant will have their own specific security keys and passwords to protect their data.
- Low cost due to shared infrastructure
- Quick set up and access to applications/platform
- Upgrades and security fully managed by vendor
What is multi-instance architecture?
A multi-instance architecture provides each tenant with an isolated database to run their own separate instance of an iPaaS environment, thus providing customers with the assurance of total privacy of their data.
What are the benefits of multi-instance?
Server maintenance measures are performed by the hosting partner, removing the need for tenants to undertake system or product upgrades and system monitoring.
Additional security measures can also be applied to individual client store databases and then managed by the partner to provide even greater control.
Each customer can also customise their instance by requesting new features, additional tools and tasks. The customer can connect directly to their own instance if required using the product client to create or edit tasks, add users, monitor runtime activity or undertake their own instance maintenance.
If there are any issues with the instance, whether the database or application tools, it will not affect other customers.
An isolated database for a tenant also makes it much easier for them to migrate data if the circumstances arise.
- Data is fully protected in an isolated database
- Fully customisable application or environment
- Simplified management and migration of data
Image: Where data is stored determines the difference between multi-tenant and multi-instance architecture
Disadvantages of each architecture
As you can imagine, each architecture has its own pros and cons.
Whilst utilising a shared database in a multi-tenant architecture makes it simpler, easier and cheaper to set up, any security breach could potentially compromise all of the tenants.
Likewise, although it is easier to manage multiple tenants on the same database, any performance issues to the database, hardware failures or outages will also affect all users.
A multi-instance architecture removes this concern with its isolated databases and instances.
The only downside to multi-instance architecture is that it is therefore slightly more complex to set up some of the infrastructure, i.e. the databases. However, this is fairly negligible as multi-instance will usually share common network architecture and components. Advances in technology are also making it much quicker and easier.
As each instance also needs to be maintained separately, regarding upgrades and security rollouts, it will require additional time and resources; the costs, of which, will not be shared between the tenants. Again, this is fairly negligible.
Which architecture is best for iPaaS?
As we have discussed, each architecture has its own merits and downsides. However, in regard to using an iPaaS solution, a multi-instance architecture provides users with much greater control.
In this environment, iPaaS can be configured, controlled and managed by either the customer or the provider, which will help with complex business integrations and data processing.
As iPaaS is potentially integrating many business applications and converting, transforming and synchronising data from these multiple systems and locations, having an isolated database makes it easier to manage – especially if the data needs migrating from one system to another.
It also provides better scalability as it will be easier to add new applications and tweak business processes as the business grows.
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Frequently Asked Questions