[Column] Phil Lewis: Is Multi-tenant Deployment the Only True Cloud?

Enterprises that have decided to move to the cloud are being presented solutions built on two different deployment models: single tenant (ST), which is really nothing more than running an on-premises solution on someone else’s IT (hosting), or multi-tenant (MT) built on much more scalable, true cloud technologies. 

Deciding which model to go with isn’t always recognised for its immense importance. It’s a decision often rushed through without proper consideration of the repercussions. Executives may assume the only distinction between the options is whether the cloud is public or private. Or they may guess that a private cloud is safer. Such misconceptions can cause enterprises to start their digital journey in the wrong direction, heading to disappointment. This primer into the many benefits of multi-tenant deployment will help IT leaders and their colleagues understand why MT deployment is sometimes called the only true cloud.    

The method chosen matters greatly. It sets the parameters for the upgrade and the organisation’s ability to digitally transform itself. Making the wrong choice can waste resources, including time and effort. Moving to a ST solution can bring about surprise costs, require more commitment from the IT team, and hinder the ability to adopt advanced capabilities that require greater cloud technologies. Unfortunately, some organisations don’t realise the hidden limitations of ST deployment until they are struggling through an implementation that feels like it is simply relocating old problems to new hardware, at a new, out-of-reach location. 

One of the most compelling reasons why ST versus MT matters is that an upgrade is also a chance to innovate, adopt new processes, and truly become agile. The difference lies in retaining old problems versus purging them. It’s a chance to say goodbye to those excessive modifications that can be so problematic for future upgrades and put sweeping new strategies in place. Simply migrating a legacy solution to the cloud perpetuates old inefficiencies and causes new ones. 

The basic differences between ST and MT solutions lie in their definitions. 

ST architecture provides software that is served by separate server infrastructure for each customer like it would be installed on-premises. This gives the enterprise more control but requires more effort and investment. Organisations can lift their legacy system, with all its existing strengths and shortcomings, and put it in the cloud. The organisation remains responsible for several functions, such as security and back-ups or hands those responsibilities to the hosting provider for added fees. These add to the cost of maintaining the solution.  

The MT environment gives several clients the use of the application within the same operating environment on shared hardware and resources. This shared-cost model reduces investment and provides the benefits of using standardised processes, maintenance, and security. MT solutions rely on extensibility and configurability that can be upgraded rather than customisations that cannot.

In addition to its configurability and agility, MT deployment also offers advanced capabilities (think IoT, AI, and ML) with access to continuous upgrades and progressive cost controls. The Platform as a Service approach delivers no/low code tools for ease of use and personalisation. Forsoftware to be viable in a MT environment, it must meet rigorous testing and quality control standards – thereby ensuring top quality. From streamlined processes to enhanced digitalisation, excellent security, automated back-ups and full redundancy, MT cloud solutions drive organisations to match peek demands. 

Happy MT customers frequently cite three main reasons for moving to the multi-tenant cloud, including: built-in last-mile functionality, featuring standard business functionalities that are perfectly adapted to customers’ equipment sales (including rental), spare parts management, procurement and stock management issues; SaaS features offering greater configuration for security, scalability, simplicity and reliability; and embedded analytics giving users control over the production of tables and reports, particularly by geographical area and by product.

Organisations worldwide in all industries are realising the value of cloud deployment as they strive to upgrade and modernise processes to be more competitive. Turning to a cloud-based solution is just the first step. It’s also important to choose multi-tenant deployment to take advantage of the features that make cloud computing so attractive: agility, security, and the ability to adopt advanced AI-driven functionality.

Phil Lewis is the Vice President Solution Consulting for Infor EMEA.