CDD’s software architecture advantage, part I of III

Cloud vs. “Fake Cloud” – The Single Tenant vs. Multi-Tenant Architecture Debate in Drug Discovery

From the desk of Sylvia Ernst, Sr. Director, Community Growth

multi tenant architecture

There is a heated debate  in information technology regarding whether single tenant or multitenant applications are the way to go.  What is the “real cloud” vs. “private cloud” (or “false cloud” as Marc Benioff, CEO and founder of Salesforce.com, calls it)?

This debate has spilled over into drug discovery informatics. Let’s explore the differences and then discuss the pros and cons for both options. Just to mention it upfront – the CDD Vault, like most industry leaders such as Salesforce, your online bank (probably), etc., is a multitenant application and comes with all its inherent economic advantages and some unexpected advantages for security and collaborative workflows.

A good way to get started is the definition from the article about Multitenancy on Wikipedia:

“Multitenancy refers to a principle in software architecture where a single instance of the software runs on a server, serving multiple client organizations (tenants)”.

Alternative options are “Single Tenancy” and “On premise” (= in-house) instances of software.

Our historically security-cautious industry has long been dominated by the expensive “on premise” or “in-house” model where organizations run and maintain their own servers, installations, manage updates, etc.

Lately “the cloud” has taken over and we are now moving away from “on premise” to hosted solutions. The CDD Vault is a multitenant Software as a Service (SaaS) application.  Recently, other systems have emerged offering single tenant options in the cloud. Are there inherent advantages associated with one architecture vs. the other?

The gentle reader may wish to start with this independent blog on ZDnet which highlights some key points of the debate.  Here is a summary of the benefits of multitenant vs. single tenant architecture:

  • Economics aka TCO (Total Cost of Ownership): In a multitenant architecture all users share the costs of the same resources, server, hardware, security, updates, and software development. This is an unbeatable economic model.Critics suggest that Multitenancy benefits the vendorbut not the users. The benefit for the vendor is that this type of implementation is extremely economical and therefore highly profitable for the vendor while the users don’t get many pieces of that cake. Why wouldn’t you want to buy from an economically healthy vendor with a sustainable business model? At CDD we do share the economic advantages of the CDD Vault with our customers. Our subscription flat fees are extremely competitive and sometimes cause people who know the costs of other systems to express their surprise. The multitenant architecture economic advantages also carry over into customer support – usually a costly item for a vendor.  CDD can afford to provide superior support because we don’t need to travel to a customer’s location for installations, updates, etc.  We use web-meetings instead because our architecture and intuitive GUI allow to provide support to all our users fast and easy.
  • Security:  Vendors of Single tenant cloud applications argue that their security model is superior because every customer gets their “own instance”.  Looking closer however – single tenancy often does not really mean that everyone gets their own resources. Hardware and other resources are usually shared, using virtualization.The fact is that single tenancy software is usually simpler to develop and the application’s security model is usually simple. Many single tenant applications are a lot harder to administer for the vendor (and the customer) than a multitenant application. Think about applying security patches, updates, implementations, Firewall penetration to collaborators, etc.

The separation of tenants and many security features of a multitenancy application, like the CDD Vault, are achieved directly on the application layer. Security implementations on the database layer can be administered easily and very fast. The pure Software as a Service model allows our team to very quickly provide the latest updates, upgrades while continuously maintaining security implementations at their highest, latest standards. CDD has a perfect security record since starting in 2004.

To read the whole series part I-III please click the download button below.

   
download-the-3-part-series


Part II and III discuss the architectural impact on: Updates, maintenance, releases, customization, configuration, collaboration and what we at CDD learned since 2004.