Why Multitenancy is so critical for your SaaS Business Model?

Multitenancy , simply put, is the ability to share a single instance of a software running on a server with multiple clients securely. It is one of the key architecture parameters that is directly related to profitability. If your SaaS application does not support multi-tenancy, your infrastructure costs will rise for every user added and you will not be able to achieve economies of scale.  Let me explain how ..

Let’s say you have a SaaS application which needs to be supported by 3 components: UI server, database and app server.   The UI and App Server reside on a single VM and the Database is on another VM.  So you need a total of 2 VMs to support your application instance.

Now there are a bunch of knobs we can adjust to evaluate the infrastructure cost for this app. For simplicity , let’s say your Cloud provider offers you 3 prices for IaaS (including hosting cost and support/labor):

Small VM  =  $500 per month 

Medium VM = $ 750 per month

Large VM = $ 1000 per month

Small , medium and large configurations are determined by number of cores of CPU, memory size, storage space and network bandwidth.

Your target is to support 100 customer accounts i.e., 100 tenants

Cost for a Single-Tenant Architecture:  For every customer account you will need to create a unique environment i.e., 2 VMs.  To support 100 client accounts you need 100*2 = 200 Small VMs !!  Your total hosting cost for 200 small VMs will be $500*200 = $100,000 per month. 

Cost for Multi-Tenant Architecture:  Now say you can support multiple customer accounts per software instance. After doing some resource consumption and performance measurements you determine that you could support either of the following two multi-tenancy configurations:

1) 20 client accounts per instance on Small VMs. To support 100 tenants you need only (100/20)*2 = 10 Small VMs. Your cost for 10 small VMs would be $500*10 = $5,000 per month !  

2) 100 client accounts per instance on Medium VMs. To support 100 tenants, you need only (100/100)*2 = 2 Medium VMsYour cost for 2 Medium VMs = $750*2 = $1500 per month ! 

With a multi-tenant architecture your cost reduces by >95% for the same number of customer accounts

Let’s say your app gets really popular and you need to scale to 1000 customer accounts. With 100 client accounts per instance on Medium VMs, to support 1000 tenants, you need (1000/100)*2 = 20 Medium VMsYour cost for 20 Medium VMs = $750*20 = $15,000 per month.  

So you can scale to 10 times the number of users and your cost would still be 85% less than a single tenant case.

The calculations have been kept very simple for understanding the concept. There are other infrastructure costs to consider like network I/O, persistent storage, backup VMs for high availability etc which add to the cost case.  However the gist of the matter is if your SaaS application is not truly multi-tenant your SaaS cost case will blow up and it will take you longer to become profitable.


About itspi
Product Manager at IBM, Cloud and Analytics Geek, Mixed Media Artist, Traveler, Volunteer for Non-Profits

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