Disclosure: Though I am in to marketing now, I have done 10+ yrs in software development and I am NOT writing this post as a marketer.
Visit any tech blog and I am reasonably sure you will see something about multi-tenancy (MT). In my humble opinion, it is an architectural style to serve multiple tenants (clients) with a single codebase. Many blokes swear by the necessity of MT for SaaS. Contrast this with the ASP model where each tenant has a separate instance/version of the software. The beauty of MT is that the same codebase is able to serve multiple org whose data may be co-located – with a physical/logical partition. Pundits claim that without MT, the holy grail of ‘mass customization’ in SaaS (i.e. economies of scale) cannot be achieved even in this era of commodity hardware. A builder looking to construct 50000 houses is well advised to go for apartment complexes rather than row-houses, right? Once you have different codebases (row-houses), as in the case of ASP, you will go mad sooner-than-later maintaining (i.e. bug-fixes, enhancements, customizations etc) all these distinct versions.
So with all these wonderful advantages of MT listed above, why do I say that MT is abused?
#1: MT is NOT new.
Apparently, apartment complexes called “insulae” have been constructed around ~100 AD in Rome: http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/romans/architecture/insulae.htm
We have worked with customers since the 90’s who designed (or had it designed by us) their software to be MT. And the words SaaS and multi-tenancy weren’t even born then. It is just that this style has gone mainstream now (atleast in the blogs). What became a necessity to some of our customers (after some not-so-successful attempts at other architectural styles) is now a well-known option to the beginner. There has always been some software or the other written to be multi-tenant, because of business or other exigencies.
Wasn’t this service available through internet?” Didn’t it use the same codebase to deliver my mails to me and your mails to you? Of course, business applications (eg:CRM) are more complex than email – needing customized workflows, configurability, unique business rules etc but aren’t those part of the natural evolution process of software? I am not saying that MT is easy but does it seem rocket science?
#3: He who is a rich customer rules!
I read somewhere that SalesForce has a separate version of its software for its large tenant. It may be a rumor but in general, if a tenant accounts for 15% of your revenue, does he not deserve premium, customized service? So, MT seems to have been brought to its knees in front of a powerful (paying) customer.
#4: Anonymous: Those who know don’t speak; Those who speak don’t know
The hackers who have typically architected/designed multi-tenant apps seem to be the silent types, who dismiss all this hoopla about MT and prefer writing software (as against blogs). This paved the way for non/semi-technical thought-leaders/marketers/sales folks to usurp the buzzword and poison the internet forums. As they say, MT vessels make much noise:-) Am generalizing of course!
To conclude, I do understand that some of my arguments above are prejudiced and debatable but these are ramblings of an ex-engineer than a rational thought-out post of a seasoned marketer