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What Does "Multitenancy" Mean?

By T.S. Adams
Updated May 16, 2024
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Multitenanacy is a networking principle where a server runs a single version of a software program, and the client computers are not able to run the program on their own. Client computers on the network can only access the program in question through the server's version. On a non-multitenancy network, each client computer would host and run its own version of the program. The advantages to running a multitenancy system include cost savings and data consistency benefits. Some of the downsides to this setup include an over-reliance on network resources, crippling computers if they lose their connection to the network.

On a multitenancy network, the hardware burden for running a specific piece of software is shifted mostly to the server computer. As the server computer is the only one running the program, it is placed under the most stress during execution of the program. The other computers on the network incur much less memory and processor overhead; this allows them to, in essence, "slack off" while the server computer shoulders the burden. Due to this, the hardware installed in the client, or "tenant," computers need not be as powerful as the hardware in client computers running a non-multitenancy system. When added up across multiple client computers on a network, this cost saving can be substantial.

Another benefit to multitenancy computing is the establishment of data consistency across the network, smoothing the process of mining for data. Data mining involves seeking out trends across a large subset of data. On networks which do not use multitenancy practices, this can prove difficult, as each computer will contain its own separate database file that must be "mined" to locate the desired information. When data mining on a multitenancy-equipped network, the only database will be the central one located on the server. This is because the server will be the only computer running an actual version of the program.

The biggest downside to a multitenant network is excessive reliance on the network to ensure productivity. As the client "tenant" computers rely on the server for access to the running applications, any disruption in the network will effectively prevent the client computer from using the program in question. On a non-multitenant network, any interruption in network connectivity would not prove quite as disastrous, as each disconnected client computer could still continue running its own independent version of the software program.

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