Why Multi-instance Trumps Multi-tenant UC Implementations

multi-instanceMulti-Tenant Systems

At eZuce we’re approached regularly by Managed Service Providers (MSPs) looking for a multi-tenant unified communication platform they can operate for their customers. Largely, these companies are looking for alternatives to the big name vendors like Broadsoft or Cisco. Regardless of the rationale for selecting a particular multi-tenant platform, MSPs clearly value the operational efficiencies that multi-tenancy brings to them and their customers. The question becomes, which approach to tenanting will best meet their requirements.  Most multi-tenant system vendors and service providers will argue that multi-instance offerings are the invention of legacy PBX vendors that simply virtualized their premise based offerings and brought them to the cloud.  In many cases that is true, think Cisco and Avaya. Since eZuce has built an open, software based solution (Uniteme) that was never constrained by the computing environment, we have the advantage of evaluating and capitalizing on the best of both approaches.

This blog helps to differentiate between  “Multi-Tenant” and  “Multi-Instance” systems and why enterprises benefit from multi-instance architected communication systems.

Multi-Tenant

We considered a Multi-Tenant system to be one built from the ground-up to support multiple customers operating within a single system. To us this meant that the system could host multiple SIP domains for all services provided by the system (Proxy, Registrar, Voicemail, etc.).

There are several advantages and disadvantages to a true multi-tenant solution. This is the type of system that customers think about when they are shopping for a solution. Other than the market considerations, the remaining advantages we considered to be largely around operational efficiencies. A single software platform could scale easily, offer consistency across customers and is simpler to maintain. These are great benefits to service providers..

To our team, the disadvantages to this type of tenanted solution overshadowed the advantages. From our perspective the following drawbacks prevented us from going in this direction:

  • It is a much more complex system that would be difficult to diagnose,
  • Takes a cookie-cutter approach to all customers,
  • Difficult upgrades would effect all customers,
  • Severe system problems would effect all customers,
  • The “one size fits all” approach challenges the nuances of individual MSP enterprise users.

 

Multi-Instance

A multi-instance form of tenanting meant to our team that each customer of a system would actually be operating on their own copy of our software.

Again, we considered advantages and disadvantages. Fewer code changes to the existing system, scheduled upgrades on a per-customer basis and very little chance of system wide problems causing issues for all customers topped our list of advantages.  All benefits that the MSP customers appreciate and in many cases require.

The disadvantages boiled down to operational complexity and being more compute resource heavy.  These are primarily cost associated issues on the service provider side of the equation.  The fact that the market expects a “True Multi-Tenant” solution also weighed on our thinking.

Our Direction

There were many more advantages and disadvantages to both approaches but considering the high-runners above, the choice seemed pretty clear. A multi-instance solution was more advantageous to the customer which outweighed the slight increase in operational complexity the service provider may contend with. We’re taking the operational complexity head-on though and will attempt to minimize these issues through automation. Thus a multi-tenant solution that works for MSPs and their customers.

In talking with some providers our concerns about what the market expects may have been overblown. Providers who utilize a more traditional multi-tenant solution seem to be more weighed down with the disadvantages we highlighted above while the multi-instance approach continues to gain acceptance and traction.

Written by Mike Picher

Mike Picher

Michael is an accomplished technologist and writer, he authored the first comprehensive book about the open source project and software from SIPfoundry. With more than 20 years of communications and information technology engineering and consulting experience, Michael brings a very pragmatic perspective to the unified communications and collaboration market. He has architected hundreds of enterprise and managed service provider networks and communications solutions. Prior to joining eZuce, he co-developed what became one of Maine’s largest technology consulting and software development firms. After successfully selling the consulting business, Michael turned his attention to the growing IP telephony space. He has helped successfully deploy some of the region’s largest IP based communications systems. Michael received his B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Maine. He continues to support and advocate for open source projects on a global basis most recently sponsoring the siXcom project. In his free time, Mike enjoys time on his 150 acre farm in Maine and enjoys motocross and considers himself a craft brew afficionado.

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