It surely takes someone as influential (and smart) as Larry Ellison, to be able to dismiss multitenancy as a "horrible idea" (see Oracle's CEO Holds Court on Salesforce, Fusion and More). Every customer being in the same database is a "horrible security model," Mr. Ellison says. With the likes of Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) strongly attacking it, will multitenancy die a premature death?
It is possible. After all, we're all familiar with this story in the tech world - an upstart with a new technology starts stealing revenues from an established player, established player buys upstart, established player kills new technology and goes back to maintaining its dominance.
But before we start writing multitenancy's epitaph, let's consider this. Although salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) introduced us to it, multitenancy isn't a "product" owned by one vendor - which makes it a little harder to be bought and killed. It isn't just a cool architectural concept - customers reap real cost benefits because of multitenancy. Jefferies, for instance, would have to maintain 3 separate boxes to handle CRM, broker data and compliance for their mutual funds, versus the multitenant Navatar Mutual Fund Cloud, which helps them function without any boxes for a low monthly fee (for more on multitenancy's benefits, see my Informationweek post Why Multitenancy Matters in the Cloud).
Multitenancy, however, has no shortage of enemies. Most legacy software vendors are beginning to lose money to smaller multitenant competitors. To protect their turf, these vendors jump into the cloud themselves but discover they don't like the financial model (Oracle's example is discussed in my old post Oracle Cloud Computing and the CFO's Dilemma). Their answer, then, is to have a cloud play without multitenancy (yes, it's possible if you can redefine what the cloud really stands for).
Even large systems integrators are no friends of multitenancy. As David Linthicum points out in his Infoworld post What cloud computing can and can't do, consulting firms worry about losing the big bucks they otherwise make from enterprise architecture complexities. They don't like to hear about any client efficiencies that may reduce their billable hours.
The question then is - with so many influential enemies, will multitenancy's fate eventually turn out to be similar to Julius Caesar's?
I don't know. To survive, it will need many more customer ROI stories, more successful vendors as poster kids and a longer tail of cloud providers. Above all, it will need some influential champions with strong enough shoulders to carry the multitenancy flag.
As always, would love to hear your thoughts (you can read more about multitenancy in my new book Thinking of ... Force.com as your key to the Cloud Kingdom, just reviewed by Sand Hill Group).
Disclosure: No positions