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Why cloud architecture matters

Jimmy Fitzgerald, Vice President, Asia-Pacific & Japan, ServiceNow | Oct. 11, 2016
Choosing an enterprise cloud platform is a lot like choosing between living in a condominium or a landed property.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Cloud technology is the essential infrastructure required to reach Singapore's Smart Nation's initiative's goal of hyperconnectivity. However, as corporations move to the cloud, a key decision must be made - choosing the right cloud architecture.

Choosing an enterprise cloud platform is a lot like choosing between living in a condominium or a landed property. Living in a condominium can offer conveniences and cost-savings on a month-by-month basis. You pay fees to the landlord to handle all ongoing maintenance and renovation projects - everything from fixing a leaky tap to installing a new central air-conditioning system. However, there are restrictions that prevent you from making customisations, and a fire that breaks out in another unit may threaten the safety of the entire building. On the other hand, you have more control and autonomy with a landed property. You have very similar choices to consider when evaluating cloud computing services.

There are two options available, multi-tenant (condominium) and multi-instance (landed property). The first public cloud computing services that went live in the late 1990s were built on a legacy construct called a multi-tenant architecture. Their database systems were originally designed for making airline reservations, tracking customer service requests, and running financial systems. These database systems feature centralised compute, storage, and networking that served all customers. As their numbers of users grew, the multi-tenant architecture made it easy for the services to accommodate the rapid user growth.

All customers are forced to share the same software and infrastructure. That presents three major drawbacks:

  1. Data co-mingling: Your data is in the same database as everyone else, so you rely on software for separation and isolation. This has major implications for companies within the government, healthcare, and financial sectors who deal with highly sensitive content. A security breach to the cloud provider could expose your data along with everyone else co-mingled on the same multi-tenant environment.
  2. Additional maintenance leads to excessive downtime: Multi-tenant architectures rely on large and complex databases that require hardware and software maintenance on a regular basis. Departmental applications in use by a single group, such as the sales or marketing teams, can tolerate weekly downtime after normal business hours or on the weekend. But that's becoming unacceptable for users who need enterprise applications to be operational at all times.
  3. One customer's issue is everyone's issue: Any action that affects the multi-tenant database affects all shared customers. Your availability and upgrades are tied to all other customers that share your multi-tenancy. Entire organisations do not want to tolerate this shared approach on applications that are critical to their success. They need software and hardware issues isolated and resolved quickly, and upgrades that meet their own schedules.


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