By Johan Scheepers, Systems Engineering Manager at CommVault South Africa
In the Managed Service Provider (MSP) arena, multi-tenancy is becoming increasingly popular. More and more, MSP’s are starting to use converged infrastructures to support multiple customers on one integrated platform. This trend is supported by various suppliers of software for infrastructure management, data management and security. It is obvious that multi-tenancy addresses the specific challenges of the MSP industry. But it also provides excellent opportunities for the enterprise market.
Big multinational companies traditionally use many different solutions to support and manage their infrastructure. They may for example use solution “A” for back-up and recovery in one country and solution “B” in another region. In addition, solution “C” may be used at one specific department. This has led to a proliferation of many products for the same tasks. Until now this has limited companies in getting a global view of what is happening in their IT. Global insight, however, is becoming increasingly important in view of global competition and the need to be compliant. Limited insight can be solved by deploying a multi-tenancy solution. These solutions support a company in two specific ways:
1. A true multi-tenancy solution will provide one single platform for, for example, global data- and information management or security. It offers the CIO a complete view of the IT environment and enables the IT department to focus on services instead of managing hardware and software.
2. At the same time, the solution provides a department, a facility or office all the features of a purpose-made product, giving IT managers at the specific location the idea they work with their own tailor-made platform.
One of the main features of a multi-tenancy management solution is the ability to integrate with Directory Services. This enhances security and usability significantly. A system manager can establish rights granularly for each user and for example determine which user may restore a specific database and who has access to a production system. This is especially important as IT systems are becoming increasingly complex and compliancy is an important issue for any company. Tight integration with Active Directory also prevents the proliferation of generic admin accounts, used by various system managers. This is a well-known practice in IT, but it makes it impossible to track and audit changes. By integrating the management solution with Directory Services System managers always log in with their own account and as a result can always be tracked and traced.
A second important feature of a multi-tenant solution and one that particularly addresses the current needs of companies is charge back capabilities. Whereas MSPs need this capability to charge their individual clients, an enterprise may use this feature to give internal clients insight in their use of IT or charge departments internally. It also enables companies to offer departments more freedom of choice with regard to their IT investments. They know what they spend and can decide themselves in which solutions they want to invest to reach their business goals.
The third feature is focused on control. As pointed out earlier, multi-tenancy provides a single platform that can be adapted to the use of various locations or departments as it is their own separate solution. This also means that the solution must provide means for a granular set-up, enabling for example to deliver specific views of departments’ IT infrastructure. This does not only enhance the quality of systems management, but will also contribute to the commitment of the IT staff. When staff is able to focus on their own dedicated systems, instead of having to go through tens or hundreds of servers to find their own systems, they will definitely make less mistakes and have the feeling they are more in control.
The IT world is changing from a focus on physical infrastructure to virtualised but very real services. MSPs lead the way by deploying new, converged infrastructures that fully profit from virtualistion and multi-tenancy solutions. They no longer deliver hardware or software, but only services. Also, in the enterprise world, IT departments are looking for ways to make this shift to a services-oriented organisation. They can also profit form the multi-tenancy approach that is already widely used in the MSP arena. It will offer them global insight in IT, with sufficient room for a local touch. In the end, it will enable them to be a true services