Oracle is taking on multi-tenancy. The company announced Feb. 19 the Single Tenant, Enterprise Edition of its namesake Siebel CRM On Demand software.
The suite is designed to provide the same basic benefits as the more traditional multitenant Software as a Service offering: one subscription-based application for all customers, upgraded simultaneously.
Where Oracle's single tenant suite differs is in the partitioning of Siebel CRM On Demand at the infrastructure level. While multitenant customers share the same application server and database with other customers, Oracle's single tenant software provides a separate database, middleware and application instance for each customer. Customers still receive simultaneous upgrades and patches-in a 60-day window-but their data is separate.
"This is really the culmination of two years of work," said Anthony Lye, senior vice president of CRM On Demand at Oracle. "When Oracle acquired Siebel [in 2005] we were running Siebel in a very traditional multitenant server environment. As we migrated those assets from the original data center at IBM we decided to really revisit the architecture, particularly as SAAS was starting to penetrate into the mid and enterprise market. We wanted to take out the restrictions of multi tenant."
The idea of a single tenancy in a SAAS environment is not a new one. While multitenant on demand CRM applications have proliferated-particularly with the rise of Salesforce.com, a major marketing force behind the multitenant concept and architecture-companies have begun to realize some limitations of multitenancy.
One of the biggest concerns among IT, it seems, is the fear of protecting data that resides in a shared infrastructure. Lye said that with a dedicated database and technology stack (from Oracle) IT is able to meet mandates for data privacy and auditing requirements. "When SAAS entered mid-sized and enterprise markets, IT got involved," he said. "They have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain data integrity and security. So we've enabled IT and line of business to make the decision between SAAS and private enterprise SAAS."
Customers who opt for the single tenant or "private enterprise SAAS" option get what the company calls a -pod' on Oracle's grid, which runs in the company's Austin, Texas data center. Oracle has a fleet of pods-more than one hundred, according to Lye-that it is able to manage applications across using Oracle's software and tools. With a separate pod for each single tenant CRM implementation, customers' software is partitioned at the database, middleware and application level. Because of that separation users are able to customize their implementation to a certain degree, scheduling maintenance on a Tuesday, for example, rather than on the weekends, as is standard with on demand upgrades. Users are also able to tune hardware performance to meet specific data needs.
Oracle is not the first to offer partitioned on demand software. SAP is taking a "mega tenant" approach to its Business ByDesign on demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite, announced last year.
"The ultimate goal for on demand is flexibility. That means the customer at any point in time should be able to make a change from one hosting provider to another, or go to appliance mode," said Peter Zencke, SAP's executive board member in charge of Research & Breakthrough Innovation, in a November 2007 interview with eWeek. "This is only possible if one customer, one tenant, can make the decision independently of all the others to take its [software] out."