Techno-Pulse started this debate, since a provider named Virtual Ark thinks otherwise. Here’s an excerpt from their CEO’s interview at Cloud Computing Journal:

Marty Gauvin: No, not at all. Virtual Ark can manage dedicated instances of the application for specific customer needs as if they were “one” application instance. In our view, the security, integration and performance requirements of our target market, large enterprise customers, are ill-suited to multi-tenant solutions. We think this is a key reason why SaaS has not been taken up more strongly by this market segment, and why many ISVs have not modified their applications to be multi-tenant. Virtual Ark sees this as an important differentiator in its value proposition.

Here was my response to this, at the Techo-Pulse site:

It may be hard to argue with Marty when he says large enterprise customers, are ill-suited to multi-tenant solutions. Large customers, usually, are too high-maintenance, both in terms of their unique requirements as well as their highly political environments. Had they been simple to deal with, consulting firms like Deloitte or PwC, that make most of their money from organizational complexities, would have gone out of business by now. No wonder, it’s hard for a vendor offering a multitenant solution to convince a large customer to buy.

So if you’re an ISV targeting large enterprise customers, an easier option may be not to be multitenant, so you can tailor for each customer’s unique needs. It’s a perfectly valid (and maybe lucrative) business model. The issue is that eventually you will turn into a services company or, in other words, most of your revenues will come from services (see my InformationWeek post Product Cloud Or Service Cloud? Know The Difference).

If you want to be a viable cloud vendor selling products, you have no choice, your product must be multitenant in order to survive in the cloud world.

I think this debate about multitenancy will go on, as long as ISVs believe there are “quickie” routes to having a cloud product. I have covered this subject extensively in my new book: Force.com as your Key to the Cloud Kingdom.

However, Marty’s comments do raise other important questions: Is it possible to sell and maintain multitenant cloud products to large companies? Are there examples of companies doing that?

Would love to hear from you.

Alok Misra