I hear the term “cloud washing” used all the time. Cloud washing happens when a software marketing department applies the word “cloud” to legacy applications in order to attach to the branding momentum and real value of the cloud. This deception confuses those shopping for true cloud based applications like Intacct. How does one differentiate between the real thing and the pretenders?
Intuitively, one thinks a cloud application should be remotely accessible, and preferably so through a browser. In addition, the application’s web server shouldn’t be running on the end user’s file server in the server room down the hall. And, most clients pay for cloud apps monthly instead of purchasing a perpetual license. But, these common denominators can apply to even the oldest of legacy applications. Cloud washers easily lead us astray by painting these older programs with clever client user interfaces, infrastructure location flexibility, and creative revenue and financing models.
Multi tenancy provides the best qualifier for a true cloud application. In software terms, a tenant is a virtual instance of an application provided to a subscriber. Many virtual instances running on one (or few) physical instances means “multi tenant” just like many apartment dwellers occupying one building means “multi tenant". Multi tenant applications spread the infrastructure, utility and management costs across many instances. All users share the same code and database. Since only one instance of the code is in production, a bug and its fix simultaneously affects all subscribers. Installing a version update upgrades everyone at the same time. Tenants have no say, and often cannot know or even determine, on which hardware their instance runs. Imagine, the maintenance, support and provisioning advantage that multi tenant software has over single tenant software. The whole Internet business model depends in part on this advantage. Mass scalability would be non-existent without multi tenancy.
Within a company and when published through a browser, a web based email application demonstrates of the advantages of multi tenancy on a small scale. The IT department installs the software once and spreads the application across one or many file servers. Then, the company publishes the web address to employees, and each “subscriber” runs a virtual instance of their inbox in a browser whenever they log in. Imagine how awful it would be if the company served everyone their inbox via a personal installation of the email application. Imagine how difficult a product update or new version rollout would be. Imagine how expensive one server per employee would be and the human resource cost required to support a single tenant model.
One cannot cloud wash multi tenancy. The pretenders can trick us with user interfaces, infrastructure locations, and revenue models, but multi tenancy cannot be faked. To find out how Intacct maximizes the value of multi tenancy and passes that value on to our clients, please give us a call.