SugarCRM became the latest company to introduce a new architectural model for delivering software as a service when it launched the beta version of Sugar 5.0, adding to the increasing number of on-demand architectures on the market.
The Sugar 5.0 open source CRM application is based on a multi-instance on-demand architecture where each customer receives their own instance of the application. This contrasts with the approach employed by Salesforce.com and Microsoft which is is based on multi-tenancy where users share the same application and database.
There are also major differences at the back end. Multi-tenancy uses shared servers, usually based around a small number of large services located in a single or mirrored data center. Sugar’s multi-tenancy approach is based on the grid principle, using vertical scaling.
Our architecture is multi instance not multi-tenant. We can string lots so small commodity hardware together to build a grid for on-demand delivery, said Clint Oram, general manager at SugarCRM. The others build on a monolithic architecture.
As Oracle president Charles Phillips pointed out in an interview with Computer Business Review recently, each vendor has its own version of on-demand architecture. Salesforce.com, Microsoft, NetSuite, and RightNow use multi-tenancy, while SAP has developed the isolated-tenancy approach. Phillips also said the issue of multi-tenancy is irrelevant from the customer perspective and maintained Oracle applied multi-tenancy at a different level.
None of us do [SaaS] in exactly the same way. We use different architectures, he said. Multi-tenancy has nothing to do with on-demand. [It is] a convenience for the vendor. Whether they put all customer data onto one database or onto multiple databases is of no value to the customer. In the enterprise it is the opposite. They do not want to put all their data [into the same database] as their competitors. It is illegal in some industries. This is a point Oram also made.
We do multi-tenant at a different level, said Phillips. We give them a separate database with an administration layer on top and this is where we are multi tenant. It was a design decision to [enable it to] scale better and be more reliable.
Now SugarCRM has added another variant to the on-demand architecture mix.
The various approaches could confuse a market that is still gaining credence at the enterprise level. While the sales and customer service managers who are often the lead buyers where SaaS is concerned will not, and indeed should not, have to be concerned about the underlying architecture, the same cannot be said for CIOs. Yet it is CIOs who the SaaS vendors are increasingly appealing to. With so many different architectures out there, there could be integration and compatibility issues down the road when customers want to bring together SaaS offerings from different vendors.