Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Linux Containers, @CloudExpo, SDN Journal, @ThingsExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Feed Post

Network Virtualization: Instances versus Tenants

Technology shifts are creating a lot of chaos, including the way we use words

Technology shifts are creating a lot of chaos, including the way we use words. Cloud. SDN. Multi-tenant. Instances. They're all inter-related and seem to have different meanings depending on who's trying to sell you what today.

That's more than a tad bit disconcerting, because you know what you mean when you say "multi-tenant" but other people (trying to sell you stuff) may have a different definition. And that means when you ask about it and they say yes, you may not be getting what you expected - and that's not good for either end of the transaction.

So let's talk network virtualization today, particularly with respect to the difference between "instances" and "tenants."

An instance, made a common part of technology's growing vernacular, stems from the need to separate the physical from the virtual, a la server virtualization. Because "server" is used to describe about fifty different things - all in the realm of technology - it became necessary to distinguish between an application "server" and an application "instance" to avoid confusion. Thus, an instance is often shorthand for virtual machine or virtual instance and essentially describes a container of functionality.

For example, if I refer to an "instance" of BIG-IP I mean a virtual machine in which the BIG-IP platform is running. Note that this says nothing about the underlying hardware, which could be COTS or cloud or purpose-built hardware. That's because one of the characteristics of virtualization is abstraction, and its benefits are generally derived from the fact that it decouples the "solution" from the underlying resource provider (the hardware).

Now, that's an instance. Confusion generally comes in when we start adding multi-tenancy to the discussion which, of course, is a requirement for modern architectures and deployment environments.

The basic principles of multi-tenancy are similar to that of an apartment complex. Multiple tenants, all with their own isolated "living space" cohabitate within the same physical space. This enables the tenants to share the cost of the infrastructure (the physical structure) and thus lower the overall costs of living.

In technological terms, the same concept applies. We want to allow multiple tenants (applications) to share the cost of the infrastructure and thus lower the overcall costs of delivery (all the services you have to have to make sure the application is secure, reliable and available).

Multi-tenancy in infrastructure enables multiple tenants to cohabitate while being assured they can manage their own space in an isolated, secure fashion. The way this is achieved is to segment each instance into isolated domains, usually on a per-application basis.

Depending on specific architectural, regulatory or business requirements, a single instance can be treated as equal to a single tenant. But more often than not a single instance is segmented into multiple tenant domains to enable greater sharing of costs.


The end result should be the more tenants, the lower the costs*.

The reason this is important is because applications require greater diversity in network policies with respect to performance, availability and access. The days of applying the same set of network policies to web application A and B are pretty much over. The coming of the Internet of Things is going to force highly differentiated policies to be put in place on a per-application basis. That means that infrastructure needs to provide multi-tenant instances able to go far beyond the simple "tenant = instance" assumption that is frequently made when discussing network virtualization because the number of applications that will be rising to support new business models and take advantage of opportunities is only going to increase in the next few years.

So be careful with your words as you start to lay the network foundation you're going to need to succeed in the coming years. Make sure you know exactly what the person on the other side of the table means when they say "multi-tenant instance" and make sure it will be able to support the way in which you're going to need to deliver all those new applications.

* Assuming the business model associated can achieve the economies scale required by modern architectures. Many cannot.

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Masters Technologies, a leader in Network Visibility and Uptime Solutions, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Masters Technologies is a leading vendor in the network monitoring and high speed networking markets. Based in the heart of Silicon Valley, Interface Masters' expertise lies in Gigabit, 10 Gigabit and 40 Gigabit Eth...
Enterprise IT has been in the era of Hybrid Cloud for some time now. But it seems most conversations about Hybrid are focused on integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google ECM into existing on-premises systems. Where is all the Private Cloud? What do technology providers need to do to make their offerings more compelling? How should enterprise IT executives and buyers define their focus, needs, and roadmap, and communicate that clearly to the providers?
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, will draw together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established ...
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
As software becomes more and more complex, we, as software developers, have been splitting up our code into smaller and smaller components. This is also true for the environment in which we run our code: going from bare metal, to VMs to the modern-day Cloud Native world of containers, schedulers and microservices. While we have figured out how to run containerized applications in the cloud using schedulers, we've yet to come up with a good solution to bridge the gap between getting your conta...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
DevOps theory promotes a culture of continuous improvement built on collaboration, empowerment, systems thinking, and feedback loops. But how do you collaborate effectively across the traditional silos? How can you make decisions without system-wide visibility? How can you see the whole system when it is spread across teams and locations? How do you close feedback loops across teams and activities delivering complex multi-tier, cloud, container, serverless, and/or API-based services?
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his session at @DevOpsSummit 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, will show how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that enables everyon...
Cloud based infrastructure deployment is becoming more and more appealing to customers, from Fortune 500 companies to SMEs due to its pay-as-you-go model. Enterprise storage vendors are able to reach out to these customers by integrating in cloud based deployments; this needs adaptability and interoperability of the products confirming to cloud standards such as OpenStack, CloudStack, or Azure. As compared to off the shelf commodity storage, enterprise storages by its reliability, high-availabil...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
Today every business relies on software to drive the innovation necessary for a competitive edge in the Application Economy. This is why collaboration between development and operations, or DevOps, has become IT’s number one priority. Whether you are in Dev or Ops, understanding how to implement a DevOps strategy can deliver faster development cycles, improved software quality, reduced deployment times and overall better experiences for your customers.
So you think you are a DevOps warrior, huh? Put your money (not really, it’s free) where your metrics are and prove it by taking The Ultimate DevOps Geek Quiz Challenge, sponsored by DevOps Summit. Battle through the set of tough questions created by industry thought leaders to earn your bragging rights and win some cool prizes.
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...