Q: What’s multitenancy?
Maybe you’re already thinking please give me a metaphor which is less tired than that of “the apartment building.” You’re in luck, because I too am very tired of this metaphor.
Just over two years ago, I moved to Argentina. Unfortunately, outside of Latin America, not many people have much familiarity with the culture of Argentina, which is a shame. Argentines are warm people, talkative and playful, social, natural sharers. In many ways, Argentines embody “multitenancy” — they are culturally inclined to share space and food and resources with others not just because it makes good economic sense, but because it’s part of the social fabric that keeps everyone sane in a place filled with a lot of nonsensicalities.
I haven’t forgotten that this is a website dedicated to Salesforce, and truthfully I never considered writing about things like Yerba Mate and Asado, but in brainstorming a good way to explain the concept of multitenancy conversationally, these two integral pieces of Argentine life popped into my head.
First, a Mate
Mate is a type of drink, like an infused green tea but the yerba, “herbs” you use come from a plant which I believe is actually the cousin of what we in the USA use to make Christmas wreathes. You need three ingredients to drink a Mate:
- Hot water, usually carried in a thermos
- A little cup with a straw with a filter to hold the yerba (also, confusingly, called a Mate)
- Yerba, essentially ground up leaves – the tea itself
You add the little roughly-ground herbs, and pour hot water over the top, and suck on the straw to drink the infused hot water.
Now, the important part: you drink in a group, socially, one person maintaining the Mate by filling it with hot water and passing it to the other members of the group. This is a multitenant tea-drinking architecture. All members of the group are drinking from the same Mate, (sharing resources), but it is being maintained by just one provider.
Less commonly, you’ll see someone drinking a Mate alone. It’s not too weird, but you may get a serious jolt of caffeine if you drink too much. Some people need that jolt, just as some software services (for privacy or performance reasons, typically) prefer dedicated resources rather than a multitenant structure.
If M.A.T.E. were an acronym, it would stand for Multitenant Architecture for Tea Enjoyment. I’m very proud of that last sentence – if anyone knows anything about copyrighting, get in touch.
A Weekend Asado
Now, it’s Sunday and a friend has invited us out to their little house in the country for a barbecue, or as they say here, an asado. You show up, and they first offer you a Mate. As your friends arrive, they lazily prepare a fire to create hot coals, eventually placing them under a very simple metal grill, and lay on all types of amazing meat.
Now, Argentina is a pretty inclusive place. Not everyone eats meat, not everyone eats every type of meat, and some people have intolerances to things like nuts, wheat, etc. As such, it’s not uncommon for someone to bring something for themselves, to place on the grill, so that they too can take part in a nice feast replete with wine and lots of lively banter.
In this scenario, the grill, the meat, the wine, and the big shared picnic table are our multitenant resources. However, since we may bring different ingredients to be cooked, and we may eat and drink more or less, we are utilizing the same resources in a way that work uniquely for us.
Salesforce operates the same way. They provide the grill (their server), and you can choose which cuts of meat you’d like to try (their products), and you rest easily knowing that although there may be other things cooking on that same grill, you’re getting just what you need and nothing else.
Now in the next post we talk about limits. Salesforce imposes limits on your use of its server resources (server time and CPU cycles, essentially) so that they can make sure there is enough to go around to everyone utilizing the same server. When we drink Mate or go to a friend’s asado here in Argentina, those limits are our social norms – you probably shouldn’t drink up all the wine and make a big scene, or sit clutching the Mate while everyone sort of politely waits for you to remember that this is a shared activity.
If you ever come to visit Argentina, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to share a Mate with you and we can chat about multitenancy, or we can not chat about Salesforce whatsoever – dealer’s choice.
That’s all, cheers! Check out the other Conversations here.