The Growth of MSSPs and the Efficiency of Multitenancy-Based Cyber Security Solutions

18

MAY 2021

By: Juhi Fadia

Originally published on MSP Today

Software multitenancy is a software architecture in which a single instance of software runs on a server and serves multiple tenants. Sometimes referred to as “partitioning,” multitenant systems are highly efficient for managed service providers, often leading to lower costs for end customers and higher profits for service providers, compared to dedicated or isolated approaches.

A tenant is a group of users who are given access to service but with specific privileges aligned with the software instance. A multitenant architecture provides every tenant with a dedicated share of the instance across data, configuration, user management, and customized functionality as required.

Multitenancy may be best described as cloud computing, but in the case of the high growth field of Managed Security Service Providers, it goes way beyond a simple definition and is a powerful tool for offering cybersecurity solutions from a common software platform.

In a multitenant environment, multiple customers share the same application, running on the same operating system, on the same hardware, with the same data-storage mechanism, according to Wikipedia. “The distinction between the customers is achieved during application design; thus, customers do not share or see each other’s data. Compare this with virtualization where components are transformed, enabling each customer application to appear to run on a separate virtual machine.”

Multitenant software applications have been critical in driving growth in the Managed Service Provider (MSP) and Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) industries, which have been growing steadily since the advent of the cloud.

The global Managed Security Services market size is projected to reach USD 42,250 Million by 2026, from USD 21,680 Million in 2020, according to research firm Valuates, which also pegged the general MSP market to grow from USD 178.5 Billion in 2019 to USD 309.4 Billion by 2025. Increasingly, MSPs are building out security practices, as they see a huge demand for quality cybersecurity solutions, which can be delivered as a service.

Additionally, Valuates estimates the Security Operations Center segment (SOC as a Service) to grow from USD 265.9 Million in 2019 to USD 676.8 Million by the end of 2026.

Cybersecurity vendors are responding by making their software more cloud-ready and even cloud-native, and are rolling out multitenancy solutions, which are extremely attractive to service providers given the natural economic benefits, and systems integration benefits, as certain types of security solutions (firewall, threat detection, access management, etc.) can be brought together into a “single pane of glass” when software includes APIs and comes with SDKs.

Ironsphere, a Privileged Access Management and cybersecurity automation company based in New Jersey, offers a PAM solution with a multitenant architecture, which enables multiple users to share multiple isolated and virtually separated Ironsphere services running on a single instance. Based on this architecture, several groups of users representing different customers, business units, or subsidiaries, i.e., tenants, can be created.

“MSSPs provide cybersecurity solutions to their clients, protecting them from a broad and growing range of threats,” said Ali Gomulu, Solutions Architect at Ironsphere. “MSSPs and MSPs are challenged with managing multiple customers with different sets of requirements, configurations, and support requirements. The traditional approach, which is to deploy different instances to meet those customized requirements, adds extra operational complexity and cost.”

Gomulu explained that one of the most common challenges MSPs and MSSPs with multiple instance deployments face is managing complexity.

“MSSPs and MSPs are trying to expand their businesses so they can achieve economies of scale through the efficient use of resources,” Gomulu said, “however, separate instance deployments push them to switch between each deployment to ensure that services are meeting with customer requirements. As an example, in case of product changes or upgrades, MSPs and MSSPs need to upgrade each application and test them separately, which creates rigidity and inefficiency in managing the application.”

Scalability is another challenge, as using separate instances for every customer results in a longer time-to-market due to extended processes, Gomulu said. “Extended processes include new hardware purchases for separate deployments, new instance deployments, and re-integration with external systems already configured in the existing instances.”

Centralized management is made possible, which drives exponentially more productivity, according to Gomulu. “MSPs or MSSPs’ hosts create tenants and assign administrators to each tenant.  The tenant admin has the privilege of setting roles and access permissions of the users within the tenant environment. Creating and administering tenants through a single platform will increase the visibility of the operations, resulting in faster response rates to incidents.”

As subscription and as-a-service adoption is increasing, MSPs and MSSPs are in search of ways to offer these models to their customers. Multitenant architecture supports flexible license management by brokering the total license number and assigning/revoking them to their customers on-demand. To illustrate, they can assign, as well as withdraw licenses to a customer at any time, based on the customer’s needs and requirements.

“With multitenancy, service providers can offer subscription models valid for a limited time, and once those subscriptions expire, the released licenses can be assigned to other customers.  In addition, a pay-as-you-grow model can be offered, allowing customers to increase their license volume as their business grows.”

Multitenancy capabilities improve operational efficiency while enhancing security for organizations, Gomulu explained. “Multitenancy enables MSPs and MSSPs to host multiple clients effectively, managing their client’s needs in a single instance deployment.  Rather than creating separate instances for each customer, by configuring each customer infrastructure as a tenant, MSSPs can save time and resources and the ability to scale their business rapidly, with shorter time-to-market, without the need for additional installations or new resources for every new instance.”

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