Part 1 – Implementing a multi-tenant offering in Azure using CSP


Steve Luper, Cloud Solution Architect

Be sure to join us for a community call on Tuesday, January 30 regarding Implementing a multi-tenant offering in Microsoft Azure using Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. Leading up to that call we are running a two-part series identifying how to define a multi-tenant offering, who it is best for, and solutions through use cases.  

Let’s start by agreeing on the definition of a couple of the (potentially) loaded terms in the title of this article.

Multi-tenant – Having researched a variety of different sources to define multi-tenancy including Gartner, Wikipedia, and Computerworld, I haven’t found one that works perfectly for me. Therefore, I’ve opted to list a handful of characteristics—leveraging pieces from the above—that I feel help to understand multi-tenancy rather than just providing a definition. Here they are:

  • A tenant groups users who share a common access to the software instance
  • The instances (tenants) are logically isolated, but physically integrated
  • When multiple independent instances of one or more applications operate in a shared environment
  • A single instance of software running on a server(s) or cloud environment and serving multiple tenants
  • The exact degree of multi-tenancy is based on how much of the core application is designed to be shared across tenants

CSP – CSP is Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider program. It means different things to different people but, foundationally, CSP allows partners to transact Microsoft’s cloud services (Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Azure and more in addition to things like Windows via subscription) while helping them go beyond reselling to being more involved in their customer’s business.

CSP partners usually have deep engagement with their customers, add value to customers by offering industry-specific solutions bundled with Microsoft products, and frequently provide managed services to their customers. This article isn’t intended to provide a full CSP education on its own. You can learn much more about CSP and find the CSP Documentation related to Partner Center as good resources. I’ll chat more about Partner Center shortly.

If you currently offer or intend to offer a purely multi-tenant SaaS solution to your customers, you think of yourself as an ISV, and the Azure consumed by a per customer deployment doesn’t impact how much the customer pays you on a recurring basis, you’d likely be better served acquiring Azure for your solution on your own Enterprise Agreement, and the balance of this article won’t be appropriate for you.

Partner Center and Partner Shared Services overview

Now on to the topic at hand. The use case(s) that are relevant to the balance of this series (Part 2) include offerings where the partner deploys their intellectual property (IP) as part of the customer facing offering but usually in conjunction with their managed and professional services. This means that there are components of the solution that are shared across all customers and that there are other components that are unique to each customer deployment (or instance) of the solution.

In our Part 2 of this topic, I’m going to give you a couple of examples of partner offers that work well with this approach. Since my example solutions rely on Partner Shared Services within CSP, I’ll take a moment to show you Partner Center and Partner Shared Services.

Partner Center is the portal where CSP partners manage their CSP relationship with Microsoft as well as provision and manage customers and the subscriptions (both license-based like Office 365 and usage-based like Azure) that customers transact with the partner.

You can refer to the full documentation for Partner Shared Services. My small sampling of that documentation is that if you haven’t yet created your Shared Services tenant, within the Partner Center Dashboard, select Account settings > Shared services then click Create shared services.

Once you have created it, you’ll see it within your CSP Dashboard and you’ll be able to manage and use it like any other Azure subscription keeping in mind that it is intended “…for hosting shared services. It is not a typical customer tenant.”

Our upcoming community call

Remember to join us for a community call on Tuesday, January 30th regarding Implementing a multi-tenant offering in Azure using CSP  to learn how to go beyond transacting Microsoft’s cloud services to being more involved in your customer’s business.

Follow up on CSP

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