What Is Multi-tenancy?

Multi-tenancy in a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) enables managed service providers (MSPs) to log in to a single GUI to manage and monitor multiple end customers, called tenants, through the same SD-WAN network management system using the same set of underlying server resources.

How does SD-WAN multi-tenancy architecture work?

Using multi-tenancy, MSPs can manage multiple customers (called tenants), in the same SD-WAN network management system. This allows for efficient sharing of a set of underlying controllers.

Each tenant has a dedicated tenant portal and can be assigned tenant administrative privileges to build network configurations and policies as well as onboard devices specific to their organization's requirements.

For example, one customer may wish to provide internet access to corporate users directly from the branch, while another customer wants all branch traffic to be diverted through the MSP's data center before connecting to the internet.

How is single tenancy different from multi-tenancy?

In a single-tenancy model for deploying SD-WAN controllers, dedicated server resources, such as CPU, memory, and storage, need to be allocated for every customer the MSP creates. This is much less efficient than in a multi-tenant architecture, because a provider must log in to each individual customer's GUI to configure their network and to control policies that enable each customer's network.

Benefits of SD-WAN multi-tenant architecture


A multi-tenant architecture gives an MSP the flexibility of using a single dashboard to onboard and manage multiple customers and thousands of devices.

To better understand multi-tenant architecture, you can compare it to a hotel operator managing climate controls in each room from a common dashboard. All the rooms share the underlying heating and cooling resources, and the operator can choose how much control to give each guest. The operator also gets full visibility to all the rooms and can see when there are system issues and set the lower and upper temperature limits.

For unoccupied rooms, the operator may choose to set policies to more efficiently regulate room temperatures based on variables such as the season or the local climate. This would certainly be more efficient than physically visiting each room throughout the day. It would also be much more efficient to share the heating and cooling resources than to maintain individual units for each room.

Likewise, multi-tenant SD-WAN architectures allow providers to manage multiple tenants from one dashboard, adding flexibility and driving efficiency by sharing resources across tenants.


Similarly, multi-tenancy also gives providers horizontal visibility for device and controller health through a common dashboard. When dealing with large networks distributed across multiple regions with hundreds of applications and thousands of devices, the MSP must continually monitor network performance, capacity, and other variables, and adjust policies as needed.

In a multi-tenant SD-WAN architecture, the MSP can also see all the networks it is managing and can quickly identify where to optimize the networks and proactively prevent performance issues.


MSPs must be able to quickly scale up and down to adapt to changing business situations and customer needs. Perhaps a managed service provider is adding services for a handful of new customers, or one of its customers plans to open 50 new branches in the next 6 months. In such scenarios, multi-tenancy capabilities help the MSP to easily add those new tenants, and to enable their SD-WAN connectivity and services. When customers need more capacity, the provider simply deploys more controllers to the set of underlying shared resources.

Co-management capabilities

When customers decide to turn over their network management to an MSP, some prefer to hand over all controls, while others still want some level of visibility and control. In a multi-tenant SD-WAN architecture, the provider has the administrative privileges, and depending on its agreement with each tenant, can determine how much control the tenant has, through a customized tenant portal. For example, a customer may want the ability to onboard new devices but not to set new policies or change existing ones. The provider can easily set the level of access that meets this customer's requirements.


As networks expand to meet the demands of hybrid work, and as user and IoT devices proliferate, MSP customers' IT departments are looking for ways to reduce complexity and streamline operations. Multi-tenant SD-WAN architectures do just that by driving efficiency for providers. This ultimately can save money for MSPs.

MSPs can reduce capital expenditures and increase efficiency by using a multi-tenant architecture, which will allow them to use a set of shared hardware and software resources.

They can save on operating expenditures by using the same set of administrators to manage and control multiple tenants' configurations. Similarly, controller upgrades are much more efficient. Uptime increases and maintenance needs decrease because multiple tenants' software can be upgraded at the same time.