OpenDJ Backends and Multi-Tenant Services

OpenDJ, the Open source LDAP Directory service built on the Java platform, offer plenty of flexibility to administrators to setup their environment. One specific area is how to deal with multi-tenants and hosting data from different companies.

In OpenDJ, the data is organized in database backends -and there can be many database backends-, each capable of hosting many separated “Base DN”, aka naming context or suffixes (think about “dc=Coca,dc=com” and “dc=Pepsi,dc=com”).

So we are often asked the best practices around multi-tenants, and whether it’s preferable to put the baseDNs in a single backend or to separate them,  each one in a separate backend ?

Before we dive in the response, it’s important to understand that a database backend is actually a whole database environment and as such the smallest unit for backup and restore procedure. And also that indexes are configured at the backend level, so all indexes configuration are identical for all base DNs in a backend.

There are several good reasons for using a backend per tenant :

  • Backends can be placed in different filesystems and disks, allowing better scalability, consistent performance.
  • Maintenance done on a backend does not affect the other backends and thus the other tenants. It’s also possible to define a separate recurrent backup schedule per backend.
  • From a security and privacy point of view for the customer, separation of data is better. Even though ACI are meant to prevent one tenant to see the other’s data, having separated backends will also ensure that this is also the case when doing backups, exporting data to LDIF…
  • Also, if there is a need to have different configuration of indexes for each tenant, because of the applications accessing the data, or because of the structure of the data itself, then they must be stored in separated backends.

All of this seems to lead to the point that each tenant should be in its own backend. Why supporting multiple base DNs in a single database backend then ? Well, when the data sets are small and consistent, from an administration point of view, it is much easier to deal with a single backend than many of them. It reduces time for configuration, monitoring of disk space and tend to optimize memory usage. It also simplifies the database cache management, as there is a cache per backend and the overall size must not exceed the JVM memory size, nor the machine’s one. As a single backend is able to scale to tens of million entries, there is no real penalty here.

As a conclusion, when deploying OpenDJ for multi-tenant services, make sure you properly evaluate your requirements for performance, security and privacy before configuring the server. But of course, you can also choose to mix backends with multiple tenants and separate backends for some larger and higher value customers (tenants).