Distributors & Subsidiaries can now self-manage licenses

By Mike Wozniak | Releases

Apr 04

Support for multi-tenancy has been available since the original 1998 launch of SOLO Server Automation​.  Recently, we adapted these multi-tenancy features to provide the same exact services to software publishers who had the requirement to let their subsidiaries / distributors manage their own licenses in an isolated environment.

Background

While working with larger (Fortune 500) companies, we realized there was a need for the parent company to license software to subsidiaries and/or distributors.  In this case, the parent company had global access to all data, whereas the subsidiary/distributor had access to manage only the licenses associated with their account.

We quickly determined that the same isolation provided by the multi-tenancy features for SOLO Server Automation could be leveraged for subsidiaries and distributors.

Now, we are excited to announce in SOLO Server version 1.18.1.0, a new Multi-Tenant Catalog Mode feature of SOLO Server that allows a "master" catalog to be maintained on a "parent" author account, with the ability to replicate all or some of the master catalog to "child" author accounts.  The new feature can be enabled for an ​additional fee on​ SOLO Server Dedicated URL and SOLO Server Self-Hosted accounts.  

This is intended for scenarios involving subsidiaries or distributors, where the customers and licenses should be segregated for each subsidiary/distributor, but product catalog maintenance and software builds are done against the master catalog data. In this mode, a master catalog is maintained on a parent author account.  Each child author account then inherits a selective copy of the master catalog, which can be re-synchronized after any changes to the parent catalog. 

​Multi-Tenant Catalog Mode Benefits

The new multi-tenant catalog mode for subsidiaries / distributors, has many benefits:

  • The subsidiary will take responsibility for providing customer service to their licensed customers.  This will include helping the customer when a license or a service expires, or when customers need to change their address, re-set a license, etc.
  • Since the subsidiary will be responsible for their own customers, the main office will not become flooded with customer service requests.
  • Each subsidiary will have access to only their own customers, keeping sensitive information hidden from other subsidiaries.
  • Smaller subsidiaries will have less customer data to sort through to find the correct customer, saving time and potential confusion.
  • Any web endpoints which verify the Product ID or Product Option ID will validate against the values of the parent product/product option, and the encryption key of the parent author will be used. This allows maintaining a single software build which will work across all child authors.
  • Similarly, the download page in the customer license portal will use the parent author's ESD directory, allowing a single download to be maintained.

Leveraging Isolated Multi-Tenancy​

SOLO Server was originally designed with the idea of isolated multi-tenancy, meaning that multiple entities (we call them authors) can exist in the same SOLO Server database.  Each author account has their own set of:

  • Products
  • Customers
  • Licenses
  • User Login Accounts for managing only that author's customers/licenses

Senior server administrators have global access to see all customers and licenses from all author accounts and even switch to one of the author accounts to impersonate their company and make changes to their individual account.

We will use the term "subsidiary" throughout the rest of this post to be used for Distributors / Subsidiaries / any other entity where license isolation is needed.

Standard Multi-Tenant ​Features

When we enable the multi-tenancy features on your SOLO Server instance and grant your user login Global Access, you will begin seeing a new section below the menu bar, highlighted with a red box in the picture below:

Then when using Customers / Advanced Search menu option, those with Global Access will have another checkbox option called Global Search:

This lets your top-level admins choose between searching for a company name globally or just in the context of selected author account.

Each Subsidiary is a Separate Author Record

 The SOLO Server instance will have a master/parent author account which contains:

  • The logins who have global access throughout the entire database.
  • The master product catalog.

Each subsidiary will have their own author account which contains:

  • The logins who have access to only this author's account and licenses.
  • A synchronized copy of the full or partial product catalog (all products or selected products) from the parent.

When adding a new subsidiary:

  1. Switch to the parent author account with the master product catalog.
  2. Use Admin / Add a New Author Account menu option and enter basic contact details about the subsidiary.
  3. Choose which product(s) should be copied to the subsidiary author account. A link will be established between the parent product catalog item and the copied product catalog item.
  4. Create the first login/user account for the new subsidiary who will then be administrator and responsible for managing the account and setting up additional users.

Product Catalog Synchronization

​After initial catalog synchronization, it may be necessary to re-synchronize the child author catalog to replicate changes from the parent catalog to the child catalog, or to replicate additional product(s) to the child author account.

View the manual topic for more details on how to re-synchronize the catalogs.

Contact Us ​to learn how to enable the SOLO Server Automation Multi-Tenant product catalog feature on your account!

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About the Author

Mike Wozniak is one of the co-founders of SoftwareKey.com and responsible for marketing, content and product strategy. When he isn't plotting new ways to help customers solve licensing and business automation challenges, he likes to travel and entertain guests who come to visit the Orlando area. He also writes most of the licensing tips here.