PRESS-RELEASE | October 21, 2021

What's new in version 5.7: better alignment with Google Workspace billing terms, billing of Azure RI and third-party resources for Microsoft Azure Plan, and new SDK for payment gateway integrations

October 21, 2021: ActivePlatform, the market player in automated cloud service brokerage systems, released version 5.7 of its cloud sales automation platform.

During the last few months, we completed several major features. Among them are improved support of non-refund billing of Google Workplace and billing of Azure RI and third-party resources for Microsoft Azure Plan. Also, we added more instruments to control subscriptions that require a careful approach. Finally, we got ready for future integrations with payment gateways.

Google Workplace and Monthly Commitment

We are moving steadily toward better alignment with the Google Workspace billing terms. First, ActivePlatform now natively supports billing with monthly obligations. A new billing type is stricter than the general monthly one but does not require from a customer a one-year payment like annual billing types.

The Monthly Commitment billing type rules assume that customers take an obligation for the minimum monthly payment. It means that they cannot refuse any of the ordered resources during the whole subscription period. Accordingly, there are no refunds for the stopped period, and subscription downgrading is not allowed.

Here you can compare the key differences between the existing Monthly and Annual billing types and a new Monthly Commitment billing type:
The new approach ensures that resellers in the cloud brokerage platform cannot lose money when a service does not support refunds. That allows us to get rid of several custom solutions and move all Google Workspace Annual monthly subscriptions to the Monthly Commitment billing type.

Google Workplace and shifting the expiration date after renewing an expired subscription

Here is another passed milestone on the track to improving integration with Google Workspace. Renewing expired Google Workspace subscriptions is now available for customers via their self-service portal. Previously, it required contacting the technical support team.

It became possible due to a new logic of setting the expiration date when an expired subscription is renewed. A new option is available on the plan level and allows choosing between two algorithms:
  • The expiration date is constant — the subscription period is reduced. This is the default behavior. Many services use this billing logic, including Microsoft CSP billing and VMware vCloud billing.
For example, a one-year monthly subscription was ordered on May 15, 2020. A customer does not pay for its renewal in time, and the subscription stops on May 14, 2021. Then, a week later, on May 21, 2021, the customer decides to continue using the service and pays for renewing. The new expiration date is set to May 14, 2022, but the first payment amount, and therefore the yearly price, are reduced due to the period being reduced by a week.
  • The expiration date is shifted — the subscription period is constant. This is the new behavior. It is primarily dedicated to Google Workspace.
In this case, after renewing, the expired subscription from the previous example gets the new full one-year period from May 21, 2021, to May 20, 2022. While the first payment amount is reduced, the last payment amount is increased respectively, so the yearly price of the subscription is not changed.

Billing of Azure RI and third-party resources for Microsoft Azure Plan

Microsoft Azure Plan subscriptions can be associated with resources from Azure Marketplace. Among them are reserved instances (Azure RI) and resources published by third parties.
ActivePlatform allows all customers with Microsoft Azure Plan subscriptions to order reserved (Azure RI) and third-party resources directly via Azure Marketplace.
In version 5.7, the platform starts to calculate the consumption of these resources. The data is stored within a customer's Microsoft Azure Plan subscription. It allows improving the reconciliation process between the vendor, CSP resellers, and customers.

After processing the final invoice from Microsoft, the platform displays the costs of reserved (Azure RI) and third-party resources in the "Analytics" section of the Customer Control Panel as separate categories. As a result, customers get a consistent experience with Microsoft Azure Plan subscriptions while CSP resellers have all their numbers in one place.

Other Microsoft CSP platform improvements

To support new Microsoft requirements, we implemented additional validation of a customer's company name. The operator can now specify the lists of forbidden characters, abbreviations, and TLDs. Using only them for a customer's company name will not be permitted. This quick and straightforward solution prevents most errors on the Microsoft side. At the same time, its flexibility allows resellers not to impose excessive restrictions. For example, when customers do not have any Microsoft subscriptions at all.

Managers of resellers that work with 1C and NetSuite can now receive notifications on processing the Microsoft Azure Plan consumption data. Such a notification helps them avoid repetitive manual checking and start their work on invoices with no delay.

More opportunities to avoid accidental stopping subscriptions

We know how customers' loyalty can be more important for resellers than timely payments. This update tackles one of the most controversial points here — unwanted but legit stopping subscriptions.

Previously, resellers in ActivePlatform could only arrange customers into groups and rely on manual confirmation to stop their subscriptions. However, this solution is not enough anymore.

Infrastructural subscriptions like Microsoft Azure Plan or VMware vCloud more often run all vital business processes of different customers. Managing manual approvals on the plan level became more demanded than for individual customers or subscriptions.

So resellers can now use a more tailored approach and configure additional manual confirmations for plans. The new settings are applied to all customers.

One more solution here is using the grace period. It is now available for monthly prolongation operations. Once it is allowed by a reseller, customers may postpone their payments and continue using services in the upcoming billing period.

The new settings are automatically delegated to downstream resellers as read-only. It helps maintain the same quality level of direct and indirect selling of cloud services.

SDK for payment gateways integration

As the first step for future integrations, we introduce support of customers' payments via payment gateways and the SDK to quickly integrate with ActivePlatform. You can now add any popular payment gateways like Stripe or Assist to your reseller network. A payment gateway provides security while the platform does not store any customers' payment credentials.

Unlike the previously implemented solution based on plugins, new integrations do not require access to the platform core source. It makes the development process more secure and flexible.

Different subscription order flows for managers and customers

ActivePlatform can now handle separate sets of additional order attributes for customers and managers when they order a subscription. It may be helpful when provisioning includes any non-public data. For example, a reseller has a unique code from a vendor to get a discount or reward based on the ordered subscriptions. In this case, managers specify the code on an additional step in the Operator Control Panel or Reseller Store. In contrast, this step is skipped for customers in their self-service portal (Customer Control Panel).
The feature is applied to products created in Vendor Portal only and must also be implemented on a microservice side to work correctly. To read more about using additional order attributes for integration with ActivePlatform, see Vendor Portal. Integration Guide.
To view the complete list of new features and improvements, refer to our release notes.
About ActivePlatform
ActivePlatform is a full-service automated cloud brokering solution for cloud service providers and internal IT hubs that makes it easier to manage and control the cloud delivery and profitability. ActivePlatform unites vendors, providers, developers, and resellers into a single ecosystem for buying, selling, and managing cloud services. With its open vendor integration framework, ActivePlatform creates a vibrant catalog of cloud services ultimately helping businesses gain access to the services they need to thrive.
ActivePlatform enables SaaS, PaaS, IaaS aggregation, delivery, and monetization, provides simplified administration through central management, and enables critical visibility into resellers and cloud services consumption and usage. The platform has implementations with distributors, cloud solution providers, and telecom operators. ActivePlatform is headquartered in Europe.
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