The EDI Communications industry had pretty much settled on a few connection modalities before we brought ECGridOS to market. The ability to command and control the entire vertical stack of user functions required to enable a commerce communications network had never been offered by the industry – at least as a programmable interface. Todd, long an observer of the industry, saw that hosted applications (cloud commerce, if you will) were use cases that could specifically benefit from communications integration. There is also no shortage of Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 applications that have grown considerable user communities, but have not considered the ability to communicate within the typical EDI enabled supply chain businesses. We totally get why these dynamic new businesses like Freshbooks, and other innovative e-invoicing and lightweight accounting and management systems have steered clear. We are going to try and offer the tools and knowledge to remedy this situation. I personally hope that if some of the developers or even principals of these companies gets a chance to read this article, we might start a dialogue.
The idea of horizontal commerce communications ala X12 within these dynamic new Web based application communities has not happened as of yet, in a big way. There are good reasons for this, not the least of which is the complexity of the steps required to get peer buyer / supplier relationships working beyond communications setup (where ECGridOS excels). For example, despite the burgeoning availability of data handling tools, and the ability to liberate data from a strict field ordering, there has not been a large uptake of intersystem and even intra-system business document exchanges. Within these systems, the invoice reigns supreme, and it works quite well as the carrier of the most important data items between parties who typically use these Web 2.0 invoicing and small accounting systems.
Connecting disparate E 2.0 systems, including some of the pricier SAAS ERP systems, or even Netsuite based applications, seems almost as if there’s a foot stuck in the past, with FTP often hanging off the side of these systems, or the reliance on VAN connections, or cobbled up direct AS2 in some otherwise streamlined on-demand applications platform. Come on already! Integrate natively!
So for those wanting more, we can turn to the excellent culture of open APIs offered by these leading platforms. There’s a wealth of add-ons that leverage the Freshbooks API, and we can say that Web 2.0 business applications leveraging API’s as a business strategy have done quite well, adding a great channel for growth. Now, combining these great APis with an EDI communications API, mashing up as they say, plus a new series of interoperability enhancements being added to ECGridOS in 2011, and we are on our way to making that final connection. And, personally, I can’t wait to see the first mashups between ECGridOS and Twitter, for example. What a great way to send EDI related notifications; dont get me started, I’ll never shut up.
The most important thing: Bringing a set of component network services to market should inspire developers and applications vendors to create new, groundbreaking services. Sure, the motto here is “Be Your Own EDI Network with ECGridOS”, but what we always envisioned was for completely new, groundbreaking mashups, entry into E 2.0 and Web 2.0 Web Applications, PAAS, SAAS, Cloud B2B, and more. Sure, recreating a VAN service is now possible with nothing more than ECGridOS and a copy of Visual Studio or Eclipse, a little front end, our back-end infrastructure, and poof, you’re the VAN. But……I see so much more as an entirely new class of applications attaching via a set of REST APIs to say, FreshBooks, then traveling through ECGridOS as Canonical Class Objects, and then connecting on the other end to various E2.0 systems – with no translation or mapping needed. Stay tuned. This is just the start.
The next series of articles will not just draw a picture of the future and our hopes of what ECGrid and ECGridOS could attain, but what we will be providing in actual fact during the course of 2011 – about one post per week about ecommerce, E2.0, and the next frontier made possible by the combination of open APIs.
And, expect to see some very interesting applications and code demonstrating what can be done with APIs on different systems, when used with ECGridOS to connect to the world of global and local commerce.