Mastery Matters in the Rapidly Changing EDI Communications Business
Wherever I land professionally, the luck of the draw finds me surrounded by fanatics, people with a focus on doing great works. These are the masters. Although I cannot claim such personal mastery at any skill, other than occasional cogent industry analysis, I was an avid bass player in my youth, practicing for hours, a committed free-style skydiver that had a great time trying to become competitive (expensive). I love motorcycles and I have a current love affair with Maxi Electric Scooters, a new obsession. What does all this have to do with EDI and the Mission of Loren Data Corp?
We are a small, tight group of technologists that are immersed in communications sciences that will affect EDI and Commerce communications infrastructure for years to come. Mastery became an issue of particular interest due to this article by career blogger Penelope Trunk. And, with all that is happening here at Loren Data outside of our actual business of helping developers large and small crack the next level of EDI Communications efficiency and Integrated Cloud Power – you know….I wanted to take a moment and highlight what makes this group of EDI Network scientists so, masterful.
Other than the hobbies or avocations of the crew here, I want to look at Team Loren Data’s obsession with delivering advanced network sciences to the EDI business, looking past pushing files around within vertical supply chains, and start looking forward to creating commerce communications tools and services that can be broadly applied to any horizontal or vertical transaction system. As an aside note regarding the hobbies of our merry band, we have am avid sailor, an Ironman triathlete, and a crusader-advocate for children’s diabetes treatment and prevention. All are obsessed with their avocations and their professional commitment to the mastery of the science of EDI communications.
I am hard pressed to see any fresh ideas in the EDI Network business. Technology markets do settle and consolidate; however, seeing the E2.0 sector blow up with venture capital and angel investments, I would expect something, anything noteworthy from the EDI network providers or B2B OEM software vendors. No doubt, there have been some improvements and incremental upgrades, and plenty of lip service stroking collaboration and social business, but do we see any breakout technologies? In covering the industry, I read 400 news feeds daily, I talk to other B2b analysts, and I am still coming up with a lukewarm environment of innovation.
So, in greatly condensed form, here are some of what we at Loren Data feel is worth experimenting with in beta programs, in R&D, or as simply compelling topics for further technical development in B2B communications and applications sciences: Component Network Services and API’s for Service Delivery:
1) The future belongs to the mashup, not packaged interfaces. The great sin of the EDI Communications Industry is in not anticipating the cloud revolution. The richness of Enterprise 2.0, multi-tenant SAAS platforms, seems to beg for rich network services than can be used to build flexible and as yet unheard of B2B applications. Todd Gould, the founder and President here, took the first steps in crafting an API for EDI communications and session management of B2B applications, starting with the development of the ECGridOS API – long before the cloud was a fully formed concept or common term of art. That kind of foresight takes great vision and the willingness to risk time and resources.
Now that ECGridOS is a proven, robust platform, more can be done by taking this powerful API, and making it work (mashing it up) with other identity and media sharing platforms to achieve, who knows, instant frictionless trading partner pairings? Dream, innovate, and be masterful – we know you will. So there is one innovation delivered to market – the API to create, manage, and embed EDI network services into OEM applications, SAAS, and cloud datacenter services. Viola. One down, and that’s a big one that will keep growing in power as the developer community grows with us.
2) EDI Routing Stagnation must end. This critical infrastructure is languishing and is fraught with interconnection issues. The EDI industry is responsible for handling transactional messages representing billions of dollars in trade. The current routing system cannot see beyond one leg, offers no alternative or replicable failover routes, and no directory services or ID portability. Whether or not you agree that these particular issues are as important as I portray them to be, we all know that present architectural weaknesses in EDI Routing and Inter-VAN architecture are in dire need of a refresh, imagination, and applied communications sciences. Such complacency serves no one, not the system operators nor the customers. But the bright spot is that bringing new component network services to market creates more opportunities to build on top, and add value.
Industry advocacy will drive forward future improvements in EDI network architectures. There are existing, modern messaging standards and systems waiting to be adapted. Thankfully, EDI networks currently run on top of a flexible IP transit network used for commercial email, voice over IP, and many other higher level services and protocols. It’s time, finally, to implement a system that is worthy of future investment and fertilize the ground for new services.
The overhaul would enhance network operations for VANs, supplier hubs, and specialty EDI networks (like Loren Data Corp), giving us lower support costs, flexibility, and richer value added services layers. (Real value added services, guys, not the, “values subtracted” of today).
3) The trading partners must be honored first, last and always. This means honoring the choices made by the trading partners and not locking them in by: a) fostering alternatives via an active industry of alternative networks and service providers, b) honoring a small trading partner’s wishes to access their supply chains regardless of which VAN the mutual trading partner is on. Interconnection should remain collegial and non-settlement between bona fide networks, and c) bailment should be considered a sacred obligation – VANs must stand behind their commitment to deliver, maintaining the industry’s current inter-network connections, and investing in future improvements to enhance the ubiquitous mesh of competitive networks should be a pledge from us to all of our customers.
Having covered these issues we are ready for a discussion of the particulars of which specific technologies could be deployed to overhaul the EDI industry. The adoption of standard messaging technologies, adoption of a modern, hierarchical routing system to replace a thoroughly broken 1:1 route plan, directory services to help locate and relocate network subscribers, and the push towards a renaissance in VAN interconnection policy.
These precepts reaffirm the collegial system of inter-VAN relations and the traffic management practices that built our industry over decades – and can only be made better, more automated, and more transparent by competitors of goodwill coming together and implementing visionary standards.
Finally, we need a firm commitment to establish of a set of rules and requirements defining EDI systems interconnection as non-settlement by design. This formality simplifies the rates and relationships for end-users and intermediate system operators (service providers) using the infrastructure of our messaging utilities.