This article is an invitation to those who are perplexed or frustrated with the state of As2 implementation. This is not a primer, I’m opening a door into Loren Data Corp’s product research on As2; applied research and development aimed at a “top to bottom” re-examination of how As2 is applied in the real world. If As2 has irked or mystified you, here is your chance to participate in what I call, “the redemption of As2”.
Todd Gould, the President of Loren Data Corp, is spearheading this effort. Todd designed ECGrid, the Advanced EDI Routing Network , and ECGridOS, the EDI Network and Trading Community management API for embedding VAN services into custom software and cloud applications. Todd is now setting his sights on As2 and this is your chance to interact with the industry’s leading EDI Communication’s architect.
Loren Data Corp offers managed As2, and for many years the company has dealt with the foibles of AS2, setting up As2 trading partners, managing certificates for 10’s of thousands of our clients trading partners etc.. For a long time, Todd and and the ECGrid Network Operations Team made copious notes of where improvements could be made, and more importantly, endeavored to address the issues of costs and the impact of commercial AS2 licensing. As2 software and the resources it requires are just outsized to the task. There had to be a better way, and Todd came to the conclusion that there is a much better way to acquire, configure, run, and manage very large AS2 communities, while eliminating most of the downsides of contemporary AS2 software. It’s a Comms service for heaven’s sake! In other words, “why can’t As2, VAN services, and reasonable cost of operations be combined?” Well? I have been studying the comms sector for a decade, and I never got a reasonable answer to these As2 questions. Who the hell needs it? Well, it’s a moot pont now, because:
- AS2 is here to stay – the historical mythology relating to the birth of the standard may be interesting, but these apocryphal musings are good for naught but for “after the NEECOM convention” drinking parties.
- As2, while figuring as a key data point in the nascent “VAN Exodus”, is still fussy, finicky, and costly (in commercial forms), an oddity.
- AS2’s fosters ‘islands of isolation” of the trading partners belonging to one or another hub. We should at least offer optional addressability, not a blithe retreat from any form of routable addressing or directories. This trend towards isolation is very shortsighted and troubling, a mote in the eye of the greater world of B2B Communications, and As2 in particular. – We should, as an industry, be culturing address-ability, rout-ability, interoperability, and ID / Network portability via public, directory services API’s.
- Just as other protocols became subsumed in the OS services or as browser client functions, we should all be expecting something much more integrated and extensible, component like, programmable. As2 should not be a limitation, or a cause of consternation, weeping and gnashing of teeth. It should be, as we say in regard to ECGridOS and EDI generally, ‘as easy as email, and dead simple for any programmer to invoke’.
If you keep your ear to the ground, and watch the web searches come in, or talk, as I do, to our clients and prospects, it surfaces that As2 is the cause of much vexation for hub and spoke alike. For mid-sized EDI users occupying one spoke, themselves having aspirations of becoming hubs (they are a trading partner in one chain, and they have trading partners in their own chain), the great divide of As2 Freeware and As2 $$Hubware$$” is very frustrating.
Todd has known this for a long time. He has operated As2 as a service for years, he has operated ECGrid VAN for 12 years, and as he has been in the EDI business for twenty five years. Todd took the initiative and rolled up his engineering sleeves to address the deficiencies haunting As2. NOTE: When Todd Gould sets his sights on a technical or usability target in the B2B Communications sector, interested parties should well take note.
So, my dear friends and fellow B2B industry solutions professionals, there is no mystery regarding AS2, as to what it is, or what it does. AS2 is a functional way to transfer files securely from one system to another. AS2 uses HTTP as a transport mechanism, and uses Certificates (Public Key Certificates) for payload encryption. The AS2 RFC is available for anyone to read, and describes the AS2 state machine and how it reacts and functions. The problems that have been baked into As2 are not endemic to the standard, they are created by less then stellar software engineering, and suffer from an all too typical lack of foresight as to how such systems are actually used by novices and other entities that need these systems to “just work”. That has not happened. Yet.
You can play a role in the rebirth of As2, and liberate the isolated trading partners on As2 island-hubs the world over. As2 can have the addressability of email or VAN ID’s, As2 can be virtually self-servicing. and, Loren Data has started the re-engineering…..we call upon you, the As2 users, particularly the large hubs that are wroth with the limitations of As2, to join our President and CTO for some design participation in Loren Data’s next great wave of innovation – simply call or email us to begin the journey.