When e-commerce worlds collide

Todd Gould, an experienced EDI architect, has created a very simple and effective web services API for global EDI transit. ECGridOS offers global EDI for use by any developer, large or small. The Loren Data ECGrid connects to thousands of trading partners via a global mesh of commerce partner networks, and is now in production release.

This didn’t happen overnight. His company has been a trusted wholesale EDI messaging and routing broker for more than a decade. Don’t expect any less from Tood Gould, an expert on global EDI connectivity, and the President / CTO of Loren Data Corp.

ECGridOS is Todd’s grand architecture, his magnum opus; ECGridOS Web Services are here.

There are two worlds of electronic commerce. One is the click and buy world we all participate in. The other is the somewhat arcane business of industrial supply chain management. These worlds do meet at arm’s length, somewhere in the middle of order processing and logistics. My impression is that the best techniques for automated order conveyance has not fully crossed the bridge from industrial supply chain management into the more visible world of Web commerce. Pardon me, Web 2.0 e-commerce!

While it is easy to set up a shopping cart with a few clicks or API calls, the same cannot be said of classical SCM, especially if you are a mid market developer unfamiliar with the conventions of EDI and supply chain systems.

The prestigious VAR shops and capital line of business software (CLOB) vendors have long been masters of electronic document transit. But, regardless of your size or industry experience, why should EDI transit be so vexing? Why can’t EDI emulate modern web commerce? Simple to use API services are a marquee feature of modern internet commerce and popular messaging systems (IM, Twitter, many more). What’s up with that?

It’s high time that a simple API for EDI transit was provided for on-demand invocation of trading partner configuration and EDI transit. Indeed, any system should be able to use EDI global transit without the pain.

This is finally possible thanks to Loren Data Corp’s ECGridOS.

Well before the Internet era, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) was the way to order supplies, book deliveries, and settle electronic payments using EDI standards.
EDI documents are often time-sensitive, containing confidential data, and therefore require methods of accountability and delivery confirmation. EDI is a popular Intermediate Format of Record (IFR), used to facilitate easy interchange of data between disparate systems. Accountability is achieved by making these documents human readable and traceable, just like paper invoices and purchase orders. The instantiation of an EDI document can have the same legal weight as a paper purchase order, and exists as an independent entity, unlike a temporal database record, or its related transactions logs.

VANs are the ISR, or Intermediate Systems of record (legacy systems that track documents and connect trading partners). I am going to write more about IFR and ISR in a future posting, but we shall see that this is where the cleavage issues emerge between new age web commerce and traditional supply chain ways of doing business.

Traditionally, VANs handled the vertical integration of Big Systems and EDI document transit. This is a business of long-standing industry relationships that are increasingly required to route messages to an ever more diverse cadre of trading partners, both on and off the VANs. VANs are looking increasingly like solutions VARs with a WAN or IP tunneling system tacked on the side.

VAN’s charge transit by collecting mailbox setup fees and KC (Kilo Characters transmitted); so now you might see see why worlds of web commerce and supply chain enablers are so at odds – they don’t get each other.

Mid market VARs, bespoke developers, even BIG ERP vendors, would do well to consider what it is they are really buying when crafting a trading partner solution. Formatting a standard EDI document is a trivial task nowadays, whereas sending and managing EDI data between trading partners typically requires VAN contracts, hassling with external message tracking (that is not integrated with applications), KC fees, phone calls to configure new relationships, etc. This is all so….smokestack era.

However, even amidst the dissolution within our domestic supply chain, the VAN commerce industry creates value in their commerce integration services But the whole idea of captive trading partner relationships and metered EDI transit is, ultimately, a less sustainable strategy in this brave new world of open system. Things are changing, however.

ECGrid is the infrastructure connecting Electronic Commerce Service Providers (ECSPs) such as VANs, ASPs, trading hubs, and numerous other EDI systems. ECGridOS is the Web Services API that enables developers and service providers to build EDI transit functions into applications. On demand EDI transit and trading partner configuration are now a reality with a handful of API calls. This open approach to invoking EDI services is just the ticket to drive growth into markets that heretofore have not yet taken advantage of EDI for enabling commerce. This could be the bridge.

Growing this market is the key to Todd Gould’s vision. Only a fraction of business documents are electronic. With ECGridOS, EDI can be an integral part of any software system, large or small, whether conveyed by the august VAR, VAN, or a developer, in-house or independent. From big ERP OEM to highly specialized ISV, integrated EDI commerce is now real.

You can see the actual API methods here: ECGRidOS

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