The Drop-In VAN: ECGridOS and Biztalk Server-a Match Made in Heaven

ECGridOS and Business Automation Servers.

This article has generated very good pageviews, because folks are interested in the topic of integrating EDI network into the fabric of servers and applications, rather than the typical, arms length, no-control way of gaining EDI communications functions. Everything in this post applies to any software or server system, ERP, SAAS Platforms, etc. Biztalk was chosen as an example because we like it, sort of.

Drop a VAN into Biztalk? Yes. Use the ECGridOS Web Services to add every advanced administrative Commerce Network  function to Biztalk Server.

Biztalk is one of Microsoft’s better executed products for process orchestration. It has a very large ecosystem of developers, and fills a gap in mid range process and document centric work flow. Biztalk is often used in order and supply chain management, where EDI messages are an important part of the process. So we have one of the better use cases for the 78 carefully crafted functions of ECGridOS.

Biztalk is also increasingly becoming part of SAAS and PAAS offerings, with many hosted tenants gaining the benefit of the system’s orchestration features, either as pre-packaged functions, or as custom orchestrations. When the input or output of a process requires the consumption or outbound routing of an EDI document, or the full network authority to add users, trading partner ID’s, or mailboxes and interconnects, ECGridOS is currently the only web services component suite that offers such drop in functionality. Read on…

Launch your own SlideRocket presentation!

When I am educating folks in the SAAS, PAAS, ESB /SOA world about what ECGridOS can do, I usually whip out a benefits chart which is true in every detail. These are technical benefits. The business benefits are different for each client, so I am starting to ask more questions, i.e., what is important to you? I have gained some good feedback, and it seems that the administration of EDI messaging for users of business process management servers looks like this: (here is the chart and following discussion):

  • In-house developers for companies that run their own applications and manage their own stable of trading partners. You probably use a combination of AS2 and VAN FTP services. There is nothing wrong here. There are umpteen reasons why bringing the trading partner management and communications services inside the server is a good thing. We can talk about streamlined user processes, more trouble free connections, control over interconnects. It’s all true, but if the system is stable and administrative tasks are few and far between, sometimes better or even way better is not good enough. Over time, as ECGridOS gains market cachet, more in-house folks will take the jump.

However, we will focus on the second case – Professional ecommerce services operations that host many tenants on a Biztalk platform, or those who require the full flexibility of network authority at  the desktop, and at the appropriate user and administrative levels.

ECGridOS functions relating to user, mailbox, and routes administration, and of course messaging, are all consumable web services – they stand as 78 self contained functions that effect a persistent network state (a user or trading partner is added) or causes the return of data that is used for other purposes (network status, user info, trading partner look up).Relying on External Interfaces (Web Forms, emails, and phone calls, really) to manage an active user base is very cumbersome.For multi-tenant platforms, you would rather be a VAN than use a VAN. You would rather grant appropriate network administrative authorities via the administrator’s or users UI, as appropriate.  If this were difficult, it would not be worth it. However, it is very comforting to know that the #1 user of Loren Data Corp’s ECGridOS API, is none other than Loren Data Corp.

  1. Of the 78 ECGridOS Functions, those used for the most common setup tasks, combined with the more often executed messaging function totals in the vicinity of a couple of dozen well documented calls. A Visual Studio programmer or even an analyst working in a web services orchestration composer might take an afternoon, or faster, to get an admin add/drop user/ add/drop Trading partners and interconnections going.Sample code for VB, .Net, maybe some foundations classes that roll up common functions will be made available at some time in the near future.
  2. A community of developers will steadily grow to contribute code and tips. Until then we will share what we  are doing.Todd is creating a simple administrative Ajaxian Web app, and will be posting code.
  3. However, I want to be quite clear that ECGridOS is well ‘factored’. What mean you? Simply that the functions that you invoke mostly stand alone, and getting things done in a code free environment should not be a shocker for those willing to roll up sleeves and become familiarized with the ECGridOS docs.

    It is actually quite easy to drop in ECGridOS into  Biztalk or other automation server environments,  thereby gaining the full panoply of VAN functions – even including Network Operations functions that are not normally available to typical VAN clients. You can be the VAN, you can grant these functions to your users, and you make this one integration with ECGridOS you last item on the list. You now have access to over 600,000 global trading partners on over 65  VANS, direct commerce connections, and electronic commerce services providers.


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