A Platform Approach to Communications – ECGrid – Tailor Made for connecting established and emerging B2B Clouds

“Why API?”, is shorthand for, “Who benefits from the 115+ functions in the ECGridOS EDI network management API“?

But first, would we be here at all without the burgeoning community of skilled developers who are now deploying ECGridOS as an integral part of their B2B solutions? I think not! Therefore, I acknowledge our most committed partners, and point most excitedly to their use cases. It’s all you, guys and gals, it’s all you.

Taking Bold Action: A mission critical comms sector in dire need of imaginative engineering – One man’s Solitary Quest:

Operating Systems offer communications services that underpin many applications. SMTP, HTTP, what have you, we expect the ability to access rich communications services as a native function on most platforms, IDE’s, and OS’es. EDI Communications have traditionally been left to the mercies of external service providers, and have not evolved to the point of ubiquity.

The limitations of today’s raw EDI communications services, from any point of view, is a sore subject. New entrants to the B2B market, those with the freshest ideas, and those in the vanguard of the On-Demand Enterprise 2.0 model, are the future of the ‘commerce cloud’ –  these operators are simply unfathomable sources of inspired ideas within their respective verticals, e.g.,  inventory integration, ERP, Logistics, Retail, and hundreds of other specialized market slices that are ripe for EDI aided solutions. These vertical and micro-vertical ventures deserve much better than the limited services offered from traditional EDI communications systems – they deserve native communications accesible from a custom code-base. The very best communications should be integrated with a system’s GUI, or otherwise be embedded at a fundamental level in the back end, resulting in completely transparent communications for the end-user. (Users should not be expected to know the details of EDI communications setup and transaction monitoring – and the fact that many end-users do indeed have to be involved with such arcana, is a blight upon the industry’s house).

Of course, until the advent of ECGridOS, the foregoing was not the case at all within the EDI Communications sector.  Veteran organizations who also suffer at the hands of the ‘EDI status quo’ deserve to gain the ability to offer richer services, rather than being stymied by a communications palette that is limited to uploads and downloads, administrative interfaces via a provider’s web page or even more foul, a configuration regime where changes are updated via phone calls and emails to a Network Operations support queue. OMG Yikes (or, Yoicks)!

Such early 20th century communications methodologies are…..unseemly when cast into the role of supporting  and servicing today’s futuristic ‘B2B Commerce Clouds’. There simply must be a better way forward, because it is, after all, almost 2012 !!

Happy New Year

So, yes, EDI Communications has historically offered us a rather boring tableaux of options, and peering into the industry soul,  I see that not much has evolved of late. Therefore, at what point do we, as colleagues, demand the next evolution of B2B communications architecture? Who indeed will deliver such innovation?

The above state of affairs was foreseen years ago by Todd Gould, Loren Data Corp’s President and CTO. Quite independently, while I was working as a B2B Product Analyst, I felt that a change was absolutely necessary for EDI Communications to keep pace with a growing, on-demand world of web based applications.  My analyst’s marching orders were to address the cultural and architectural issues fermenting within the B2B sector. And now, in cooperation with Todd since 2009, we are working to promote the applied philosophy of EDI Communications delivered as a family of platform solutions.

ECGridOS (and the upcoming Superhub AS2 modular architecture) bolsters the ECGrid host network with a 115+function Web Services API – a callable, Domain Specific Library of remote functions, running on ECGrid Server racks in Loren Data Corp’s SAS70 Data Centers. ECGridOS and Superhub are far more than replacements for standard communications methodologies; the API can be invoked, mixed, and matched with FTP, AS2 (externally and within the API), or any channel supported by ECGrid, including SMTP and X400 mail systems.

ECGridOS is to EDI Communications what mobile application ecosystems are to the various app markets (including the communications plumbing) – creating opportunities for new classes of applications that are driven by the fertile imaginings of developers, as well as enhanced interoperability among collegial competitors of goodwill. We do see a richer, diverse, and more competitive market, arising from a well engineered communications platform architecture. Such open interoperability and carrier-class network management provides B2B end-users with more choices, competitive pricing, and a market encompassing true technological innovation. We believe that we have sown in fertile soil, and are prepared for an era of renewed innovation. Participation in new industry (communications) standards  will begin the reinvention of EDI Communications to its true nature – an applied science.

The vision: dozens of competitors building on a a set of defined platform APIs, resulting in an explosion of EDI applications, mashups, and ever more diverse end-users, while also automating what have become all too common –  horribly manual, repetitive, and vexing processes for end-users and network operators alike.

Our initial answer now is Loren Data Corp’s comprehensive communications architecture: (ECGrid / ECGridOS / Superhub), a masterwork under Todd’s engineering guidance. And, hopefully, my endeavors in addressing the philosophical barriers inherent in inter-platform EDI communications. We shall see. We are off to a good start.

How does one busta move in this business(translation, get in)?

The creation of ECGrid®, Loren Data Corp’s advanced host network, was driven by the early Service Providers (like SPS Commerce) who were seeking a next step in the evolution of communications technology. While VANs offered mailboxes, ECGrid offered node level attachement, where the industry at large offered support oriented to the end-user, ECGrid provided a “Responsible Party to Responsible Party” model of support. Where most EDI networks subsumed X12.56 mailbags, Todd engineered ECGrid to promote mailbags into first class, accessible objects. All of these refinements, and many, many more, were engineered into the ECGrid interconnection and message brokering fabric.

Loren Data Corp’s direct, first name basis support model, and its commitment to not service end-users, are bedrock underlying the founder’s long-term vision; Loren Data does not trample client relations by refraining from offering software, integration, or mapping services. Focusing solely on enhanced communications for professional service providers and a new crop of B2B Cloud operators, Todd and his team of five expert, principal operators, are reaping tangible results: ECGrid downtime has totaled less than 11 hours (scheduled and unscheduled) over the course of the last decade. (Furthermore, no outage has ever resulted in a 100% loss of connection availability or intersystem connection capacity, due to ECGrid’s disturbed design. Pretty smart, Todd.

Advanced B2B Ventures and OEM’s requiring an integrated, streamlined communications back-end designed from the ground up for on-demand B2B services, should investigate the ECGridOS API;  Currently, ECGridOS is the only  EDI intersystem commerce communications network granting complete operational authority to its clients. Savvy developers should peruse the online API docs at http://ecgridos.net API docs.

The implications of offering an EDI Communications platform API in the present-era B2B market is disruptive; especially for those giving the least bit of thought to the issues of EDI transaction management. With the industry in the midst of consolidation, upheaval, and some destructive actions driven by the fearful insecurities of its largest incumbent…. well, then, retaining full authority over your EDI Communications has never been more important. Therefore, I invite you to please, join us along with your colleagues who presently enjoy the security, independence, and substantial technical and support benefits of being ECGrid Clients.

I will end 2011 by rapidly publishing the following topical articles, before year’s end. Happy holiday, and a fine and profitable, spiritual new year.

Articles for year’s end:

The State of the B2B Communications Industry, from this analyst’s perspective

The “VAN Exodus” Dichotomy – what does it mean? Does it even exist? What could possibly replace a system that serves a population of 500,000+ VAN trading partners?

The essential truths of Communications infrastructure providers, and standards that we hold them to.

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