EDI plus XML boosts B2B

Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI, long held promise as a worldwide business-to-business panacea. But for too many years, the technology was to complex and too pricey, among other things, to spread beyond the world's largest corporations that could afford to implement the technology for B2B transactions.

While EDI never reached the heights predicted on-and-off over the past couple of decades, it remains a key technology in some very important locations. At the same time, the spread of Internet technologies through the late 1990s and beyond promised cheaper, less complex B2B technology for the majority of businesses large and small without the time or finances to implement an EDI network.

The emergence of the Extensible Markup Language (XML) is promising to join the two worlds and connect EDI and Web-based B2B networks, significantly expanding the reach of all size firms with their suppliers and customers. The question for IT development managers is whether an integration of XML and EDI technology can only be done by hand—a costly, complex and labor-intensive process.

In this month's cover story ("Rewiring EDI: XML makes new connections"), consultant and XML guru Dave Hollander explains how a new integration approach called Enterprise Integration Modeling (EIM) can automate the linking and synchronizing of XML and EDI business content. The model-driven approach, Hollander wrote, can enable IT developers to leverage previous efforts and thus significantly cut labor costs.

Hollander outlines the process of implementing EIM and hazards likely to be seen by development managers. Though he concludes EIM is a very important advance in B2B technologies, Hollander also notes that it's not a panacea. Nonetheless the falling B2B stars like Ariba and CommerceOne shouldn't sway corporations away from a B2B model. Despite the crash of a slew of B2B technology suppliers, the potential still exists for huge business benefits. But it's important to do it right. This story will help in the decision-making process.

This issue also features a look at IBM's evolving strategy for its middleware and development tools and services. As of this fall, the strategy revolves around an expanded WebSphere platform that encompasses everything from traditional development tools, to transaction processing monitors like CICS and Encina, to updated application servers.

In this story, several top IBM Software Group executives explain the strategy and direction for the new WebSphere line with some important input from customers and analysts. The IBM folks maintain that the strategy could spell trouble for rivals like Oracle, BEA and Microsoft. We'll wait and see.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.