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Testing still B2B bottleneck

Testing and verifying trading partner connections, a time-consuming process, has become another B2B bottleneck, according to Phil Robinson, strategic accounts manager at Drake Certivo Inc., a supply-chain testing vendor based in Newport Beach, Calif.

For a large manufacturer, setting up B2B connections with smaller trading partners involves a lot of manual testing by developers on both ends, he said.

''I think the major push back from B2B right now is the old story of how much time people spend,'' said Robinson, who as part of his job works with RosettaNet on furthering implementation of its trading partner standard. ''We're seeing firms in the high-tech industry where they have to use RosettaNet and then they have to deal with the auto industry or the oil industry and they all have their own vertical flavor of XML. It's very time consuming.''

Despite the potential benefits of B2B, sorting through all the standards and technologies is still mostly a manual process, he noted.

''It's old-fashioned trail and error done by two people who may be hundreds or thousands of miles apart,'' Robinson explained. ''Just the conversations are time consuming, if you can imagine having to be on the phone talking back and forth for weeks and weeks to get everything right.''

While his focus is on RosettaNet, Robinson said his experience while talking to IT professionals is that the problem of time-consuming testing exists regardless of the standards utilized, including XML in all its flavors and configurations.

The solution, in Robinson's view, is to automate as much of the testing as possible. This can be done, he said, if a major manufacturer can send its smaller trading partners a CD with testing tools that allow the partner to test its compliance with all the standards required by that manufacturer.

The test CD can contain what Robinson calls a ''Mini-Me'' emulator of the manufacturer's B2B engine. The developers for the trading partner can then test their application to make sure it meets all the standards for B2B communication without having to interact with the main B2B system, he explained.

This saves time because the trading partner's developer does not have to keep phoning or e-mailing the manufacturer's IT department to see if the links are working, Robinson added.

This ''Mini-Me'' emulator is part of the Jump Start tools for testing B2B applications that Drake Certivo, the official Compliance Solution Provider (CSP) for the RosettaNet Ready Program, unveiled this month, Robinson said.

For more information, go to http://www.certivo.net.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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