AS2 for EDI

AS2 (Applicability Statement 2) is a specification for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) between businesses using the Internet's Web page protocol, the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The specification is an extension of the earlier version, Applicability Statement 1 (AS1). Both specifications were created by EDI over the Internet (EDIINT), a working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that develops secure and reliable business communications standards. The AS2 standard provides Secure Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) and uses HTTP or a more secure version, HTTPS, to transmit data over the Internet. AS1 uses a slower protocol, SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). The use of HTTP or HTTPS allows communication in real time rather than through e-mail delivery. Security, authentication, message integrity, and privacy are assured by the use of encryption and digital signatures. Another important feature, nonrepudiation, makes it impossible for the intended recipient of a message to deny having received it.

The AS2 standard allows businesses to use a common, single communications solution. This eliminates the complications and costs involved when different businesses in a network use different transfer protocols. A Web server, an EDI transfer engine, and digital certificates are required for data exchange using AS2. Almost any type of data can be transmitted.

Drummond Group Inc. (DGI), the leading interoperability e-commerce certification company, has announced (2/2006) that seven software products from seven leading companies successfully completed the Drummond Certified(TM) program's ebMS (ebXML Message Service)-4Q05 interoperability testing. This test round formally launched DGI's Drummond Certified program designed for industries to drive adoption of technical standards and certify a stable foundation of software products to support their supply chains. Starting in 2006, all ebMS, AS1, AS2, AS3 and CSOS tests will be conducted under the Drummond Certified program.

Companies demonstrating interoperability among their products in the ebMS-4Q05 test round included Axway Software, Cleo Communications, Cyclone Commerce, Inc., Inovis USA, Inc., Oracle Corporation, Oxlo Systems, Inc., and Sterling Commerce. The software products from these solution providers deliver a cross-industry selection of tested standards-based, interoperable ebMS solutions to worldwide industries, including automotive, financial services, government, health care, public health and retail.

Improved AS2


Like VANs, AS2 gets complex if there are more than a couple of nodes involved. It is an excellent protocol with strong encryption and digital signatures, positive sender identification and proof of receipt. It is the implementation that can be weak, not the application.

AS2 (Applicability Statement 2) is a specification for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) between businesses using the Internet's Web page protocol, the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The AS2 standard provides Secure Multi-Purpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) and uses HTTP or its more secure version, HTTPS, to transmit data over the Internet. Security, authentication, message integrity, and privacy are assured by the use of encryption and digital signatures.

Another important feature, nonrepudiation, makes it impossible for the intended recipient of a message to deny having received it. A Web server, an EDI transfer engine, and digital certificates are all that are required for data exchange using AS2.

All this sounds very well developed, but AS2 has no “directory” function. What would e-mail be like if it had no directory function? E-Mail has its DNS & MX records which automatically make the rounds of other e-mail systems.

Much of the management of AS2 is still manual. That means it is time to automate! URLs and Public Certificates change. Most every AS2 package allows you to generate and sign your own certificate. The process will generate both a private and public key for a length of time selected by you. The private key will automatically be securely stored where the AS2 software can access it, and the public certificate will be placed in a location where you can send copies to your trading partners.

Read more about a solution and see some great reference material on AS2

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What is a VAN?


The EDI experts can create an involved answer but lots of people like business managers, for instance) are not quite sure what it is. Maybe if I liken it to something not Information Technology, I could better explain it.

It is like the U.S. Freight rail system. Both take your product; pack it in their own container (envelopes/files; box cars); move it to the recipient by a network of rails or phone:data lines (both built by private companies); switch from one to the other (no single VAN or railroad covers the whole country....yet); and finally deliver to the recipient (rail siding or VAN mailbox).

A VAN lets you complete all your transactions in one transmission. A train lets you send all your shipments at once.

The VAN is essentially a giant virtual switchboard where data is shunted from one participating company to another. The rail system is essentially a giant virtual switchboard where freight is shunted from a participating shipper to a customer.

A VAN is a company offering the communications skills, expertise, and equipment needed to communicate electronically. In an EDI context, a VAN acts like an electronic post office by receiving, storing, and forwarding electronic messages. A company and its trading partners have "mailboxes" on the VAN where EDI transactions can be stored. A railroad is a company offering the transportation skills, expertise, and equipment needed to move your products. At one point, railroads moved most of the mail for the post office.

Both VANs and railroads use “Service Messages” to track “shipments”. Ironically, railroads use a series of EDI transmissions to do the tracking.

The term mailbox is used to refer to a unique identified area of information storage within a computer, a point of private user access and data consolidation to which EDI transmissions are sent and held until retrieved by the individual EDI VAN customer. Each VAN participant can retrieve documents from its assigned mailbox whenever convenient to it's own operations. Well, that is like a railroad siding. The customer can open the door and unload when he is ready.

The file is sent to either a VAN mailbox, FTP site, or directly to AS2 recipients to be picked up.

Railroads are in the 21st Century too: ever hear of a UNIT TRAIN?

Yes, sometimes we go outside the system. Internet EDI goes over the “Internet” (who owns or built the Internet?). Non-rail truck traffic goes over the highway system (guess who pays for our highways).

Now for a ridiculous story or two. Several years ago the NY Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad merged into the Penn Central Railroad. Many shippers box cars got lost going between stations on the Penn Central. This year INOVIS and GXS merged. Many customers lost data going between these two entities.

See the full article on What is a VAN?

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ec-bp.com The Forum for Supply Chain Integration



ec-bp was established in 2005 as the advocate for lowering the barriers to the adoption of EDI, and our email newsletter has been published every month since that time. Our focus has expanded beyond EDI to encompas the full gamut of supply chain practices and technologies. In addition, our readership has grown to become the largest of any similarly focused publication, and has expanded to include more than 90,000 professionals involved in nearly every aspect of the supply chain.

Today’s supply chain is more than simple transport of EDI documents. The complexity of maintaining compliance with trading partners, managing the ever increasing amount of data, and analyzing that data to drive constant improvement in processes and service take supply chain professionals far beyond the basics of mapping EDI documents.

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Ever wonder how your telecommuting colleagues really live? Turns out, many of them actually do work in their pajamas. They also tend to love their work-life balance – to the point where they’d take a pay cut to maintain the status quo. This is a “must read” for both remote workers and for their office-bound managers.

What is an ECCP?



ECCP stands for “Electronic Commerce Communications Provider”. As you might have guessed, it is “Cloud-based”. It is a neat way of handling all your EDI communications in a centralized and efficient manner. ECCP replaces a VAN for you; but if your trading partner utilizes a VAN, an ECCP still interfaces with your partner through his VAN. An ECCP is far less labor-intensive for you than either AS2 or MFT (Managed File Transfer).

Back when dinosaurs still roamed through computer rooms, VAN's provided “Value Add” in that they were secure; always available; provided a common link between partners; and rooted out bad or misdirected data. Much of the EDI community sticks with a VAN because it is an outsourced operation and because many of us hold to the old saying: “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”
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EDI A Lost Art But Learnable



EDI a lost art, high turnover, nobody still understands it and needs training, requirements change. companies don’t invest in training anymore. Training is even more important now.

Skills of an EDI specialist are more in analysis of business documents and understanding of the business issues. This is far more important than knowledge of a particular piece of software. An EDI specialist can quickly learn a new tool as required. I am talking more about training for an in-place specialist in order to improve their skills. I am thinking of such topics as EDI best practices, implementing non-core EDI transactions, using POS 852 Data to improve planning, automating PO Change in the workflow process.

Read more

The End of ERP


Over the past several years there have been numerous articles written on “Is EDI Dead?”. But EDI just “keeps on trucking”. EDI embraced XML, AS2 and the Cloud; to name just a few recent advances. Plus, EDI became the “engine” for E-Commerce.
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If you use an EDI VAN for your business, this message is for you. Move past the ancient VAN technology. JWH EDI Services Electronic Commerce Messaging System will bring your EDI operation into the 21st Century. The power of our global EDI network is available on your server, your cloud platform or your application. AND you cannot beat our prices.
You can connect and communicate with all your customers and trading partners through the JWH EDI Services Electronic Commerce Messaging System - Connect with trading partners around the world on a single Network-as-a-Service platform, get real-time transaction visibility and eliminate those manual network processes. It is a pay as you need model. We track all interchanges from the moment they enter the system, along every step across the network, and through the delivery confirmation.

How can we help you? Contact us: Ken Kinlock at kenkinlock@gmail.com

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The CIO and EDI



We have been commenting several times about “who owns EDI”, but irrespective of the outcome, the CIO has a role in the software/hardware end of EDI. In the near future, the EDI scenario starts to get more interesting with the development of cloud technology.

Overseeing an EDI department used to be simple. Buy software, negotiate a VAN connection. The hiring of a manager and setting up an EDI department could be under the CIO or not, but the technical implementation was clearly in the realm of the CIO.

Partner hookups and standards conventions were really business issues; but if the department was under the CIO, they were budget issues.

An increasing number of CIOs are dabbling in cloud computing, drawn by promises of its scalability, affordability and more powerful computing ability.
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