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Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the set of hardware-independent data format standards developed in the 1970s to electronically transmit data between businesses, continues to evolve. It’s not only generally solid and reliable, but is combining now with XML to go from batch to real-time data delivery, making it even more of a “go-to” technology for enterprises.

So said Lee Sutton, Co-Director of Magic Software’s Integration Competence Center, in the ebizQ webinar Integrating Business Partners Using Accelerated EDI, part of the Magic-sponsored Managers’ Guide to Service Oriented Architectures series.

Sutton touted EDI as a “viable technology that can provide value for years to come.”

“EDI,” he said, “provides a standard method of communicating business information in an efficient manner. It has a large install base, with hundreds of thousands of organizations conducting business via EDI. And there is robust support for EDI by many third-parties.

“EDI is unambiguous, so it can be used by all trading partners. It reduces the amount of labor-intensive work required to exchange data. It also enables the sender of the data to control the exchange, and to know whether and when the recipient received the transaction.

“EDI’s benefits,” he continued, “are the same as XML message transfer benefits: reduced purchase prices, procurement and inventory costs, and document delivery time; shortened lead times and elimination of clerical tasks and errors; the customization of forms to meet your needs and those of your trading partners; communication across industry sectors with one common standard; and complete auditing, billing and security functions.”

Sutton explained that the two main EDI standards are X12, widely used in North America, and EDIFACT, popular primarily in Europe. He noted that both provide equivalent functionality, but X12 is older and more mature. They can be used together, but multiple X12 data elements may be needed to represent a single EDIFACT data element.

“The most practical way to establish communications,” Sutton pointed out, “is by subscribing to a Value-Added Network (VAN). That way, one communication method connects you to all your trading partners. VANs provide an electronic mailbox where messages are routed, stored, and forwarded. They support reliable connectivity to your trading partners via varying communication speeds and protocols. And they provide security and technical support for your transactions, including audit trails.”


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