Web delivers inexpensive transaction tracks

The Web doesn’t have electronic data interchange’s track record of years of
practical experience and tested, trusted standards, but it is fast, interactive and nearly
free—and those are qualities EDI lacks.

The monocular EDI conducts transactions, period.

The Web offers a kaleidoscope of opportunities for browsing, finding information and
other business processes in addition to conducting transactions.

Web use for transactions is growing as organizations such as the nonprofit CommerceNet
consortium get into the market. CommerceNet is implementing Internet-enabled EDI using
Secure Internet EDI and its EDI over Internet specification.

The implementation uses Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions to provide
encryption, digital signatures, data integrity assurance and signed receipts for Internet

EDI companies such as GE Information Services of Rockville, Md., Harbinger Corp. of
Atlanta, St. Paul Software Inc. of St. Paul, Minn., and Sterling Commerce Inc. of Dublin,
Ohio, participate in CommerceNet with the goal of providing value-added networklike
services for a fraction of the cost.

Templar, from Premenos Technology Corp. of Concord, Calif., (now part of Harbinger),
was one of the first products created for sending EDI transactions over the Internet.
Templar uses encryption and authentication techniques for security and reliability.

A software marriage made in heaven occurs when trusted EDI standards are used over the
inexpensive Web.

Although integrating legacy applications with Web access is difficult for many EDI
users, Web-based EDI access is a boon for many small enterprises that otherwise could
never hope to achieve EDI capabilities. An indirect result of the Web’s influence is
cheaper service from VANs. Accustomed to being the only game in town,

Another Web-induced trend is VANs’ efforts to bring their services to the Web
audience. It’s not a difficult task. Potential customers can access the VAN via the
Web, and the VAN takes care of all the heavy lifting on the EDI end.

In a clear-cut case of enlightened self-interest, VANs, known for their security and
reliability, are working to bring the same standards to Web-based EDI. And we are at last
seeing software that lets organizations do EDI over the Web.

VANs’ if-you-can’t-beat-’em, join-’em strategy works in
everyone’s favor. 

Edmund X. DeJesus writes about information technology from Norwood, Mass.

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