Novannet, LLC LogoThe 10-10-EDISM of B2B Transport


EDIINT, or EDI-Internet Integration (EDI over the Internet), was supposedly the answer for reining in rapacious VANs. It's a recommendation initially promulgated by the IETF in 1996, and really only made headway in fits and starts until, in 2002, Wal-Mart demanded its use by its 14,000 suppliers.

Dead End

Up until then, Wal-Mart ran its own network based on the old IBM Bisync 3780 protocol. Bisync 3780 has been obsolete pretty much from when the Internet debuted with commercial viability in the early 90's. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine Wal-Mart ran into a dead-end with Bisync communications, what with its lack of scalability and its speed generally limited to a tortoise-like 9600bps (bits per second). All the while, everyone else in the world with 30 bucks to spare has been running at an excess of a million bps to read e-mail, view video and download music using TCP/IP protocols over the Internet.

The adoption of EDIINT by Wal-Mart and some other big retailers isn't so much a harbinger, but rather a conservative play to come up with something - anything - that works better than Bisync. In this respect, the suppliers forced to go along have actually been done a favor, assuming they can chuck their special processes dependent on obsolete Bisync technology.

Brick Wall

EDIINT requires interoperable software at both ends, available from various vendors. Some of these products have been certified to be interoperable by the Drummond Group. Putting aside the expense of this software, it's clear that the scalability problem has not really been addressed. We're eventually going to run into a brick wall with EDIINT, too. But time has been bought, since bottlenecks will take longer to manifest as EDIINT takes advantage of Internet speeds.

The retail supply chain partners - forced to do point-to-point EDI transport by their customers - are now obliged to become their own VANs in effect. Without the hand-holding a VAN provides. And still faced with the age-old problem of trading partner maintenance. They have to become network experts, fooling around with TCP/IP addresses, Port numbers and digital certificates for their trading partners. It's exciting, in a techno-geek sort of way, when you've hooked up with your first EDIINT partner - most likely the one with whom you exchange your largest volumes. This is where the 80/20 rule applies. You can see your VAN bill drop a significant percentage after just a few of your biggest trading partners have converted to EDIINT. Of course, the VAN savings can be applied to your EDIINT software license fees and annual maintenance changes. Like installing software patches, EDIINT gets old with experience - probably somewhere around the fifth partner!

EDIINT works as well as can be expected. And it is a vast improvement over Bisync. For at least you can use the same hardware that you use for everyday Internet access, such as web browsing and e-mail. And EDIINT is even faster, limited only by the speed of your Internet connection. EDIINT is just as secure as dial-up or leased line Bisync - at the cost of manual digital certificate management. Unfortunately, each partner using EDIINT is on his own, without the valuable services of a third-party VAN. Someone on staff now has to be the Go-To Guy responsible for network problems. And missing orders. And security breaches. And expired or revoked certificates. And address and port changes. And firewall problems. You get the idea.

The best thing you can say about EDIINT is that it - or the prospect of it, as it has never really taken off - has scared the VANs into moderating their billing practices to accommodate the realities of inexpensive and ubiquitous Internet access.

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