EDI Communications – a Sector Stifled by an Arrested Architecture and …..

Will Open Routing save the EDI communications Sector?

Offered here is a brief observation of Connected Markets:

1) What’s good for the network is good for the subscribers,

2)  What’s good for subscribers, is good for the networked market.

The reciprocal traffic exchange agreements used by Value Added Network providers  (EDI communications for retail and manufacturing supply chains) are a good example of agreements  designed for the  good of the subscribers.  Being able to transact with any trading partner on any VAN makes perfect sense. The EDI Comms Market, as presently operated by most VANs and service providers will  not be a good place to innovate and capitalize  if  traffic reciprocity  is reduced to mere leverage to kill  off one’s competitors. 

The silent ascent to GXS traffic routing abuses is quite  troubling, to say the least, as a failure to act on behalf of the market’s best interests. The Parent Companies who recently acquired  a few well-used VANs: Opentext, IBM, and Liaison – To my Colleagues….I ask why?

by Alan D. Wilensky

Rising above the noise can be a challenge. The coverage of the B2B IT market can only be termed followers ink, with the GXS Inovis Merger a particularly toothsome example that deeply scarred my bright-eyed innocence. Witnessing the misplaced,  corrupt hosannas flowing from the analyst’s pens, was doubly disturbing, due to the complete absence of any countervailing  opinion recommending against the acquisition.

Fortunately, true quality cannot be hidden, nor can it hide. Innovation that begets the rare, defining methodology, or a new architecture, is unmistakably genuine and  instantly recognizable. Professionals with highly tuned discernment routinely detect the false notes of those crowing about innovation, which invariably is traced to a corporate leadership wafting their lack of credibility behind them.

Private or Sovereign Equity constructs an ersatz business entity that self declares its leadership, and purchases such a large subscriber pool, so that the Golem is briefly insulated  from the consequences of  misguided, anti-networked market policies. Inevitably, the truth leaks out. PE can’t acquire a founder’s heart, dominance of will, or the loyalty of a leader’s key line-management. Massive funding in order to  exploit the sharpest blade in the network effect toolkit…..is a strategy missed by our erstwhile regulators for a year, two, or even three, but even AT&T faced a massive divestiture and consent decree. But for those in the vanguard, time is in short supply, and such vanguard thinkers are by their nature, impatient.

There is an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction in the EDI Comms market; I believe that new opportunities will be actualized when a forum for innovation (fixing B2B message routing and traffic reciprocity) is created. Such is lacking in the present B2B market. To compete in the open, by one’s wits, showcasing an unmistakable sense of  quality and fitness, this is the arena sought by revolutionary thinkers in the B2B sector. That  is what I fight for in each and every engagement.

This sector is somewhat moribund; and if not entirely devoid of ideas, it exists as if arrested in the course a puberty of sorts, an adolescence that has endured far too long.  With the heydays of the VAN era  well past the sell by date of its peak, circa 1990-2005.

We are left with a comms market reliant on IP transport, which is fine.  The present application layer addressing scheme using an embedded envelope segment network addresses,  has potential advantages,  but these efficiencies remain theoretical due to inefficiencies in the present InterVAN routing regime.  A stillborn, application layer messaging market is the result of this stasis.

Moaning  about the  sector’s malaise and inefficiencies does absolutely nothing. Here are the hot button issues from my non-attributed survey research:

  • Industry-wide adoption of Machine Accessible Directory Services (enable ID portability and efficient migrations).
  • Standards-based  InterVAN attachment –   adhering to the standard allows placement of data on the inter-network paths.
  • Elimination of 1:1 interconnects in favor of  hierarchical routing.
  • Permissive attachment. Acts as a hedge against  exploitation of routing borders, or worse.  Routing exploitation is damaging to the entire industry.  The health of the market suffers when inter-network message handling is perverted.
  • The Reorganization of a EDI Communications Industry Association, CTO board seats. No agendas allowed other than the perfection of layer seven addressing and routing.
  • Give thought leaders and architects their just due, let the self nominated leaders show some stewardship by facilitation and sponsorship.

To be large, to have thousands of employees, to have the immense backing of PE – these attributes are all one-dimensional. They symbolize nothing that is intellectually substantial or emblematic of  a Company’s thought leadership.

However, size  and other headline-readable attributes , are not in any sense distinctive  to subscribers, to customers.

Professional B2B ventures adopting a platform after a stringent vetting are the true coin of the  realm. New B2B ventures bring a discerning yardstick to the sector, conducting nuanced platform research to attain  specific goals. Entrepreneurs, even in B2B IT,  balance innovation against risk.

If a platform delivers truly, the entrepreneurs  will adopt with calculated precision. In healthy connected markets, tools and entrepreneurial dynamism create all kinds of  synergy; the relationships created among platform builders and the application pioneers will create some of the most enduring partnerships to emerge from the B2B sector wars.

Is change possible in the VAN market, or are the recent consolidations and sell-outs simply the preface to the ultimate VAN exodus, and a step toward alternative systems and technologies?

Your collegial comments are welcome.