Generalized Industry advice and observation

I have been put on the hot seat by my colleagues, and they are demanding a general statement that can be applied to the entire specialized EDI Communications Sector. I am speaking of none other than the Value Added Networks that have traditionally moved and routed EDI interchanges for decades, those systems that have maintained a kind of “folksy, informal, and somewhat broken” addressing system, operating at layer seven.

Other than the industry’s collective experiment with AS2 (a perfectly fine implementation of a state mechanism for the secure transfer of any file), there has not been any refinement of provider managed communications of EDI-centric trading partner communications. Nada, None. One actually.  However, AS2 is not a network-wide system. There is no centrality of addressing, and the burdens placed on a broad class of smaller to medium-sized (even large) end users is so……aggravating, considering the potential.

But, other than the exceptions, what is my generalized advice for the VAN sector? What is my prognostication for the maximized possible, foreseeable risks for the largest operators, as well as for the  ambitious hopefuls, those with as much spunk and / or technology, as the others have capital.

As if anyone cares, here is my sole opinion:

The author recommends that there be a normalization of  all VAN interconnections. The benefits of this reformation will immeasurably serve to rehabilitate the damaged sentiment generally infecting the  EDI specialized comms sector.

Serving the community of trading partners, both the large and small, should be THE overarching mission of any B2B communications provider. There should never be value-weighting of any trading partner or of transactions in the EDI communications value chain; the transactions that flow between suppliers and buyers – each transaction expecting a response, each further step in the chain converging on the transfer of goods, payment, transport, and partner status. All should be free from competitive or value weighting. Compete on your merits.

Any action to dishonor networks carrying any trading partner’s data, is equivalent to direct interference in the free-trade of goods.

The EDI communications sector, VANs in particular, must proactively reform their policies governing the carriage of inter-provider traffic. Maintaining neutral traffic reciprocity is the only way for this networked market to survive, otherwise, customers will flee the VAN sector in favor of solutions that are (in many cases), less convenient and even more costly.

The foregoing scenario, although uncommon in today’s Internet driven economy, can happen to any specialized data transport market with payloads addressed and managed at layer seven. A monumental investment made in order to aggregate value, could witness its model slip. By fate or by the stars,  any venture can be swiftly snapped into reversion  – by no more than unsympathetic customers, even by the regulatory authorities.

The most abysmal outcome for any  company, especially those having skillfully maneuvered towards the rank of, ”Network of Record, final arbiter of interconnection”, would be to have the Laws of Common Carriage imposed on its  highly leveraged and finely crafted aggregation of network properties.

There is no need to expose any venture to such risk – if normalization of industry interconnection policies are given proper attention by the those who fancy themselves as the New Stewards of the EDI Communications sector.

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