Love the Data Standard You're With

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

Data Integration Remains a Major IT Headache

Study shows that data integration is still costly and requires a lot of manual coding.

Ever since I mistakenly took an EDI training class at the height of the dotcom mania, I've been curious about this integration protocol. I mean, it was "cloud" via wire (or, at least, Value Added Networks) before cloud was cool, right?


And yet, it seems so, well, old school compared to modern XML delivered over IP. It fascinates me in the same way a Komodo dragon does, as something incredibly resilient and yet a bit out of step with the times.


Whenever I talk to a B2B integration vendor, I just have to ask: What's up with EDI these days?


It's like a compulsion. So when I spoke to Trisha Gross, CEO of the B2B integration company Hubspan, recently, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a quick check on EDI.


"Has EDI become less or more popular because of the cloud?" I blurted, knowing full well there's no way it had grown because of the cloud.


I'm pretty sure Gross wanted to laugh, because B2B vendors have changed with the times, embracing the cloud just as much as everyone else. In fact, that's what we were supposed to talk about - the company's growth strategy, which relies in no small part on handling integration for companies engaging in heavy e-commerce. But, very kindly, she did not laugh at me.


"You know," she said, "it has not skyrocketed. Let's face it, even if I'm a midsize company or even a smaller company, if I'm adopting the cloud, I am probably going to implement something maybe a little more flexible than EDI."


She might go with XML, because it's more relevant, agile or flexible, she said. But sometimes, yes, companies still need EDI because that's what a supplier or customer uses - so Hubspan still supports the EDI data format.


If you're thinking about B2B integration, though, you probably shouldn't focus too much on choosing data formats, Gross added.


"My recommendation would be is number one, leverage whatever data format your assistant can provide. Don't bother going into another format," Gross said. "For example, SAP can send out an IDOC. Send an IDOC out to ... in our environment, for example, send the IDOC to us. We'll handle all the interoperability between that IDOC and the end customer."


We also talked a great deal about how the lines between B2B and EAI are blurring thanks to the cloud, and Hubspan's approach of using channel partners to go to market - a strategy that helped the company grow 41 percent last year.


I edited out the EDI discussion from the full interview, because, obviously, there's no rationality to my obsession with EDI, except that somewhere, I have a certificate that I was trained on something to do with EDI. But secretly, I'm glad it's still around as an option - just in case this whole cloud thing suddenly bursts.

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