Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 21 seconds

Is the Battle Over?

thumb edixmlSo, I was sitting around thinking about what’s going on with that EDI vs. XML topic. I’ve been out of the trenches for about 3 years now, it’s raining outside and I can’t work on my golf game, so why not? I Googled it and…..nothing interesting popped up, unless you consider cloud solutions and consultant adverts interesting. I must’ve missed something- who won?

Back at the turn of the century (boy, does making that statement make a guy feel old), there was this ongoing debate about whether XML in its various forms would completely supplant EDI as the lingua franca of electronic business. Over the succeeding decade plus internet ecommerce, largely XML-based, has grown wildly. So, I guess that means XML was the winner of the great battle, right?

Not so fast. As I wrote in my last article on this topic back in 2011 (read it HERE), it’s not a zero-sum game we’re playing. Although the newest marketplace and P2P technologies tend to be XML-based, there’s also growth occurring in those businesses and markets already driven by good old ANSI X.12 EDI. It’s not an either-or proposition we’re facing, rather more of a growth for both deal.
What’s happened is what we expected all along: the smaller guys are doing whatever their hub demands, and the hubs are often already fully invested in EDI. The hubs also utilize 3rd parties for some SMB partners, which use XML transactions. New P2P software and marketplace sites are predominantly XML, and many large partners directly communicating with each other support multiple formats and can establish a relationship using whatever is the preference of the dominant partner. Software vendors peddle integration tools that are truly any-to-any, meaning translator limitations based on document format are things of the past.

A major technology trend that may affect this discussion in the future is the ‘cloud’ phenomenon. As companies make decisions on home-based vs. offsite applications and storage, B2B transactional environments likewise come under review. This may result in an acceleration of outsourcing of the technology component of ecommerce at a minimum, and of the whole process at the max. This doesn’t necessarily mean that cloud-based systems will be all XML, but as more companies hand off their transactions to 3rd parties like SPS Commerce, more will move to the XML side of the ledger.

It’s always interesting to take a fresh look at this topic from time to time, for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else. In the final analysis, two things are certain: EDI isn’t going away, and ecommerce will continue to drive controversy in many different technical areas moving forward. In this case, it looks like the controversy is over- neither EDI nor XML won, we did!
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