Invisible E-Commerce--Transaction Processing over the Internet

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It's incredible that the Internet age was in its infancy just a decade ago, back when Web browsers had been recently introduced and rapidly adopted, transforming the way business is conducted. In fact, the pressure to take advantage of B2B solutions to dynamically interface core systems with trading partners didn't really pick up steam until the mid to late 1990s. And now, the focus has stepped beyond the requirement to merely have a corporate Web site with dynamic, browser-based application interfaces. The latest stage of e-business involves XML/Web Services, marketplace integration, and Internet-based EDI solutions. This most recent evolution of e-business can reap tremendous benefits for those organizations able to implement these technologies, but there's typically a learning curve and some planning required to effectively integrate existing legacy application environments.

There are two distinct paths that today's IT manager must follow to keep an organization competitive and productive with the capabilities of the Internet, both now and in the near future. First, it's important that managers understand what is technically possible with XML and Web Services as well as EDI modernization solutions with EDI-INT. Designing (or selecting) an e-commerce framework that can tightly integrate to the back office while providing external interaction over various Internet channels--using Web browsers, XML, and EDI--is an essential step.

Second, depending upon the vertical industry focus of the business, there are likely standards bodies, e-marketplaces, global registries, government regulations, or e-partnership opportunities that will affect--and even drive--the implementation of this technology for an organization. In this article, we'll look at some examples of these, such as the UCCNet Global Registry, HIPAA in the healthcare industry, and the Covisint marketplace for automotive suppliers. If your business is being mandated to conform to or integrate with an entity or governing body such as these, then the Vertical Marketplace Integration discussion will be especially meaningful.



Understand the Technology Options

Anyone in IT these days without a basic understanding of XML may have just crawled out of a bomb shelter. XML has been defined and discussed and analyzed in just about every issue of every technology magazine--not to mention in presentations at conferences and user group meetings--for years now. (See the latest from MC Mag Online: "XML for Dummies, Idiots, and People Like Me Who Just Don't Know."

Most software vendors have incorporated XML into their products. Let's just say it's a way to describe data in a standardized, platform-independent way and should be the mechanism that you use to exchange transactional data with your trading partners in the future. In addition to the XML meta-language for data, there are some other components to learn, such as document type definition (DTD) or XML schemas, which describe the data definitions and relationships with an XML document, and Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL), which transforms XML into another format, such as an EDI document, an HTML Web page, another XML document, or possibly a map to database records. For more information on XML, refer to

The key point, for the purposes of this discussion, is that XML provides a common language so that you can use the Internet to exchange transactional data between your production systems and the systems of your trading partners. A number of organizations have implemented simple two-way XML solutions in which they exchange XML documents via one of the Internet protocols--HTTP (interactive Web), FTP (file transfer), or SMTP (email). When two entities decide to use XML to transact electronically with each other, they must agree upon specific transactions and the layout of the XML document; this can sometimes be a time-consuming effort. Many industries have formulated standard transactions and XML formats that you can use as a starting point. In XML lingo, this is often referred to as the "message payload." To see some of the standards that have been defined for various industries, check out and

Ellett Brothers, for Example

Ellett Brothers is one of the nation's leading distributors of outdoor sporting goods, with annual sales of $150 million, primarily in the areas of hunting/shooting, archery, and camping equipment. They sell their goods through a number of different sales channels. Over 100 inside sales reps and 30,000 retail outlets carry Ellett products. In addition to selling through these traditional channels, Ellett does approximately 20% of their order count (1,100-1,200 orders daily) via e-commerce, with electronic transaction processing between various online retail outlets and their externally hosted ISP dealer site.

Because Ellett transacts electronically with a variety of different external entities (such as Outdoor Interactive, Eders, Gear Out, and TruServ), they have an e-commerce framework, using LANSA, that supports different formats. This e-commerce framework supports two-way, automated transaction processing over the Internet, using XML, EDI, flat files, XLS, and even Microsoft Access Database files (MDBs). All of the processing occurs on their iSeries with direct integration to their Daly.Commerce ERP system. Because Ellett was an early adopter of this technology, they have supported whatever format their partners have requested for B2B automation. However, going forward, they hope to standardize on XML. Figure 1 illustrates the Ellett solution.

Figure 1: The Ellett Brothers e-commerce framework supports two-way automated transaction processing.

This dynamic, system-to-system method of conducting business is quite profitable for Ellett Brothers, and they have plans to move forward very rapidly with the e-commerce side of their business. In the coming months, they will be extending their e-commerce framework to exchange product, order, and invoice information over the internet with GSI Commerce (which will include CBS Sports Line and 14 other Web sites), DoItBest, Ace, TruValue, and Gaylaan.

What About EDI?

Electronic data interchange (EDI), the original solution for paperless, electronic transaction processing between trading partners, has been around for almost 30 years, which is an extremely long time in computer years. A large number of organizations have implemented EDI, and it's predicted that approximately 20% of businesses are doing EDI with 20% of their partners. In some cases, large hubs such as WalMart have dictated that all of their suppliers do business using EDI. This demand has helped to securely position the technology.

There are two flavors of EDI--UN/EDIFACT, which is the primary standard internationally, and ANSI X.12, which is the North American standard. Standards organizations exist for both types, and the specifications for transactions have been well-documented and established, with a number of different versions released over the years. Translation software (to decipher the cryptic EDI documents) is required on each trading partner's system. EDI has historically been implemented as a batch processing solution, with batches of orders or invoices being sent to the trading partner once or twice a day. Also, typically a value-added network (VAN) intermediary has been used to transmit the orders between trading partners, which can be expensive for large-volume transactions. In the past, dedicated or dial-up lines to the VANs were set up. However, today, many VANs are providing Internet access as well.

Many industry analysts predict EDI's demise and its replacement with XML and Web Services solutions over time. No doubt this is where the world is going, but how quickly? I suspect that EDI will be around for a long time. There are too many installations in place that work very well, and there's too much time and money invested. Modernizing EDI solutions can be a good interim step to alleviate expensive VAN charges and to take advantage of the dynamic nature of the Internet to exchange EDI transactional data in real time.

The EDI-INT (Electronic Data Interchange--Internet Integration) specification is intended to address the need to exchange EDI documents over the Internet securely, using standard Internet protocols such as SMTP and HTTP. Specifically, the EDI-INT AS1 specification outlines how to use secured email via S/MIME over SMTP to send EDI attachments. EDI-INT AS2 outlines process-to-process (real-time) EDI based on secured HTTP using SSL (128 bit encryption). For more details, visit the Internet Engineering Task Force site. You can also look for Mike Faust's upcoming article on this topic.

The Next Generation: Web Services

Web Services have widespread industry support. From IBM, Sun, and Microsoft to the major ERP vendors to technology and e-commerce firms, essentially all the major vendors in the technology industry are basing their future product platforms around Web Services. Research firms have surveyed organizations, and statistics show that the majority of large corporations are committed to Web Services as the future for e-business.

The key specification for Web Services is Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), an XML-based messaging protocol with a number of components, such as the SOAP Message Structure, which includes specifications for an electronic envelope, header, and message payload (XML). Web Services also uses Web Services Description Language (WSDL) and Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) registries. Another key specification for Web Services, and an extension to SOAP, is ebXML (, which is under development by UN/CEFACT and OASIS and has already been selected by some industries as their standard e-commerce messaging protocol (more on this when we talk about Covisint).

It is not necessary to delve into the complexities of the SOAP specifications to understand what Web Services will do for your organization when your systems and the technology are ready. Some have likened Web Services to the next stage of evolution of both EDI and distributed application solutions. When Web Services are realized, the functionality and information on your external trading partners' systems will eventually be exposed as callable and accessible routines for your own applications (and vice versa). To understand the concept of the UDDI registry, think of it as an electronic Yellow Pages. Your application software can go to the UDDI to find out how to talk to your trading partners' computers. When this level of interoperability between systems can be achieved, many sophisticated applications and operational efficiencies, both with the supply chain and internally, will be possible. There should never be the need to re-enter details that have already been entered into a system (whether it is inside your organization or not), and this will result in less errors and far less data entry. Immediate access to information about order status, deliveries, finances, insurance eligibility, or whatever is fundamental to your business will be available regardless of the actual system it is housed on. Access to external modules, like tax calculators or currency conversion, will be accessible by external callable interfaces and may not need to be installed or coded on your system in the future.

Both IBM and Microsoft are already offering UDDI registries, which are synchronized daily. For more information, go to Microsoft's Business Registry Node page and IBM's UDDI Business Registry page.

Although this is undoubtedly the way of the future, most organizations will not be ready to deploy full-blown Web Services just yet; however, this should not stop you from taking advantage of the many benefits possible with B2B automation solutions. Your organization may want to move into e-commerce transaction processing by using two-way XML solutions as in the Ellett Brothers example. Or maybe you'd prefer to modernize EDI by processing over the Internet, with a plan for how this will eventually evolve into a Web Services solution.

Vertical Marketplace Integration

Depending on the business focus of your organization, there may be standards, marketplaces, portals, or registries that you will need to understand to exchange information electronically. Here are a couple of examples to give you an idea of how these mandates and initiatives are affecting organizations in different industries.


UCCnet is the Uniform Code Council's not-for-profit, tax-exempt subsidiary, providing e-commerce standards for the 23 industries served by the UCC. In partnership with EAN International, UCC has more than 1 million member companies and supports more than 5 billion scanning transactions per day. UCCnet is a global marketplace for registering any barcoded product for access by manufacturing, distribution, and retail organizations. The UCCnet's mission is standardization of item information and item identification, along with a central Internet registry for synchronization of product information--and all of it accessible by all trading partners. The food industry has been mandated to comply with UCCnet this year.

If your organization needs to register products with UCCnet or retrieve product information, you may submit your electronic transactions in either XML or EDI format. UCCnet provides specifications for the acceptable transactions and their format. In addition to enabling your systems to exchange these transactions electronically, providing the appropriate data (including GTIN--Global Trade ID Number, matching your item number) may be a challenge if your legacy system database does not contain all of the necessary item information. Products are available on the market to assist with UCCnet compliance, including both e-commerce transactional interfaces and item information.


Anyone in the healthcare industry will certainly know what HIPAA is. It stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Passed by Congress in 1996, it mandates many reforms in the healthcare industry, including the requirement to standardize on electronic transactions for exchange of patient information. The healthcare industry is actually the largest sector in the U.S. economy, representing $1 trillion in expenditures annually, so this government regulation affects many organizations. Even organizations that self-fund their employee benefit plans may be affected.

The original intent of this act was twofold: to protect the privacy of patient records and to save the healthcare industry literally billions of dollars by standardizing code sets and health identifiers, allowing the exchange of standard electronic transactions, and eventually eliminating expensive paper-based processing. The dates have been extended, and the current date by which all organizations must be HIPAA-compliant is October 2003, with testing by April 2003.

The standard put in place by the government is, surprisingly, not XML, but EDI ANSI X.12. Twelve-key transactions for exchanging patient inquiries on eligibility and claims status, as well as claims processing, enrollment, and premium payment, have been defined. Covered entities must use these transaction types when exchanging this type of information between external entities.

Because there are hefty fines for organizations not compliant by the due date, many are busy looking for solutions to enable e-transactions. Unfortunately, though, they are not all concerned with ensuring they achieve a level of improved operational efficiency in this first implementation. In order to achieve this, effective integration to their legacy systems environments is key. Use of the Internet to exchange this information is also an opportunity to save on transaction costs.


The Covisint marketplace was originally conceived and funded by many of the big automakers, such as Ford, General Motors, Daimler Chrysler, Nissan, and Renault, who wanted to produce a single, global B2B supplier exchange for the automotive industry. The primary goal of this e-commerce initiative was to realize streamlined supply chain efficiencies, ultimately producing cost savings.

Since its beginnings in early 2000, Covisint has become an independent entity, offering a number of online services to the automotive industry, including auctions, product catalogs, quote manager, and portal services. Covisint was also intended to serve as a transactional portal to replace EDI with XML and Web Services for the automotive suppliers. Some of the big automakers are pushing their suppliers to transact electronically, using XML, with Covisint. Because the Auto Industry Action Group (AIAG) has sanctioned ebXML and OASIS (XML) as their standards for the industry, Covisint is now using these standards as its interchange strategy with suppliers and OEMs.

For many automotive suppliers, Covisint is just one new e-channel that they must conquer in their drive to streamline their business through effective use of e-commerce. Figure 2 illustrates the vision of one such automotive supplier who envisions exchanging both XML and EDI over the Internet with intermediaries such as Covisint as well as with suppliers and vendors directly.

Figure 2: This is an example of an automotive supplier with multiple e-channels.

Application Integration Considerations

In moving forward with any of these new technologies, a critical success factor will be how well you have designed the integration to your back-end legacy systems that are still the life and breath of your day-to-day business operations. For many of us, that means implementing these solutions with tight interaction to the iSeries, RPG or COBOL, and DB2/400-based application suites. With the press and so many vendors touting solutions that need to run on Windows and Unix servers, sometimes this can be confusing; however, all of these capabilities are available for the iSeries platform using both IBM and IBM iSeries Business Partners' software solutions. And it goes without saying that you will have a much easier job of accomplishing dynamic integration to your business applications suite if you implement your Internet solutions on the same platform. Maintenance, over time, will also be easier and less costly for your organization in this scenario.


The Internet and the rapid evolution of Internet technology has changed the way we must do business. It's crucial that we in IT stay abreast of these developments so that we can play the all-important role of assisting organizations in staying current and competitive in today's challenging marketplaces. The technical capabilities of XML, EDI-INT, and Web Services are important to understand for this current stage of e-commerce, but equally important are the movements and pressures within the vertical industry of your business. We've looked at a few examples--UCCnet, HIPAA, and Covisint--but there are many, many more, in just about every industry imaginable, that may be opportunities for your organization to move forward electronically.

Eden Watt is LANSA's Director of Professional Services for North America. She and her project teams have been involved in the management and design of some significant e-business deployments, including many of the early iSeries-based Web sites, wireless, and even Web Services solutions. Eden has written numerous articles for technology publications and is co-author of the new book Understanding e-Business Application Integration by MC Press. She is a regular presenter at COMMON and frequently speaks at conferences and user group meetings. She can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Eden Watt

Eden Watt, PMP, is a project director and consultant with over two decades of experience in Information Technology projects, overseeing application modernization and innovative solution delivery for clients. With her strategic partnerships, Eden can offer both consulting services and innovative software solutions to answer many of today's challenging needs, particularly in the area of evolving traditional applications to take advantage of advanced technology. She can be reached at or



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    • Ways that Watson will shake hands with IBM i
    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days


  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.


  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption



  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access




  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.


  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.



  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.



  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.