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  1. Technology
April 5, 1989


By CBR Staff Writer

IBM keeps its plunge into Electronic Data Interchange a secret from the public prints In another incidence of what is beginning to look like a severe attack of self-doubt within IBM – skillfully enough masked when its top brass puts itself on show – the announcements that went up on the electronic distribution system on Tuesday bore no relation to the ones proclaimed to the world by the company. And, equally quirkily, in what most companies would regard as a major strategic initiative, IBM plunged right up to the neck into electronic data interchange with programs for all its major product families, yet breathed not a word to anyone about it except for those privileged to get their information from the company’s InfoExpress service. For those who find the whole subject of electronic data interchange confusing, and for a different take on the subject, IBM explains that companies with today’s fastest and most efficient business computer systems are often frustrated with the long information float time required to send purchase orders, order acknowledgements, invoices, and related transactions to trading partners. They are handicapped not only by the need to use mail services or couriers, but by the time required for data entry departments to capture and recapture information. Recent business studies estimate that 80% of all computer-generated output is fed back into the system. Each of these rekeying steps introduces possibilities of errors, not to mention the staff required to perform the rekeying. As linking computers becomes easier via a network, more and more companies want to replace paper documents with electronic ones. Electronic Data Interchange is the name given to this interchange of electronic documents between companies. And, a couple of new definitions that hadn’t reached us before, IBM says that companies that initiate the electronic exchange activities with their trading partners – which can be suppliers, vendors or customers – are referred to as Sponsors, those that receive information are referred to as Trading Partners. And IBM is already using the products announced this week internally: worldwide manufacturing sites have begun implementing data interchange using the company’s expEDIte DataInterchange products and the IBM Information Network, and the company says its goal is a totally electronic business and communications process with its valued supplier network.

Overview of the expEDIte Data Interchange family of translators The company this week announced IBM expEDIte DataInterchange as a family of translators that operates in System Application Architecture environments, providing the necessary conversion of data into standard Electronic Data Interchange format, with facilities for on-line customisation and tailoring to provide flexibility in implementing systems – and the company is promoting use of the IBM Information Network and network interface services to enable Sponsors to communicate with their Trading Partners, in most cases, regardless of the system type or communication protocol they use. Announced this week are expEDIte DataInterchange Series translators for the PS/2, AS/400, System/36, System/38, and mainframes under MVS/XA and MVS/ESA. DataInterchange/MVS, DataInterchange/2 and DataInterchange/400 provide translation and business document management facilities for EDI in SAA operating system environments; the System/36 and System/38 are outside the SAA fold. The translation facilities include a utility for reformatting between application data formats and the appropriate EDI standard format, in particular ANSI/X12, UN/EDIFACT (including ODETTE), TDCC and UCS. Other EDI standards will execute if they conform to the ANSI or UN/EDIFACT syntax. The versions for the AS/400, System/36 and System/38 include the communication modules needed to interface with the IBM Information Network and for interfacing via direct connections, and interface modules for additional value-added networks for those who don’t want to use IBM’s own net are available for a fee. Standard updates will be provid

ed and maintained as part of the product, and on-line customisation means that the translators can be tailored for specific application data formats, standards, trading partners, and network parameters. They can be integrated with new or existing enabled applications or operated as stand alone applications, and can read application data from a file or write transaction documents to a file, which can be up- or down loaded to other systems. And IBM hopes it has thought of everything – the translators include facilities for logging transactions, error recovery and security. Electronic Data Interchange brings big promotion for IBM Information Network IBM really does want people to use its own network. Once the documents have been translated, they are ready to be electronically transmitted, it says, and This transmission is greatly simplified by using the IBM Information Network EDI services. Since the IBM Information Network can convert communications protocols, such as asynchronous, bisynchronous and synchronous data link control, it is not necessary for a Sponsor to use the same computer system or communications protocol as the trading partners, to be able to exchange documents electronically, it says. Products available include Expedite/MVS Host, a batch interface program for MVS systems that can be used to send free-format messages and EDI transactions over leased lines; Expedite/Direct is an access method residing in the IBM Information Network, which enables users of RJE workstations to communicate with the information exchange electronic mailbox, using bisynchronous dial-up communications, using customer-supplied 2770, 2780, or 3780 emulator. The DataInterchange AS/400, 38 and 36 programs include the interface code to the IBM Net and direct point-to-point connections between trading partners in the base product. Expedite 400 is a program that enables AS/400 users to send and receive EDI transactions, AS/400 files and free-format messages, and interfaces to IBM expEDIte/Direct in the network. Expedite/36 does the same for System 36 users, files and messages. Expedite/PC enables an IBM personal computer program to communicate with the IBM information exchange electronic mailbox, enabling users to send and receive EDI formatted data, MS-DOS files or messages, and provides easy to-use functions for creating, editing, viewing and storing notes and messages. And IBM hasn’t completely forgotten 9370 users – if you turn your 9370 into an SNA host, Expedite/CICS enables MVS or DOS/VSE SNA hosts to communicate with its Network using the LU 6.2 protocol, enabling 3270 terminal users to send, receive and manage electronic data interchange files, and also enables leased-line-attached hosts to receive messages from one or more users continuously, as soon as they are sent by a Trading Partner.

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