Saturday, October 12, 2002

Wal-mart still pushing its suppliers to Internet EDI

There was more news this week on Walmart's Internet EDI initiative. Both IBM and Sterling Commerce announced that they have been selected by Wal-mart to provide integration and network services for 8,000 of its suppliers as they move to Internet EDI (EDI-INT AS2 standards). According to the IBM press release, IBM was chosen because of its global reach, its experience in the apparel, consumer products, and retail industries, and its implementation services. IBM will also provide VAN services as a backup contingency to EDIINT. In addition, IBM points out that it has built AS2 support into its WebSphere integration products, allowing Walmart suppliers who use Websphere an easy migration path to AS2.

According to the Sterling Commerce press release, Sterling will serve in a similar capacity, giving Walmart and its suppliers a choice of two such providers. Sterling, of course, is a major EDI provider, and one of the companies that helped develop the AS2 specification.

One of the early barriers to Internet-based EDI is that the Internet by itself does not provide the level of data security and reliability that is required for B2B commerce. This is why EDI traditionally uses value added networks (VANs) for transport. The AS2 standard eliminates this barrier by providing, among other things, a reliable and secure Internet messaging protocol, using public key encryption (PKI). When I reported on Wal-mart's EDI AS2 initiative on Sept. 17, the Spectator started to receive a large number of search engine hits for that post, probably from all those Walmart suppliers that are no doubt highly interested in what hoops they will need to jump through for this major customer. As I noted previously, the positive impact of Walmart's action for Internet commerce cannot be understated. It is the sort of "supplier mandate" that could greatly speed up general adoption of Internet-based EDI and B2B commerce in general.