Because an extranet allows connectivity between businesses through the Internet, it is an open and flexible platform suitable for B2B. To increase security, many companies replicate the portions of their databases that they are willing to share with their business partners and separate them physically from their regular intranets. However, even separated data need to be secured. (See Chapter 9 for more on EC network security.) Extranets usually do that by operating between two firewalls, in what we described in Chapter 9 as a DMZ.
T11.3 INTRODUCTION AND DEFINITIONS OF EDI
EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)—the transfer of data between different companies using electronic networks, such as VANs or the Internet—is the backbone of EC. As more and more companies get connected to the Internet, EDI is becoming increasingly more important as an easy mechanism for companies to support buying, selling, and trading goods, services, and information. It is basically used for B2B transactions.
Electronic data interchange (EDI) is a communication standard (known as the X12) that enables the electronic transfer of routine documents, such as purchasing orders, between business partners. It formats these documents according to an agreed-upon structure.
In the pre-Internet form of e-commerce, EDI was governed by rules developed by standards-issuing organizations and the United Nations. EDI set out to formalize e-commerce as a set of standardized message formats, by which businesses would exchange documents such as purchase orders and invoices with each other electronically. Until the advent of the Internet, EDI messages had to be exchanged via dedicated value-added networks (VANs). This restricted its use to large corporations that had the clout to impose EDI standardization on their supply chain partners. Now, EDI is gradually being absorbed into Web-based EDI or, depending on your point of view, superseded by XML-based equivalents.
THE WIKIPEDIA COVERAGE
Wikipedia has a major entry at
T11.7 THE ESSENTIALS OF XML
XML is a markup language much like HTML. However, XML tags are not predefined. You must define your own tags since XML is designed to be self-descriptive.
The design goals of XML emphasize simplicity, generality, and usability over the Internet. It is a textual data format with strong support via Unicode for the languages of the world. Although the design of XML focuses on documents, it is widely used for the representation of arbitrary data structures as well, for example in Web Services. As of 2009, hundreds of XML-based languages have been developed, and many are used in EC development, including RSS, Atom, SOAP, XHTML, and AJAX.
Who Uses XML?
XML has many uses. Everyone seems to be talking about XML these days—if it’s not Ajax, it’s some other tool that uses XML as the back end—but what are people actually using XML for? Here are some common uses for XML on the Web right now:
For a description and examples, see
- Web development, including EC systems
- Documentation, including EC routine transactions
- Database development, including EC catalogs
XML uses a similar tag structure as HTML; however, whereas HTML defines how elements are displayed, XML defines what those elements contain. While HTML uses predefined tags, XML allows tags to be defined by the developer of the page. Thus, virtually any data items, such as “product,” “sales rep,” and “amount due” can be identified, allowing Web pages to function like database records. By providing a common method for identifying data, XML supports B2B transactions and has become “the” format for electronic data interchange (i.e., EDI). For examples of these differences in programming, see pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=XML&i=55048,00.asp.
In an XML/EDI message, the EDI information is explicitly labeled using tag names. Reference may be made via the Internet to a Document Type Definition (DTD), which contains structure declaration and relevant sets of code values. The integration can be done with AJAX as shown by McVerry and Naylor (2006).
Web browsers are expected to support XML, therefore, XML/EDI messages. Like EDI messages, XML/EDI messages could be transmitted in many ways: e-mail, VAN, Internet, etc.
T11.8 RESOURCES FOR THE TUTORIAL
- What Is EDI? (2:05 minutes)
- Basics of EDI (11:11 minutes)
- Five Key Factors to Ensure EDI Integration Success (3:48 minutes)
- EDI Link the Basics (4:25 minutes)
- Extranet tutorial: Advantage Label and Packaging, Inc. (1:30 minutes)
- How to Write a Simple XML Document: Tutorial (12:07 minutes)
- XML Basics Video Tutorial (18:48 minutes)
- Bayles, D. L. Extranets: Building the Business-to-Business Web. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998.
- Dykes, L., and E. Tittel, XML for Dummies, New Jersey: Wiley & Sons, 2005.
- Hassan-Ali, S. Extranets: Designing, Planning, and Implementation. Saarbrücken, Germany: Lap Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010.
- Miller, F. P., et al. Electronic Data Interchange. Saarbrücken, Germany VDM Publishing House, 2010.
- Miller, H. W. Electronic Data Interchange. Cairo, Egypt: Information Technology Institute, 1993.
- Phaltankar, K. M. Practical Guide for Implementing Extranets and Intranets. Boston: Artech House, 2000.
- Stultz, R. A. Demystifying EDI: A Practical Guide to Electronic Data Interchange Implementation, Transactions, and Systems. Plano, TX: Wordware Pub., 2000.
- Szuprowicz, B. O. Extranets and Intranets: E-Commerce Business Strategies for the Future. Charleston, SC: Computer Technology Research, 1998.
- Intranet Journal
- Journal of Electronic Commerce
REPRESENTATIVE ASSOCIATIONS and Other Resources
- Data Interchange Standards Association
- Extranet Benchmarking Association
All Business. "The Benefits of Extranets." 2009. allbusiness.com/technology/computer-networking/1283-1.html (accessed April 2011).
Chow, W. S. "An Exploratory Study of the Success Factors for Extranet Adoption in E-Supply Chain." Journal of Global Information Management (January-March 2004).
Harris, A. L., and C. Chen. "Traditional and Internet EDI Adoption Barriers." In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.). Encyclopedia of E-Commerce, E-Government, and Mobile Commerce. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Reference, 2006.
Hassan-Ali, S. Extranets: Designing, Planning, and Implementation. Saarbrücken, Germany: Lap Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010.
McVerry, J. R., and R. Naylor. “Creating Web-Based EDI Applications with AJAX.” White paper, American Coders, Ltd. 2006. americancoders.com/AJAX_EDI_OBOE.pdf (accessed April 2011).
Meadors, K. "Secure Electronic Data Interchange over the Internet." IEEEXplore (May-June 2005).
extranet A network that uses a virtual private network to link intranets in different locations over the Internet; an "extended intranet."
virtual private network (VPN) A network that creates tunnels of secured data flows, using cryptography and authorization algorithms, to provide secure transport of private communications over the public Internet.
electronic data interchange (EDI) A communication standard (known as the X12) that enables the electronic transfer of routine documents, such as purchasing orders, between business partners. It formats these documents according to an agreed-upon structure.
Extensible Markup Language (XML) A set of rules for encoding documents in a machine-readable form. It defines the data elements on a Web page and in B2B documents.
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