Thanks to the significant cost reduction and revenue enhancement benefits provided by direct machine to machine communications between companies, customers and suppliers, the pace of data sharing is growing dramatically. Much of the recent explosive growth has been driven by the “API Economy” – companies connecting via web services using standard technologies like REST and JSON. Yet, connection technology has been around for decades and many IBM i companies are dependent on older, batch oriented sharing technologies like EDI and FTP.
Our customers have significant investments in their EDI systems and FTP file sharing connections. Others have built web services using older API technologies like SOAP and XML. They cannot simply replace those connectors unilaterally. In most cases, a particular EDI solution is embedded in an entire supply chain and is used by all participants. These EDI products may be supporting very complex file formats like detailed product design documents that are very hard to decode. New connection technology must be adopted across the supply chain for it to work. Companies using FTP file sharing have partners who have built code to read those files and extract the data they need. If you have implemented SOAP services, you may have partners who depend on that SOAP infrastructure.
Just like with any other modernization project, as companies move to adopt the latest API technology, they must continue to support their existing techniques. Companies that are dependent on these technologies, can take an incremental approach to adopting current API standards.
If you are using EDI, you can watch for new API offerings provided by your supply chain partners and adopt them when they become available. Often, these options will significantly reduce the cost associated with data sharing as they don’t have the same transaction cost structure as proprietary EDI solutions. Companies using SOAP services can begin offering REST services alongside the SOAP services to give their partners time to adapt. FTP users should probably be looking for a more secure solution for file sharing anyway. As you make the move away from FTP, you can offer file sharing options via web services. Or, you can really take advantage of APIs and give your partners real time access to the data.
These approaches allow you to continue operating at maximum efficiency using your existing processes while over time allowing you to adopt the more cost effective, more performant and easier to use REST API technology as appropriate.
At Eradani, we have worked with many IBM i customers who are working in this kind of blended environment as they implement their API strategy. If you would like to learn more, contact us at www.eradani.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.