Products Based on New AS3 Protocol Are Ready to Go
February 8, 2005 Alex Woodie
The Drummond Group last week announced results of its first round of certification testing for products using Applicability Statement 3, a new communications standard that uses FTP/S to send EDI transactions over the Internet. Twelve AS3 products from 11 companies made Drummond’s cut, enabling companies to begin using the AS3 protocol, which some say offers greater security than the HTTP/S-based AS2 protocol.
While the first draft specification for AS3 was submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force quite recently, in 2003, some communications products already included support for AS3. However, it wasn’t until last week that any AS3 product was certified as eBusinessReady by the Drummond Group, the nonprofit organization that performs compliance testing for the Uniform Code Council and ensures interoperability among certified products.
So far, there are no large companies mandating use of AS3, as Wal-Mart did with AS2. While AS2 has been widely adopted in the consumer-processed-goods supply chain, some experts say AS3 has benefits that could lead to even wider adoption, particularly among security-conscious companies in the healthcare and financial services industries and by those who already rely heavily on FTP to send and receive transactions.
One of the benefits of AS3 is that it’s a “push and pull” technology, as opposed to AS2, which is a push-only technology, says Todd Enneking, vice president of engineering for Cleo Communications. “AS3 offers both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ FTP capabilities, which may widen its adoption rate, compared to AS2, which is a push-only protocol,” he says.
When an EDI or XML transaction is sent over the Internet using AS3, the two FTP programs on either side of the transaction are aware of the transaction and are actively participating in it. With the HTTP transport used in AS2, transactions can be floating out on the Internet for a while before landing in the receiving computer, and even though AS2 transactions are encrypted and secure, this can violate the security policies of customers in some industries, says Rick Nucci, chief technology officer of the Pennsylvania integration software developer Boomi.
“The thing exciting people about AS3 is, with AS2 infrastructure, you have to have your ports open. You may have one or more ports open, which can be against some network policies,” Nucci says. “AS3 allows instantaneous [connections]. And most of the certified products like ours have timeouts, so that if you don’t get the acknowledgement, it times out,” closes the ports, and tries again later.
Boomi’s AS3 Transport Version 3.1.1 is one of 12 products from 11 vendors certified for AS3 interoperability by the Drummond Group. While AS3 Transport will run on the iSeries, it does so from a Linux partition; it does not run in native OS/400.
There are several native OS/400 AS3 products available from vendors with experience on the platform. One of these companies is nuBridges, which last year bought TrailBlazer Systems and renamed it the eBusiness Solutions group. The nuBridges ZMOD Exchange EDI-INT V3R2 supports OS/400, as well as AS1, AS2, and AS3.
The company nuBridges helped to pioneer the AS3 standard and has one of the first customer implementations of AS3, says Rich Brown, general manager of nuBridges eBusiness Solutions group. The customer, who was only described as one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing specialty retailers of home textiles, housewares, and decorative home accessories, was able to get over 200 suppliers in production using AS3 in less than six months with a very small staff, nuBridges says. “To date, this specialty retailer has the most successful story for a rapid EDI-INT deployment,” Brown says.
The company iSoft also received AS3 certification, for Commerce Suite Version 3.2, which is available for OS/400 and z/OS. Yesterday, the Dallas company announced an expansion of its partnership with Patrick Townsend & Associates. Pat Townsend will port the latest Commerce Suite release to OS/400 and z/OS, and it will provide all support for iSeries Commerce Suite customers. (The company iSoft is notable in that Wal-Mart uses its Commerce Suite for AS2 compliance and had recommended that its suppliers use it, too.)
Another company supporting OS/400 with its AS3 transport products is Templar Software, in San Marcos, California. This company’s Templar Engine 5.3 supports OS/400 V5R1, according to the company’s Web site.
Cyclone Commerce was the only company with two products certified for AS3 by Drummond. The Scottsdale, Arizona, company, which was instrumental in creating the new protocol, supports OS/400 V5R1 and V5R2 with its AS3-certified Cyclone Interchange/Activator Version 4.2 product. Cyclone Interchange/Activator Version 5.2 does not run on OS/400.
Atlanta-based Inovis was also certified for AS3, with its BizManager 3.0 product, which is available for OS/400 through a version called BizManager/400. This product was launched in December (see “Inovis Unveils Unified E-Business Product Line”).
Chicago-based Click Commerce was also certified for AS3, with EDIINT Engine 8.0, as tested in Click Commerce TDNgine Version 2.7 with Click Commerce TDAccess. According to the company’s Web site, TDAccess does support OS/400. However, the company did not provide specifics on this support by press time.
Cleo Communications, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was also certified for AS3, with its VersaLex 2.3 platform. While Cleo does support OS/400 with its VersaLex software, and is a well-known OEM supplier to other data integration providers in this space, the server components that support AS3, VLTrader and VLExchange, and the client portion, LexiCom, run only on Windows, Unix, and Linux platforms.
Some of the products listed above, such as Inovis BizManager, contain the AS3 (and AS1 and AS2) communications layer, as well as EDI translator component. Both are needed to actually use this software in a production environment. Also, some of the products that the Drummond Group certified for AS3 are part of a larger offering, such as an enterprise application integration framework, a service, or an EAI connector.
EAI vendor webMethods received AS3 certification for webMethods Fabric Version 6.5. Adapter and connector specialist iWay Software also received the certification, for its iWay 5.5 Adapter for AS3. Finally, Global eXchange Services, a Gaithersburg, Maryland, software and services company, was also certified for AS3, for its AS3 Engine. The company primarily provides its communication solutions as a service.
To read more about AS3, go to Drummond Group’s Web page on the topic, at www.ebusinessready.org/as3.html.