B2B Integration Technology: A Glossary

May 23, 2018

Let’s assume that you’ve been reading our articles for a while, but there are certain concepts that you didn’t really understand. In this case, we are also assuming that you are not an integration architect, but someone that has recognized the value of B2B data and system integrations and is looking for learning more or buying a solution that is built on top of an iPaaS.

You may have bumped into words like data formats, translation, data transfer, ecosystem, messages, back-end application integration and so on.

If you have ever raised an eyebrow and thought ‘what could that mean’ – this is a blog for you. We have gathered a short glossary for terms that we are constantly using.

If you are new to our blog, even better. Take 2 minutes to read through this blog before you would discover our other stories, too. 

1. Endpoint

An endpoint basically presents a software application of some sort. This application either produces data to be transferred to another system or systems, or it is receiving information from another system or systems.

The more complex a B2B integration is, the more endpoints you are going to encounter. Endpoints are heterogeneous. There are back-end application endpoints, trading partner endpoints, cloud application endpoints, or even divisions at enterprises with their own systems/applications can be considered as an endpoint. 

2. Trading Partner

In case of B2B integrations, we often talk about trading partners. Books on B2B data integrations also talk about hosted trading partner (the one company that offers the integrations to its partners – in some scenarios, there can be also more than one hosted trading partner) and remote or non-hosted trading partners (those that are connecting to the hosted trading partner – they are endpoints to be connected to).

Today, it’s very typical to deal with large-scale integration projects in which there are multiple trading partners. Eventually, the more trading partners need to be connected, the trickier the development of the solutions gets. In these cases, abandoning traditional ways of integration development is a no-brainer. Point-to-point integrations and EAIs simply won’t be sufficient for the connectivity requirements.

3. Ecosystem

This is probably a word that you’ve seen around on our pages a lot. When we use the term ecosystem we mean all the stakeholders, such as trading partners, suppliers, manufacturers, customers, 3PLs, etc. that you need to connect with to enable connectivity, real-time information sharing, and process automation.

4. Data format

Have you read our blog post on data formats? If not yet, make sure you check it out once you’ve finished reading this one.

Endpoints expect to receive the information in a format that they understand. However, another endpoint may use another format that some systems are unable to process. It’s crucial to have B2B integrations in place for connecting these systems, but simultaneously, it’s also necessary to translate the data formats. It’s important to note that the transformation of one format to another should always ensure that the semantics of the information remains the same.

5. Transformation & Translation

It’s very common that two endpoints operate by using different data formats. Therefore, during the data transfer, the format of the data needs to be changed. That is called transformation and it is implemented by the B2B integration technology. The integration solution interprets the syntax of one format (e.g. EDIFACT) and converts it to the equivalent syntax of another format (e.g. XML). This is called translation in integrations. 

6. Message

We have already talked about events and data formats, so what are messages? A message is one entity that contains business-critical information that is forwarded between trading partners. One message may carry much important information, log events, and may also change data format before it would reach the destination system where it will be processed.

7. Protocol

Protocol or communication protocol is the technical interface allowing external systems to communicate with an endpoint. In B2B integration scenarios the integration solution connects to endpoints using a protocol that is supported by the endpoint.

Some major protocols used in B2B integrations include FTP (File Transfer Protocol), SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), HTTP(S), and AS2. To support also on-premise integration scenarios, we provide a set of adapters supporting protocols from direct DB connections to interfacing local file systems.

Some endpoints do not communicate through protocols, but they use application programming interfaces (APIs) for connecting with other endpoints and transferring data across trading partners. APIs have become increasingly important participants of the data economy – it is like a digital glue that helps to connect your systems to the world.

An integration platform supports the development of connectivity both through protocols and adapter technologies. 

8. Business Process Integration

Complex B2B integrations are often used for more than simply connecting two endpoints and transmitting information between them.

Typically, the conversation between two or more systems is not only a one-way conversation, but information is moving back and forth.

This can help to improve business processes. For example, it’s possible to send purchase orders or invoices and receive purchase order acknowledgment in return. Sometimes, there are errors in the information, which can be automatically detected and forwarded back to the sender for fixes. 

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9. Business Process and Endpoint Behavior

Data transfers happening between two or multiple parties are rarely isolated transmission of information, but many messages are related to some other ones. Think about the example above of purchase orders, invoices, and purchase order acknowledgments.

Depending on your specifications, the integration solution can handle these messages as separate entities or it can take into consideration that these messages are related.

10. History

History is not too relevant until there are some errors in the integrations, but once failures happen it’s important to consider the history. Error-handling is simple with an integration platform

11. Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence is popular in any field of business, so is it in case of data and system integrations. Enterprises want to monitor closely what information is flowing through the solutions that someone else is maintaining for them. They want to know how many messages were exchanged or how long it took to respond. This is the reason why we also developed a Business Activity Monitoring solution to compliment the integrations with insights for our customers.

These are all concepts that could be worthy of having their very own blog to explain better how they work and why they are crucial for B2B integrations. Hopefully, this blog will help you to understand better our past and future blogs. Meanwhile, if you’ve got any questions or you think that something should have made it to the list, and it’s not there, leave us a comment below.

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