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Transformation of EDIFACT messages using Open Source tools

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe UN/ECE started in the mid’ 80 with the development of the UN/EDIFACT (United Nations Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport) standard for EDI. In 1988 the UN/EDIFACT standard has been adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) under the ISO standard ISO 9735.

The UN/EDIFACT standard has gradually grown to the international standard for Electronic Data Interchange. But with the rise of XML standards EDIFACT is under pressure for several years now. However the UN/EDIFACT standard is still frequently being used and implemented globally.

The UN/EDIFACT standard has especially aimed, beside the syntax, on content standardization, the semantics. In it the real power of EDIFACT hides.

The XML standards have especially problems with functional standardization. A universal method for standardization like the Core Components from UN/CEFACT has not been generally accepted and implemented. Please read more in my bloart How do we solve the interoperability question ?

Because of this several incoherent and incompatible as well as fragmented standards arise.

The approach that is followed by developers of XML standards is separation of functionality and technique.

The past years especially the technique of XML has got all the attention and the number of Open Source tools for working with XML has increased tremendous. Open Source transformation tools such as XAware and Chainbuilder unfortunately do not support the UN/EDIFACT standard or related standards. The attention for the technique of XML is the main reason for this.

The need for the UN/EDIFACT support standard will remain for the next few years. People ask me on a regular basis when this functionality will become available. Open Source transformation tools that provide this capability will be adopted much faster. The need for commercial EDIFACT translation tools will disappear.

Potentially vendors of commercial transformation software will consider, probably this already happens now, to make their products available under an Open Source license. Companies like Sun and IBM could gain a significant market share in this field area on the Open Source market if they would open up their transformation tools for JCAPS (Sun) and WebSphere (IBM). The first steps in that direction are made. Sun Microsystems, the important sponsor behind the Open Source project OpenESB, has announced to incorporate components of OpenESB in Java CAPS in the future.

XAware and Chainbuilder could eventually become the standard transformation tool for OpenESB. I have put myself forward in the XAware community (as ‘sponsor’ in) driving this to realize EDIFACT transformation functions and perhaps in the meantime it is possible to realize a solution for Chainbuilder as well.

Tags: electronic data interchange, eclipse, data mapping tool, EDIFACT

Last update: 26-11-2011

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