The rapid growth of the Internet presents a huge opportunity for companies to be able to connect more easily and cheaply to both existing and new B2B partners—if they can find ways to share data securely over this very public network. A standard introduced in 2002, AS2 is addressing this need, bringing the traditional benefits of electronic data interchange (EDI) to smaller companies with limited budgets and slashing the costs of online transactions for large companies.
AS2 works by providing an “envelope” for the data, allowing it to be sent over the Internet (or another TCP/IP-based network) using the HTTP protocol, which powers the World Wide Web. The receiving organisation’s server then listens out for messages addressed to it. Like a call to a phone with no answering machine, the message will be missed if your server is not available to take the call; so, many organisations decide to use a service provider such as GXS to provide AS2 connectivity. Of course, this approach also means you benefit from GXS’ shared infrastructure, skills and security.
AS2 can handle any kind of document but is ideally suited to the kind of transactions that have traditionally made up the bulk of EDI exchanges. Just as with EDI, you can extract data from internal systems and use a translator to transform it into the appropriate standard before dispatching it. You can then process the data you send and receive in the same way.
There are two key differences between traditional EDI and AS2, however. The first is that AS2 operates only over networks running the TCP/IP protocol. The second is that the receiving computer must be connected to the Internet at the time the document is sent. Together, these factors mean that if you decide to develop an AS2 capability in-house rather than work through a service provider, both you and your trading partners must use AS2 and both of you must be communicating over TCP/IPbased networks such as the Internet.
Before you can begin using AS2, you need to make a number of choices—in conjunction with your trading partners—about how you will transact online. This site takes you through these decisions and shows how to get online with AS2 effectively.
Whether you are introducing AS2 at the request of a trading partner or rolling AS2 out to your own trading partners, GXS can help you with these steps. GXS offers a number of solutions and our clients are already benefiting from AS2 on a global basis. AS2 has become one of the key standards for B2B commerce, and GXS has helped make this happen by assisting many customers in their implementation of this powerful protocol.