This blog will address the following pertinent questions raised at the end of the previous blog in this series (MuleSoft Anypoint B2B - What is Anypoint B2B? ).....
Why add what can be considered legacy capability? Who needs it? Who are the intended users?
Who is Anypoint B2B for?
Simply, Anypoint B2B is a great capability addition for all businesses with specific goals of B2B integration with partners supporting EDIINT for reliable and secure B2B integration or EDI for standardised business processes and supporting messaging. Far-edge partners include larger, established corporations with existing EDI services, shared trade gateways and global exchanges, government and taxation for automation of time-critical processes as well as when trading with regulated services partners. Near partners can include OpCo’s, subsidiary branches, warehouses, depots, even logistics partners and couriers, etc.
Mule ESB is known by Gartner and in industry as an integration leader, supporting the latest internet enabled extended-business models relying on SOA, SaaS and API’s, in the cloud or on-premise. However, lacking certain B2B (and EDI in particular) capability can leave a gap in the provision of comprehensive 360 degree integration services, but, with the release of Anypoint B2B, Mulesoft is clearly addressing the perception of some organisations that Mule ESB lacked some of the traditional B2B tools necessary to even consider. By adding B2B capabilities to the best-of-breed Anypoint Studio for Mule ESB, Mulesoft is well placed to ensure complete coverage of all the integration scenarios which is supported by many established EDI enabled integration platforms (from Software AG, IBM, Oracle, Tibco, Microsoft, et al.).
Small: Anypoint B2B is for small or new organisations with a lean, distributed business. These businesses rely on Mule ESB and cloubhub.io to be their virtual foundation, realising the distributed collection of disparate corporate components and processes as a synchronised, harmonious whole. As these lean businesses grow, the need to support new business partners and circa early 2000 integration exchanges using traditional integration has become a necessity.
Large: Anypoint B2B is aimed at larger organisations with legacy B2B services. Organisations with electronic supply chains which have been around for a while typically have an integration heritage including batch data exchange mechanisms with trading partners. Many of these systems provide public facing gateways (integration exchanges) for EDI and other B2B protocols which are operated as a business service. After years of refinement these are usually reliable and extensively used. However, as these systems are typically built years ago, the expert knowledge has likely eroded through attrition, making maintenance and extensive enhancement of these systems prohibitive. Adding new protocols and integration capabilities to these gateways is often more difficult and risky than building a complementary gateway system. Considering Mule ESB’s use in Agile projects with a future-focused strategy of no change to legacy (such that changes to existing functionality and new features must be built and deployed only on the strategic platform) moves the partition of service from complementary to using Mule ESB for all integration.
Why Anypoint B2B?
EDI is still the work-horse of B2B. It is a proven technology with broad market adoption. It is not going anywhere quickly, so its inclusion in Anypoint and Mule ESB shows that Mulesoft’s integration product is maturing in so doing is supporting a broader user base. Additionally, when facing a requirement for reliable messaging with an acknowledgement pattern, and the trading partner already supports EDIINT AS2, it is a great way for Anypoint B2B to demonstrate its value.
A few industries such as healthcare are regulated. Specifically, HIPAA electronic administrative transactions are regulated by Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). To conduct electronic B2B trade in accordance with regulation, X12 version 5010 needs to be used.
Despite the huge change in business applications, internal enterprise integration and big ideas for the 2000-era internet exchanges, B2B scenarios have not changed much. These high level business requirements are still the same – and are still necessary for conducting formal, enterprise-level B2B messaging:
Data security through encryption, while allowing dynamic routing by intermediaries
Guaranteed once and only once delivery
Non-repudiation of origin and receipt
Bespoke (or 1:1) integration is fairly prevalent, whereas most B2B scenarios are many:many or at least many:1 or 1:many. When there are ‘many’ parties involved, all progressing at their own pace and in line with their own organisational and technological maturity, the use of an existing standard can vastly improve trading partner take up and delivery turnaround time of the B2B initiative.
Consider all the real business scenarios supported using the following X12 EDI message sets:ORD Orders DEL Delivery / Logistics WAR Warehousing FIN Financial Instructions TAX Tax GOV Government INS Insurance and Health services ENG Engineering MAN Manufacturing MAT Materials Handling MOR Mortgages STU Student Information TAM Transport Air and Motor TAS Transport Automotive TOS Transport Ocean TRS Transport Rail PSS Product Services QSS Quality and Safety MIS Miscellaneous
For more detailed explanations of the X12 messages and mapping please see
These ‘Business Services’ may not provide the latest RESTful API’s, but they are typically reliable and can be ‘consumed’ immediately. Given the service already exists, the constraints on a rapid delivery of capability to the business principally becomes the time taken to build (or customise) the connection and create valid message mapping with internal data sources.
Mulesoft’s Anypoint and Mule ESB combination is an established leader in high-speed integration productivity, rapid integrating disparate data sources in the cloud and on-premise. Now, this product has X12 EDI templates and AS2 support means B2Bjust got accelerated. Enjoying the best of both worlds: once the traditional B2B interface has been built, there is no legacy technology restriction holding Mule ESB users from providing an API or integrating the mapping with SaaS or composite business processes.
Indeed, Mule ESB is a viable option when considering a migration from a restrictive B2B gateway services platform which may not support the range of connectivity required, which may only support EDI or file transfer services using EDIINT protocols. Parallel running of Mule ESB with a gateway is possible and assists businesses in establishing confidence with the new technology.
Architectural Road map
When moving towards a new technology architecture based on sound principles of atomic, real time messaging in preparation for SaaS, API’s and SOA, it can be difficult to make the transition in a single step, or big bang. Some systems are rigid but also B2B systems are rife with the dependencies of trading partners or third parties. Using an incremental approach by means of an Architecture Roadmap with an interim state or solution which produces tangible benefits (such as improved interface ‘handshaking’ and data exchange reliability using AS2 affecting real KPI’s such as On-Time-In-Full for Supply Chain) can help to make an appealing business case.
In the near- to mid-term, decision makers and programme stakeholders develop confidence in Mule ESB as a platform and thereby reducing resistance to larger, more ambitious integration projects and architecture enhancements.
Business cases need to consider perceived benefits of a set of requirements (such as SaaS integration and federated ID using OAuth) against architectural road maps to inform the likely technical- and resource-recipe along with project planning for duration and cost estimates. Without the capability in your target architecture, the accuracy and feasibility of these business cases diminishes quickly. Therefore, remain alert to opportunities when the business case for Mule ESB can be made solely based on the EDI /AS2 capabilities of Anypoint B2B. Where this is applicable, CxO level supporting should be sought to drive demand for a target enterprise architecture to support business improvement, perhaps necessitating that all new developments be made on the strategic platform, and that this could include large changes to existing services. Having a sound target architecture which supports the connected businesses of tomorrow will empower your enterprise to produce more realistic, factual and achievable business cases for tomorrow’s integration projects.
If you would like to find out more about how Systems Integration could help you make the most out of your current infrastructure while enabling you to open your digital horizons, do give us a call at +44 (0)203 475 7980 or email us at Salesforce@coforge.com