EDI? XML? Or Both?

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Will XML supplant EDI as the format of choice for electronic transactions? That depends on whom you ask. "XML is going to replace EDI," Bell asserts simply. Certainly there are many people who say they believe - or hope - that's true. They view the current emergence of XML as simply one phase in the inevitable transition.

Others view EDI as coexisting with XML indefinitely, not because they are ignoring the merits of XML, but because they acknowledge the merits and existing base of EDI. "For two companies exchanging a high volume of transactions, you don't need XML - and XML may well impede their connections," says Domke. For well-defined, repetitive and high-volume situations, leaving EDI to do its work makes the most sense for the present. "Especially for large organizations, it makes sense to continue their existing EDI connections," says Falls.

Still others say they see a mixed environment. For instance, XML can be used to make new contacts. If a contact blossoms into a high-volume connection, it might make sense to move to a more dedicated EDI connection.

However, for situations where the relationship isn't well defined, or where interoperability is uncertain, XML is the format of choice. Its flexibility allows transactions to be defined between entities and provides a common format for entities that don't speak the same language. XML doesn't require the hardware, software and IT priesthood necessary to support EDI connections - a burden that smaller companies have always avoided. McKay says an XML-based approach is ideal, especially for small to midsize companies. Whichever route you take to XML, you can be sure you won't be alone.

DeJesus is a freelance writer in Norwood, Mass. Reach him at dejesus@compuserve.com.

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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