Prior to the advent of XML, Web Services, and Service Oriented Architectures, electronic communication of information between trading partners was typically implemented through traditional EDI or electronic data interchange. EDIFACT and ASC X12 were, and continue to be, the two leading EDI Standards. EDIFACT, managed by the United Nations, is popular outside of the United States and in the US auto industry. ASC X12 on the other hand dominates most other domestic EDI data communications. Even as modern alternatives gain traction, industries from health care to manufacturing continue to rely on EDI for a great number of business-critical processes. Many companies find themselves struggling to build, manage, and maintain a plethora of EDI, XML, and proprietary interfaces. The eiConsole provides a single solution to rationalize the old with the new. In the following demonstration you will see how an ASC X12 850 purchase order transaction can be converted into both an XML format and a fixed-width proprietary format.
We begin on the Route File Management window of the eiConsole, where we have one route in our Route Overview grid.
We double click to open this in the eiConsole’s Main Route screen. Here we see one Source System that will be producing our ASC X12 transaction, and two Target Systems. One is expecting a proprietary Fixed-Width file format, and a second looking for an XML file. The developer or business analyst when configuring the interface moves stage by stage from left to right configuring each piece in turn.
We always begin with the Listener that handled the connectivity to the Source System. The eiConsole supports a wide variety of Listener types. In this case we’re pulling data from a Directory.
And we’ve configured how often to look in that Directory and what Directory to poll.
After the data is accepted we move along to the Source Transformation. In the eiConsole we always treat data as XML for logical mapping purposes. To do this with an ASC X12 transaction, we first need to convert it using a Transformation Module. Since EDI is typically a specialized version of a Delimited or Fixed-Width file, we choose the Delimited and Fixed-Width File Transformation Module.
The File Specification Editor allows us to describe the structure of the EDI file, or any other Delimited or Fixed-Width file that we want to parse into XML, or generate from XML. Here, on the left hand side, we see a representation of the ASC 850 transaction.
For instance, here we can see the Purchase section.
This definition allows us to convert a sample file (which you see here)…
Into an XML representation. You can see now that each EDI segment becomes an element, as does each field.
We can also navigate the parsed representation.
Now that we’ve described the structure of our EDI transaction and can convert it into XML, we move along to our next stage. We can, if we elect to, use XSLT to further transform this XML document into another standard XML representation. In this case we’ve selected to Use Direct Relay and to move along to the Routing stage.
The Routing stage allows us to describe Routing Rules that determine which Target or set of Targets the Source data should be sent to. In this case we have the All Targets Routing Module selected, meaning that both Target Systems will receive every transaction that flows in from the Source.
Each Target System is associated with its own Target Transformation. In the first case we now need to convert our XML representation of the EDI transaction into a proprietary flat-file.
The Data Mapper is a best-of-breed, drag-and-drop data transformation tool that allows us to load in a Source and Target format, and then drag-and-drop to create a mapping between the two in this center panel. In this case our left hand side represents our EDI transaction. On the right hand side we have a description of the fixed-width file that we want to generate, with a number of different record types within it.
Here, for instance, we can see the green node (a field in the Target) being populated with a blue node (a field from the Source).
Under the covers, what’s generated is W3C Standard XSLT.
The output of the Data Mapper and the XSLT is an XML representation of the fixed-width file that we want to generate. In order to lay this out in the correct byte positions, we again use the File Specification Editor to describe the structure of this proprietary file.
This time the File Specification Editor contains green nodes for each of the different records within our positional file. Blue nodes indicate fields within a record.
And since this is positional – you see the start position, end position, and length specified below each.
Finally, we have a Transport that handles the connectivity to the Target System. Once again, the eiConsole supports a wide variety of Transports, some synchronous, some asynchronous. In this case we’re just dropping the data off in a Directory.
Our second Target has no further transformation required, and simply drops the XML representation of the EDI transaction in a separate folder.
Once we’ve configured the interface from Source to Target we move along to Testing Mode. In Testing Mode of the Console the icons between the Source and Target Systems are converted to question marks…
And we can configure our test to start and end at any point that we’d like.
If we don’t start with the Listener and we click Execute Test, we’ll be prompted to provide a sample file.
Once selected, as each stage runs we’ll either see a green checkmark (indicating success) or an X (indicating failure).
We can then look at both how long the process took and the data as it appeared at each point.
Here we can see our inbound ASC X12 850 transaction.
Here we can see that same transaction having been converted into an XML representation.
Then, in our first Target Transform, we see the mapping of that onto an XML representation of our Fixed-Width file. Finally, we see that Fixed-Width file itself after the file has been processed in the File Specification Editor.
We can see in the second case that the final transformation step yielded the same XML representation of the ASC 850 that we generated on the Source side.
Now that we’ve integration tested our interface within the Console, the final step is to deploy this to an eiPlatform server where the interface can run in an unattended mode.
This concludes our demonstration of ASC X12 EDI Data Transformation. You’ve seen how the eiConsole can be used to rationalize XML, EDI, and proprietary data formats. Now, it’s time for you to get your hands dirty. Download the eiConsole and try it out yourself.