Wal-Mart taps IBM for EDI transition

US shopping chain Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Thursday tapped IBM Corp. to help migrate the retail giant's 16,000 suppliers over to the Internet as their medium for exchanging data such as purchase orders and invoices.

Wal-Mart has asked its suppliers to transition away from using conventional EDI in the hopes of eliminating the costs associated with EDI's telephone- and value-added network provider system, said company officials. Smaller suppliers that conduct transactions via phone and fax will also make the shift to Internet-based EDI, officials said.

The plan calls for Wal-Mart suppliers to adopt technology that supports the AS2 standard for exchanging information -- including EDI documents and XML messages -- over HTTP and the Internet, according to company officials.

Wal-Mart officials say that EDI-over-the-Net will significantly trim costs and speed performance vis-à-vis conventional EDI. And the AS2-based integration technologies will ensure the integrity of transactions, including confirmed document delivery and security using digital signatures and encryption.

IBM has built AS2 support into its WebSphere Business Integration Connect software, which is part of its WebSphere Business Integration suite for linking partners, suppliers, and their business processes, according to IBM. WebSphere Business Integration Connect is expected to play a major role in enabling the Wal-Mart suppliers to move to Internet-based EDI, officials said.

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