How Does Modern B2B Infrastructure Evolve?

In a presentation on how B2B infrastructure is currently evolving, Chandana Gopal, Research Manager for IDC Research, identified three gateway classes now supported in the marketplace.

The first is the basic gateway, which Gopel characterized as a gateway that leaves files unopened, routing them based on their metadata. Such a gateway is friendly to integration with Managed File Transfer, and improves the quality of automation overall.

The second is the application-ready gateway, which can internally process semi-structured data (EDI, etc.) and enables data quality ownership entirely within the system. Such a gateway is capable of end-to-end processing of files, with improved visibility and fewer touchpoints, yielding greatly increased automation and less introduction of error.

Finally, Gopel defined the advanced gateway, which includes support of data streams for predictive analytics and the integration of trading data for predictive business initiatives. Partners with such gateways are sufficiently automated to participate in trading networks.

Gopel made the point that these three gateway classes represent a smooth progression for growth within the enterprise, adopting with the basic gateway and advancing, through uptake of increasingly advanced software and methodology, through the other two classes in as little as three to five years.

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Growing Traffic Makes Control of File Transfer Essential

The transfer of unstructured data (files) between business partners is growing at a brisk pace. This opens the door for potential error, compliance issues, and confusion.

According to a recent study by the Aberdeen Group, the number of end users requiring file transfer capability is growing rapidly, between 6% and 9% annually, as of 2013. The volume of file transfers per user is growing faster still, from 8% to 11% annually. Finally, the size of the average file to be transferred is also growing, from 6% to 7%.

The flip side is that IT staff to accommodate the increased traffic is not growing correspondingly.

A sensible solution for B2B partner companies needing to accommodate these increases is Managed File Transfer. MTF augments existing B2B data exchange mechanisms by off-loading the transfer of larger files to an independent mechanism, lessening resource consumption. It automates file transfers between B2B partners, incorporating detection and handling of transfer failures, which conventional file transfer does not; and it can authenticate users against AD/LDAP.

Industry uptake of MTF has been rapid, and it has taken up a permanent place in the B2B toolkit.

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What Does the New Year Hold for Supply Chains?

What trends are in store for B2B-integrated businesses in 2015? Mickey North Rizza of Supply Chain Digital recently offered several:

Improvement in organizational alignment will be increasingly necessary to maintain and enhance the level of performance in procurement; bolstering relationships across the enterprise will be key.

The proliferation of multi-channel retailing and supply chain consolidation will call for strategies that improve inventory network efficiency and customer service.

Increased Internet integration will require strong relationships with sourcing partners, and the real-time tracking and management of supplier performance will be necessary to contain risk.

Emerging markets around the world will spur growth, notably Asia Pacific and Latin America, and risk identification within these new markets will be key to success.

Finally, procurement officers will be fostering closer relationships with suppliers, treating them like true partners: leveraging their problem-solving knowledge will become a strategic edge, prompting their inclusion in the planning process.

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