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Why A Managed Azure Integration Services Solution Makes Sense for EDI

Vector graphic that says "on-premise"

In short: It’s goodbye for real this time, legacy software. We’ve moved on to cloud tools for good.

Like many of us, you too may be a bit buzzword-weary when it comes to “moving to the cloud.”  After all, hasn’t everyone, well…moved to the cloud? When it comes to enterprise technology, you might be surprised to learn that there’s plenty of runway ahead.

Though on-premise technologies command a large portion of market share, more and more companies continue to evaluate and implement cloud-first strategies that favor moving mission-critical business technologies such as B2B messaging and supply chain integration into a public cloud or hybrid cloud environments. According to Gartner, enterprise IT infrastructure and software spending in the public cloud is set to overtake traditional IT spending by the year 2025. *

It follows that public cloud and enterprise technology providers continue to invest heavily in providing a path forward for their on-premises integration platform and middleware users to succeed through the use of cloud-based iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service) and SaaS tools that exceed the capabilities of existing on-premise environments.

In short: It’s goodbye for real this time, legacy software. We’ve moved on to cloud tools for good.

Let’s look at some reasons why moving to a cloud-based managed EDI integration environment is a viable path forward for on-premises integration platform users.

On-premises integration tools are no longer the best choice for starting new cloud-centric or cloud-first projects

The roadmap ahead is becoming clearer. With Microsoft’s increasingly robust releases of BizTalk Migrator, a tool that claims to assist users in a smooth and secure transition to Azure-based services, the writing may be on the wall that Microsoft’s expected path forward for on-premises BizTalk users is an eventual migration to Azure-based integration tools. From the looks of it, the timing is as soon as feasibly possible. The continued development of cloud-based components that duplicate BizTalk functionality suggests a cloud-first path for projects requiring B2B messaging and data exchange. Simply put, investment in Azure Integration Services and its EDI-specific tools continues to grow after the announcement of the end of mainstream support for BizTalk Server 2020.

However, let’s be clear: It’s not as simple to move from your on-premises messaging to the cloud as it may seem. New development methods, testing, and migration planning alongside keeping up with rapidly evolving tech­nolo­gies can be a lot to sign up for, not to mention the investment in human capital and DevOps methodologies.

Managed Cloud EDI solutions present tangible benefits

Beyond fulfilling a middle manager’s somewhat vague call to action of “get into the cloud,” cloud-first EDI and API integration solutions present several operational benefits and simplify capital investment. Compared to a legacy on-premises or server-based EDI integration environment, a managed cloud EDI integration service eliminates the need for regular maintenance, patches, and updates.  Your integration partner or service provider maintains the environment on a defined and continual basis with no hidden service, support, or licensing fees.

Moreover, iPaaS enables an “only pay for what you need” pricing model. As the B2B and EDI messaging volume rises or falls based on the underlying business, end users pay only for their actual use of the system. Cloud services billing tends to be more akin to that of a utility consumer subscription fee and varies with usage. It is easier to digest than five or six-figure annual licensing and support fees.

Finally, there’s security. You might think your locked server closet down the hall is the safest way to keep critical customer data. However, cloud services are hosted in public cloud data centers subject to the strictest system and operational control standards and auditing. Plus, a wide variety of connectivity options such as AS2, SFTP, OFTP2, and others allow robust encryption and control over critical corporate data, a crucial part of secure business data exchange in times of the seemingly ever-present threat of cyber­attacks and enterprise security breaches.

Porting maps from BizTalk directly to managed cloud EDI environments preserves original investments in development.

The EDI branch of integration (which, contrary to the mania surrounding API-based integration, isn’t going away any time soon) has a reputation for being tedious and complex, and the need to recreate existing integrations or rebuild complex maps from scratch is often a hurdle for companies looking to migrate to newer cloud-based integration platforms. Some EDI providers— having already worked to duplicate or migrate BizTalk-native maps into traditional X12 EDI environments at scale — realize this and as a result, have leveraged iPaaS solutions that support the porting of existing XSLT maps into Azure Integration Services-based cloud EDI environments with minimal effort.

EDI-focused integration partners are already building managed enterprise integration solutions with Azure Integration Services

Some experts are already making it easy. EDI networks and integration providers such as Kleinschmidt are already building AIS-based EDI solutions that provide a path forward for companies using BizTalk to map, manage and orchestrate their EDI workflows both inside their business and with their trading partner communities. These solutions operate as standalone platforms that are fully managed EDI integration, translation, and connectivity instances, or hybridized environments that utilize cloud-first tools to unite EDI and APIs across vast trading partner communities with wide-ranging operational require­ments to exchange vital business data.

Continued investment in Azure integration solutions opens the door to new integration opportunities for not only traditional EDI but modern APIs, blockchain, and whatever else the future may bring. That investment, coupled with the vast expertise possessed by the traditionally EDI-only integrators who are now utilizing cloud-first method­olo­gies to build more flexible, scalable, and powerful integration envi­ron­ments, will ensure that solutions will be available when you are ready to make your move.

What’s Next?

Though the fate of on-premises integration platforms remains to be seen, and the transition to cloud-first projects can be confusing and challenging, one thing is certain, the continued need for B2B integration through EDI and APIs. Kleinschmidt’s customer-centric solutions help to ensure a smooth transition of critical business messaging to the cloud, even as you maintain legacy func­tion­ality behind your corporate firewall. The end goal is not just to move existing processes to the cloud but to help you to get a head start on a new era of integration technology while maintaining data throughput and reliability in day-to-day operations.

About the Author

Manish Upadhyaya is a Senior Cloud Architect who has worked extensively in Integration space using Microsoft technologies. His domain knowledge includes EDI, EAI, Supply Chain, Medical Devices and P&C Insurance. He has worked with Azure Integration Services (AIS) since inception.