Small Suppliers to Get B2B Boost

GXS, Microsoft to link trading grid, collaboration technology

After years of work, business-to-business software companies are still struggling to connect smaller suppliers with their global, often-much-larger supply chain partners.

The issue? While most big buyers have massive IT departments to facilitate back-end integrations to suppliers, smaller mom-and-pop shops lack such facilities.

B2B integration company GXS and Microsoft are out to fix that. The two companies announced May 8 a partnership in which they will combine GXS electronic B2B trading hub—arguably one of the largest in the world—with Microsofts near-ubiquitous collaboration technology, such as its e-mail applications.

The companies will work to embed Microsofts BizTalk Server 2006 and SQL Server 2005 into GXS Trading Grid. At the same time, Microsoft announced that GXS Trading Grid is its "preferred" B2B network.

"Were providing direct integration between BizTalk and the Trading Grid—its one feed," said Eddie Amos, senior director in the developer and platform evangelism group at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash. "Trading Grid will map to all your partners and how they do business."

Microsoft will make available to GXS 40,000-strong global customer base a BizTalk Server 2006-based Grid Ready application that will enable integration to hundreds of business partners, officials said.

The companies are also planning further integrations at the product level—specifically, GXS supplier processes to Microsofts Dynamics suite of ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications and the upcoming Office 2007 release.

GXS plans to simplify the integration of standards and protocols, in effect enabling Office 2007 and Dynamics users to automate their processes with customers and suppliers.

Microsoft, for its part, is big into process orchestration and integration. Its Dynamics suite is largely being built around enabling process scenarios.

The idea with GXS is to enable suppliers (who are also Dynamics users) to be able to automate specific processes—purchase order remittance, for example—with partners.

There is a similar concept regarding Office. "Office 2007, coming out a little later this year, will have XML formatting and new programmable ribbons that GXS will be able to program right into its applications," said Amos.

GXS Trading Grid embedded with Microsofts BizTalk and SQL Server components is due in June. The companies dont know when the Office 2007 and Dynamics process integration will be completed.

Hosted Integration for Suppliers

To enable real-time flow of information between businesses, the GXS Trading Grid offers these capabilities:

* Global messaging Internet, private connectivity, interchange services and network-based translations

* B2B gateways Integrate business systems, integrate ERP (SAP, Oracle and others); any-to-any document translations

* B2B accelerators Data synchronization compliance; EDI (electronic data interchange) expansions

* Data synchronization applications Product information management; hosted catalog for apparel and footwear

* Visibility applications Order, logistics and inventory visibility

* B2B outsourcing EDI outsourcing, B2B consolidation and global community enablement

Source: GXS