App Dev

Power EDI integrations with Azure Logic Apps

By: | Ajay Vyas

Publish Date: August 11, 2020

No application can exist as an island. To get the most from the software, you may build or buy for your business, and you will need to connect it to the relevant business functions together securely. Integration of application lies at the heart of application development today and in constructing workflows to link business systems and send messages between applications that may not have a common API.

With the rapid pace of digitization, messages and workflow architectures will only expand to either link legacy mainframes and modern systems or connect organizations in a supply chain. And these supply chains underpin a lot of our modern manufacturing systems – mostly to deal with dynamic business situations. Meaning, getting the right message through the right protocols and formats to the right people is crucial in a well-regulated way.
This is where EDI or Electronic Data Interchange comes with the benefits of a standardized, secure way to communicate business information electronically. This is also where Microsoft’s Azure Logic Apps not only connects your business-critical apps and automates workflows on the cloud, but does it without having to write a single line of code.

Why EDI, and what makes an effective one?

Any data exchanged using an electronic medium can be referred to as Electronic Data Exchange. An EDI message contains a thread of data elements, each representing a singular fact i.e., product number, cost of the product, or similar classified information, typically in business document or form. When sending or receiving an EEDI document, both parties adhere to a standard set of rules or standards such as X12, EDIFACT, TRADACOM, ODETTE, etc.

EDI is mainly used by companies to have uniformity in their processing system, offering core benefits including:

  • Saved time and money due to the elimination of manual execution with paper documents
  • Improved efficiency and productivity with more documents processes in less time
  • Reduced errors due to EDI’s rigid standardization of formats
  • Improved data traceability and reporting by integrating IT to support collection and analysis

A common, defined standard structure to exchange messages is vital because time is spent in processing various formats. Often though, connecting multiple independent systems for application integration can become complex. Doing this means creating custom logic that automatically carries out the required steps.

But how should this logic be created? This is where Microsoft Azure’s Logic Apps is popular for its Azure-hosted workflow engine.

Business value with Azure Logic App for EDI

Like so much else, traditional integration technologies such as Microsoft’s BizTalk Server is being replaced or integrated with specialized integration platforms such as Azure Logic Apps as an iPaaS (integration platform-as-a-service). Logic Apps provides these B2B integration features via its Enterprise Integration Pack (EIP) to allow different widely used formats and protocols, including EDIFACT, X12, and AS2.

Let’s say there is a company Apple that places the purchase orders to partner company Orange. Apple accepts the order in EDI X12 850 format, whereas Orange uses an XML-based solution. Thus, Apple needs to develop a solution that converts XML messages into EDI X12 850 format and sends them to Orange. Similarly, Orange sends some messages in EDI format and needs to convert them into XML or JSON before further processing.
Azure Logic Apps decodes the inputs received from your enterprise apps, processes them using workflows, and encodes the output in the required format so that the end systems can interpret them. With the Microsoft Operations Management Suite integration, you can even quickly view and troubleshoot transactions – especially beneficial for MSMEs working with larger businesses. You can also store all business artifacts (certificates, agreements, partners, etc.), build B2B workflows, and integrate them with third-party, on-premise, or even custom apps with Logic Apps connectors. A few business advantages popularizing its use:

  • Low TCO due to its ‘pay-as-you-go’ model
  • Easy connection and rich integration of data from the cloud to on-premises
  • Easy management and onboarding of B2B partners using Azure Portal
  • Easy monitoring and tracking of B2B messages using Azure Monitor Logs
  • Ability to draw correlations between messages and acknowledgments
  • Ability to send messages in batches using the batch connector
  • Rich serverless workflows to leverage Axure’s machine learning and cognitive services
  • Drag-and-drop design for easy-to-build business workflows

Seamless, secure B2B communication on the cloud

With more compliance certifications than any cloud provider, annual $1 billion investment on cybersecurity R & D, and more than 3500 security experts dedicated to Azure’s data and privacy, Logic Apps is a game-changer business. It helps save time, cost, and effort in a secure, standardized way and delivers a direct line-of-business connection across all inter-business communications.

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