Trading Partner Setup 101: The Communication Protocols

Two business men greet one another with a lot on their minds

Please note: This post originally appeared on Extol.com (EXTOL has been acquired by Cleo).

When setting up a new trading partner or business integration process, thinking through the process beforehand can greatly decrease the implementation time and help minimize problems. Many integration projects can come to a grinding halt in the middle of implementation if it’s only later realized that required data is not configured in your backend application, or if your system doesn’t support the particular communication protocol your new trading partner intends to use.  “Looking before leaping” will help alleviate potential problems later.

Prior to any new trading partner implementation, you should first determine and assess the required communications protocol.  In other words, how will your trading partner send and receive data to and from you?  If your system cannot support your trading partner’s intended protocol, it may be necessary to ask them if an alternative form of communication could be used.  For example, your trading partner requires a direct AS2 connection, but you don’t support AS2 communication.  However, you do support VAN communication via FTP.  You might request that your trading partner consider an AS2 connection with your VAN.

The following list represents common communication methods and general questions for consideration when implementing that method (the information necessary to communicate using this protocol that may affect the communications method to be implemented):

  1. FTP – (File Transfer Protocol)
    1. Is the FTP “secured” and, if so, what are the encryption requirements?
    2. What are the address, username, and password?
    3. What directories should you send and retrieve data from?
    4. Is there a specific filename and format that needs to be used?
    5. Will you ‘GET’ the data from the partner’s system or will your partner ‘PUT’ the data on your system?
    6. Who is responsible for clean-up/archive procedures?  What is needed?
    7. Is this to be in ‘ACTIVE’ or ‘PASSIVE’ mode?
    8. Is this to be “Plain”, “Explicit”, or “Implicit” FTP?
  2. VAN – (Value Added Network)
    1. What is your trading partner’s ISA (Interchange) ID/Address?
    2. What is your trading partner’s VAN?
    3. If separate VANs, is there an Interconnect charge and, if so, who pays?
    4. Do you and/or your trading partner use a test mailbox?
    5. What are the kilo-character charges?
    6. Does your VAN have a separate mailbox charge?
  3. AS2 – (Applicability Statement 2)
    1. How will you generate/obtain your company AS2 certificate?
    2. Did you and your trading partner exchange certificates and AS2 IDs?
    3. When will the certificates expire?
    4. What is the IP Address your trading partner is sending from?
    5. Is this IP Address open on your firewall?
    6. What IP Address and Port are you sending to?
    7. Does your partner have your outbound IP Address open on their firewall?
    1. Who is the “Consumer” and who is the “Provider”?
    2. Have you obtained the WSDL (Web Services Description Language) does it contain everything needed to set up the integration process?
    3. What is the URL where the data is being sent-to/received-from?
  5. EMAIL
    1. What are the email addresses of all your trading partners and recipients?
    2. Do they want the data in the body of the email or sent as an attachment?

Once the communications portion of a trading partner is configured, the next step is to test the connection by sharing test data.  Depending on the communications method, there might be an automated acknowledgment sent back to verify the connection was good (such as an MDN for AS2 or a ‘Delivered’ notification in your mailbox for VAN).  Otherwise, it may require that you contact your trading partner to verify communication results.

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