AS2: A Data Exchange Standard

AS2 is a popular standard by which users transfer EDI or other data, such as XML or plain text documents, over the Internet. AS2, or Applicability Statement 2, offers distinct advantages over HTTP and other less advanced protocols, including increased verification and security achieved through the use of receipts, digital signatures, and file encryption.

Aside from the advanced security features, additional AS2 benefits include:

  • Flexible data transmission
  • Authentication
  • Nonrepudiation
  • Confirmation
  • Relatively low cost

Businesses use AS2 to exchange purchase orders, advanced shipment notices, invoices, payments, remittance files, or other standardized messages. AS2 transactions and acknowledgements occur in real-time, increasing the efficiency of document exchanges.

Due to increasing security concerns and mandates, many organizations require partners to use AS2 for all EDI or other B2B communications.

History of AS2

Born in 1998 as an extension to Applicability Statement 1 (AS1), which uses the slower SMTP protocol, AS2 consists mainly of compatibility with the more secure HTTPs and S/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (s/MIME) standards, which rely on encryption and authentication to ensure privacy and delivery.

The adoption of AS2 grew exponentially in 2002, due in large part to adoption of the standard by the retail and consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industries. Early adopters demonstrated that value-added network (VAN) bills could be reduced and near real-time EDI communications could be achieved using point-to-point AS2 technology.

Walmart adopted the technology in the early 2000s, and in September 2002 the retail giant began mandating its thousands of suppliers use AS2 to connect instead of relying on dial-up modems for ordering goods. The majority of those Walmart suppliers use Cleo software to connect using AS2. Target, Lowe’s, and Bed, Bath & Beyond have helped drive further adoption of AS2 in the retail sector.

Since then, the number of retail chains and CPG companies using AS2 as a method for communicating EDI data with vendors has continued to grow. Other vertical industries, including healthcare since AS2 satisfies many of the HIPAA requirements, have taken notice of this communication success and are choosing this protocol for their critical communications.

Cleo Leads the AS2 Pack

As an extension of our legacy as a leader in data communication solutions, Cleo was one of the pioneers of AS2. When it first came out, AS2 was a business disruptor in the sense that many traditional VANs wanted to limit its use due to the risk direct EDI connectivity posed to their revenues. Cleo embraced the protocol and proceeded to lead the way with AS2 standards work and Walmart to enable its use on a much broader scale.

The Cleo LexiCom®Cleo VLTrader®, and Cleo Harmony® solutions deliver certified, secure AS2, AS3, ebMS (ebXML Messaging Service), fasp™, FTP, FTPs, SSH FTP, HTTP, HTTPs, IBM® WebSphere® MQ, MLLP, RNIF, OFTP, OFTP2, SMTP, SMTPs, and Web Services connections. The flexible all-Java technology runs on industry-standard PCs and servers and supports a wide variety of operating system configurations. Trading partners worldwide rely on Cleo regardless of their level of expertise, size, or relationship as a client or host.

For further reading, check out Cleo’s protocol comparison guide, which detail security, standards, and considerations for using AS2 and other communication protocols.

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