Wal-Mart tells suppliers to upgrade to Internet protocol transactions


Wal-Mart tells suppliers to upgrade to Internet protocol transactions

Wal-Mart Stores has announced plans to shift transactions with its 14,000 national and global suppliers to the Internet. At present suppliers access Wal-Mart systems using dial-up modems.

The US-based shopping giant said that the use of the new Electronic Data Interchange-Internet Integration Applicability Statement 2 (EDIINT AS2) protocol should lower costs for the company and its suppliers, although one analyst said that might not be the case.

After a four-month selection process Wal-Mart picked the Commerce Suite developed by iSoft. The software supports the AS2 protocol, which was approved by the Internet Engineering Task Force last year.

Wal-Mart, which owns Asda in the UK, said its choice of AS2 means that suppliers will not need to deploying value-added networks (VAN) to trade with it.

Under the agreement, iSoft will install server software at Wal-Mart's headquarters and offer client software to Wal-Mart suppliers for only a $300 (£192) annual maintenance fee, iSoft chief executive officer Christian Putnam said.

Suppliers are not required to purchase the iSoft client and can use AS2 software from one of several other vendors, Putnam said.

Ken Vollmer, an analyst at Giga Information Group, said that if a supplier has just a few data connections or links to only Wal-Mart, the AS2 client would make sense. But a large number of connections would be better handled by a VAN, he said.

AS2 and several other EDIINT protocols have not caught on as expected and account for less than 10% of total EDI traffic. This is far below the 40% level projected three years ago for 2002, Vollmer said. The vast majority of EDI traffic is still handled by VANs, partly because EDIINT does not scale well enough, he added.
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