The CEO of a respectable mid-sized supply chain integration company has a clever schtick to convince prospective customers that they don’t *want* to do B2B integration themselves – he keeps a pile of thick plastic binders stuffed with various retailer EDI implementation guides in his executive conference room.
EDI specifications are generally heavyweight – often 25 to 75 or more pages. For example, Target’s EDI 850 (Purchase Order) Implementation Guide is 48 pages long. Despite standards even the ubiquitous EDI 850 purchase order varies substantially from supply chain to supply chain. (“Standards are great – everyone should have one!”).
The “EDI binder” schtick is clever because the degree of EDI complexity and diversity is daunting – so many companies often can’t or won’t deal with EDI themselves. FUD generates business, right?
So what about SaaS API’s? These are proliferating to the same degree that SaaS solutions are proliferating, i.e., fast. Are SaaS API’s better, i.e., easier to deal with, than EDI specifications?
In some ways, yes. For example, SaaS API’s are typically implemented using Web services via SOAP, REST or other Web technologies. You can directly execute these using any modern Web-enabled middleware and application development tools. This is generally easier than translating EDI, then importing or exporting data from applications.
But are SaaS API’s any less complex than EDI? Or any less diverse? Consider:
- Salesforce.com Force.com Apex API’s specification … 500+ pages
- Taleo Business Edition Web API … 50+ pages
- Nirvanix Storage Delivery Network API … 90+ pages
The dirty little secret of SaaS API’s is the “Devil in the Detail” – that, yes – like EDI, these specifications are, generally speaking, remarkably complex and diverse.
Robert Mitchell of ComputerWorld has learned that SaaS integration a leading cause of IT headaches – but many IT users are only now beginning to realize its complexity. But some companies understand this complexity – which may explain why Salesforce.com offers 90+ SaaS integration solutions across 40+ 3rd-party technology partners. This may explain why there’s a whole cottage industry of IT vendors (e.g., Boomi, Cast Iron, Pervasive, et al) that are focused on SaaS integration solutions.
It’s because, well, you know, SaaS APIs are cool – in an EDI Retro sort of way. 🙂
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