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What is EDIINT? What is AS2, and how does it differ from AS3 or AS4? November 2, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Definitions, Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management.
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What is EDIINT? What is AS2, and how does it differ from AS3 or AS4?


EDI, or Electronic Data Interchange, is a format used by large enterprises for exchanging digital information about purchase orders, invoices, and other business supply chain related information with other companies, businesses, and enterprises.


EDIINT stands for EDI over INTernet.


One of the concerns and needs of the large business enterprises using EDI for electronic transactions throughout the 1990’s was the burgeoning requirement from these enterprises to be able to exchange EDI formatted data streams over the public Internet, securely. Towards the late 1990’s, EDIINT using a secure digital transmission conduit over the public Internet, called AS1, technology was standardized and released by the web standards bodies.


The AS1 protocol leveraged SMTP (standard Simple Mail Transport Protocol, or Internet email) as the foundation for exchanging communications. During this early phase of EDIINT deployments and AS1 protocol adoption, several software vendors emerged, offering to eliminate the de rigeur (for the time) VAN (Value-Added Network) fees that were commonly levied against large enterprises by the VANs then in existence. The development of the AS1 protocol, which allowed transfer of EDI messages and transactions securely over the public Internet, should have enabled these large enterprises to use AS1 to connect point-to-point with each other securely over the public Internet without need of VANs or their fee structures.


But although the ideal of AS1 was certainly promising, the promised elimination of VAN network access fees never really materialized, and the AS1 protocol unfortunately did not encounter widespread adoption and acceptance by the larger enterprises’ IT organizations. Several common reasons were behind this shunning of AS1 by corporate IT departments. One reason was the fear of larger enterprises that moving away from the liability endemnification of the VAN networks to transmissions over the (albeit secured) public Internet using AS1 was not quite ready for wholesale adoption by large scale enterprises in mission critical transaction environments. Another reason was some corporate IT departments were fearful, with considerable justification, of overloading enterprise email servers with EDI traffic as a result of the AS1 protocol’s dependence upon secured SMTP packets, which would route through corporate Microsoft Exchange or other SMTP email servers. In addition, SMTP email did not encorporate enough feature robustness to ensure the real time delivery of SMTP email and, more critically, enforce the non-repudiation features of the EDI standards then in common use.


The next incarnation of EDIINT emerged in 2001 with the new AS2 protocol superceding the earlier AS1. AS2 was designed from the start to address the same needs and requirements of the earlier AS1 protocol, but with the major distinction that AS2 was based upon the HTTP protocol instead of AS1’s reliance on the SMTP protocol. AS2’s use of HTTP instead of SMTP provided a more direct and realtime connection for transmitting EDI data between companies. The use of HTTP, combined with the growing acceptance of the Internet as a serious venue for international commerce, led to AS2 gaining a much stronger foundation upon deployment and saw AS2 gain a significant foothold into corporate IT departments in terms of adoption and implementation that AS1 had never enjoyed. But although interest in AS2 was greater than it had been for AS1, AS2 still did not reach mainstream wholesale adoption from large corporate enterprises.


Walmart and the adoption of AS2


The lack of enthusiasm at the corporate level for AS1 and AS2 adoption largely came about because of the lack of a “Market Maker”, or a powerful intermediary enforcing adoption and deployment of AS2 for EDIINT. Two companies were required to decide together to use a protocol such as AS1 or AS2, as either protocol necessitates coordination on both ends. This meant that although an enterprise might make the decision to work with a significant partner or primary systems integrator to deploy AS2, for most of that enterprises’s supplier, customer and vendor business relationships, the payoff would hardly be worth the effort.

All of this changed overnight in 2002 when Walmart announced that their entire EDI transactions and transmissions program would be moving over to the AS2 protocol and that *all* of their suppliers were expected – required absolutely, in typical Walmart fashion – to follow suit. Walmart’s decision was the tipping point for AS2’s widespread adoption and deployment across many industries and enterprises of various scale. Walmart’s reputation as a supply chain industry thought leader, as well as their renowned strong-arm tactics with their suppliers and vendors, forced other large enterprises to follow their lead. Walmart’s dictat led to positive feedback loops and various other network effects as a large number of Walmart suppliers fully AS2 enabled led to a growing ecosystem of AS2 -enabled vendors and supplies in the marketplace. Thus it became even easier for recalcitrant suppliers to justify jumping into the EDIINT, AS2 pool. AS2 enabled suppliers were able to easily extend their transactional AS2-based EDIINT systems into a vibrant community of AS2 enabled enterprises. As a result, by 2003 AS2 became one of the most popular data protocols for EDI transmissions within North America.


Europe and the Odette File Transfer Protocol V2, or OFTP V2


Despite the rapid spread of AS2 in the United States, Canada and Mexico, however, AS2 adoption lagged in Europe. The major reason for the discrepancy of AS2 adoption rates between North America and Europe was the lack of a European market maker ala Walmart in the United States. Without a key champion like Walmart driving the rapid adoption of AS2 in Europe, AS2 usage has taken a much longer time to spread into Europe’s major enterprises.


Into this vacuum, a new standard has emerged in Europe which may supplant the adoption of AS2 entirely if enough enterprises of scale in Europe decide to adopt it. The standard’s name is Version 2 of the Odette File Transfer Protocol, or OFTP V2, and it is a very similar protocol to AS2 in the fact that it leverages both the public Internet and HTTP for connectivity. In Europe, large automotive enterprises such as Volkswagen, Volva and PSA are driving the adoption of OFTP V2 in an industry-wide effort to reduce costly VAN networking fees. This wave of automotive suppliers supporting OFTP V2 should follow a similar pattern, although perhaps on not quite as large a scale, to the adoption of AS2 in North America by retail suppliers and vendors in response to Walmart’s urgings and data integration requirements.


Future EDIINT Standards: AS3 and AS4 and SOA


Future standards likely to emerge within the next iterations of EDIINT are likely to include AS3, which is based upon FTP, and AS4, which is based upon web services. Each of these newer variants contains benefits not available to users of AS2, for instance, AS3 does not require an ‘always on’ connection and could potentially handle large files better than AS2. AS4 can integrate with SOA (Services Oriented Architecture) software infrastructures with relative ease, something that is prohibitively difficult at present with AS2. Despite these technological advances, if a large enterprise or company is trying to determine which protocol is more apropos to use for EDI transmissions, they are likely to choose AS2 despite its limitations simply because the large community of companies already using AS2 versus trying to forge an uncertain path trailblazing the use of AS3 or AS4 in the absence of a market maker as mentioned above.


So until another market maker emerges to drive the adoption of AS3 or AS4 as Walmart did with AS2, AS2 will continue to be the de facto standard for EDI transmissions over the Internet. Instead of companies and large enterprises across different industries moving to AS3 or AS4, AS2 is instead adopting features that address the benefits available in those other standards. For example, an effort is under way to add “Restart” capability to AS2 that was announced recently, and this would provide some of the better support for larger file transfers that we have seen in AS3.


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I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurshipecommercetelecommunications andsoftware development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

Wilbraham, Massachusetts based FloDesign, wind turbine manufacturer, announces their Series B round of $35 Million in equity funding June 28, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in green technology, Manufacturing, Massachusetts High Technology, renewable energy, Startups, Venture Capital.
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Wilbraham, Massachusetts based FloDesign, a maker of wind turbines that resemble jet engines, announces their Series B round of $35 Million in equity funding led by a group of investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Technology Partners, VantagePoint Venture Partners, and Goldman Sachs.

Marlborough, MA -based gyroscope maker Qualtre raises $8 Million April 26, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Manufacturing, Massachusetts High Technology, Startups, Venture Capital.
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Marlborough, MA -based gyroscope maker Qualtre, a producer of micro-electromechanical system gyroscopes, raises $8 Million in a Series B round of investment led by Matrix Partners and Pilot House Ventures.

How many Massachusetts based companies are listed in the Fortune 500? April 23, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Investing, Management, Manufacturing, Massachusetts High Technology, Military Contracting, Technology.
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There are 13 companies listed in this year’s Fortune 500 index of America’s largest corporations. The chart below lists all 13 Massachusetts-based companies that are in the Fortune 500, their headquarters town in Massachusetts, their rank in the Fortune 500, their 2008 revenues (in millions), and number of employees.


We can see that the 13 corporations in the Fortune 500 index of America’s largest corporations that are based in Massachusetts had combined 2008 revenues of $193 Billion dollars and employed a combined 530,000 people worldwide.


Waltham was the Massachusetts city with the most Fortune 500 company headquarters based within its borders, with three of the companies listed being based in the Watch City. Two were based in Cambridge, two in Framingham, two in Natick, two in Boston, and one each in Springfield and Hopkington.


Thirteen Massachusetts based companies are listed on the Fortune 500 index of America's largest corporations

Thirteen Massachusetts based companies are listed on the Fortune 500 index of America's largest corporations


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Cambridge-based MIT spinoff Metabolix (MBLX) pioneers biodegradeable plastics made from plant matter: Bioplastic April 23, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Biotech, Manufacturing, Products, renewable energy, Startups.
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The publicly traded company has seen its stock nearly double over the past year. The company has genetically engineered a microbe that eats sugar from corn and generates a plastic-like molecule called PHA. After a few months, the bioplastic will decompose in water or soil and is so pure that waste containers made with the material are safe for use in backyard composting heaps. Metabolix also claims its bioplastic is carbon neutral.


The company has entered into a joint venture with the Archer Daniels Midland company (ADM) which is called Telles. The venture will begin shipping their “Mirel” bioplastic pellets from a new plant in Clinton, Iowa. Newell Rubbermaid’s Paper Mate division is one of the first customers, using the Mirel bioplastic pellets in a resin form for their new $1.25 biodegradeable Paper Mate pens.


Metabolix charges around $2.50 a pound for its green bioplastic, about twice the price of traditional plastics. But increased customer demand for “Green” products and biodegradeable items is so strong in many cases that lower margins can be made up for by increased unit sales.


Metabolix creates products that are genetically modified – a taboo in many environmentalist circles. And, as the demand for bioplastics increases, many worry that the demand for corn, already being used increasingly for ethanol production, will rise even more dramatically, driving up food prices.


Metabolix is working to address these concerns by researching next generation plastics made from nonfood material such as prairie switchgrass.


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MIT Researchers discover new electricity production method utilizing carbon nanotubes March 8, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in green technology, Manufacturing, Nanotechnology.
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MIT Researchers discover new electricity production method utilizing carbon nanotubes. The team of researchers at MIT have announced that they have made a new breakthrough for producing electricity with carbon nanotubes, and the discovery may one day lead to a myriad of new devices such as sensors the size of dust that can be dispersed in air to monitor the environment or perhaps the technology might lead to implantable devices that produce their own power. The researchers discovered a phenomenon that was previously unknown that produces powerful waved of energy that shoots though carbon nanotubes, producing electricity.

The team of researchers called the phenomenon “thermopower waves.” MIT’s Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey Professor of Chemical Engineering, and senior author of the paper reporting the findings said, “[Thermopower waves] opens up a new area of energy research, which is rare.”

The thermal wave is a moving pulse of heat that travels along the microscopic carbon nanotubes and drives electrons along with it creating an electrical current. The team coated carbon nanotubes with a highly reactive fuel that produces heat as it decomposes. The fuel was ignited at one end of the nanotube with a laser beam or high-voltage spark.

The resulting ignition created a fast moving thermal wave that travels about 10,000 times faster than the normal speed of the reaction according to the team. The temperature of the ring of heat reaches about 3,000 kelvins, pushing electrons along the tube creating a substantial electrical current. Strano says that the combustion waves have been mathematically studied for more than a hundred years, but he claims to be the first to predict that the combustion waves could be guided by a nanotube or nanowire and push an electrical current along the wire.

Since the discovery is so new, it is hard to predict how it could be used in practical application. The team plans to conduct more research using different kinds of reactive materials for the fuel coating and the team suspects that by using other materials for the coating the front of the wave could oscillate to produce an alternating current. The team points out that most of the power generated with the new method is given off as light and heat and work is ongoing to make the process more efficient.

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North Billerica’s Contour Semiconductor raises $8 Million December 11, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Hardware, Manufacturing, Microprocessors, Mobile Software Applications, Startups, Venture Capital, Wireless Applications.
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North Billerica’s Contour Semiconductor, a producer of Flash memory chips for mobile-device data storage, has raised $8 Million from Fairhaven Capital Partners, American Capital, Still River Funds, and Eastward Capital Partners.

Billerica, MA based Nexx Systems, silicon wafer equipment maker, raises $4 Million in a Series D equity round November 30, 2009

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Billerica, Massachusetts -based Nexx Systems, a maker of equipment used in the metallization and packaging of silicon wafers used in both electronics and photovoltaic (solar) applications, has raised $4 Million in a Series D equity round involving Enterprise Partners Venture Capital and Sigma Partners.

Attleboro’s Sensata Technologies, a sensors and controls company, preps a $500 Million IPO November 30, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Hardware, IPOs, Manufacturing, Microprocessors, Venture Capital.
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Attleboro, Massachusetts based Sensata Technologies, a sensors and controls company with approximately $797 Million in revenues, is preparing a $500 Million IPO, to be underwritten by Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital, and Goldman Sachs. The NYSE stock symbol for the company has not been disclosed as of yet.

What is Six Sigma? How is it used, and what does it have to do with the CMM? November 27, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Agile Software Development, Definitions, Management, Manufacturing, Products, Project Management, Technology.
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What is Six Sigma? How is it used, and what does it have to do with the CMM?

Developed by Bill Smith at Motorola in 1986, Six Sigma is a management philosophy based on removing process variation. It was heavily influenced by preceding quality improvement methodologies such as Quality Control, TQM, and Zero Defects. Six Sigma is a registered service mark and trademark of Motorola Inc. As of 2006, Motorola had reported over $17 Billion in savings from their own employment of Six Sigma practices throughout their global enterprise. Early corporate adopters of Six Sigma who achieved well-publicized success through the application of six sigma best practices to their enterprises included Honeywell (previously known as AlliedSignal) and General Electric, where Jack Welch famously introduced and advocated the method. By the late 1990s, about two-thirds of the Fortune 500 organizations had begun Six Sigma initiatives with the aim of reducing costs and improving quality.

My own professional experiences with Six Sigma began in the early 1990’s (I had first read about it in a Forbes magazine article in 1988) when I worked in manufacturing environments at Mercedes-Benz USA’s plant in Tuscaloosa (Vance), Alabama as well as Phipher Optical Wire Product’s plant in Tuscaloosa, the same city where the University of Alabama is located. It was in these environments where I was tasked with learning about six sigma and spent many hours in classrooms and factory floor and management workgroups implementing and training for a six sigma blackbelt. Six Sigma Black Belts operate under Master Black Belts to apply Six Sigma methodology to specific projects. They devote 100% of their time to Six Sigma. They primarily focus on Six Sigma project execution, whereas what are known in the Six Sigma universe as Six Sigma Champions and Master Black Belts focus on identifying projects/functions for Six Sigma.

Implementing a Six Sigma program in a manufacturing environment means more than delivering defect-free product after final test or inspection. It also entails concurrently maintaining in-process yields around 99.9999998 percent, defective rates below 0.002 parts per million, and the virtual eradication of rework and scrap. Other Six Sigma characteristics include moving operating processes under statistical control, controlling input process variables as well as the more traditional output product variables, and maximizing equipment uptime and optimizing cycle time. In a six sigma organization, employees are trained and expected to assess their job functions with respect to how they improve the organization. They define their goals and quantify where they are currently, their status quo. Then they work to minimize the gap and achieve “six sigma” (in a statistical sense) by a certain date.

Six Sigma focuses on the control of a process to ensure that outputs are within six standard deviations (six sigma) from the mean of the specified goals. Six Sigma is oftentimes implemented using a system with which I have worked many times: define, measure, improve, analyze, and control (DMIAC). Sometimes this same system is referred to as define, measure, analyze and control, or DMAIC.

Define means to describe the process to be improved, usually through some sort of business process model.

Measure means to identify and capture relevant metrics for each aspect of the process model. I have been in classrooms where this is referred to as “Goal -> Question -> Metric”.

Improve obviously implies changing some aspect of the process so that beneficial changes are seen in the associated metrics, usually by attacking the aspect that will have the highest payback.

Analyze and Control means to use ongoing monitoring of the metrics to continuously revisit the model, observe the metrics, and refine the process as needed.

Although some organizations apparently strive to use Six Sigma as a part of their software quality improvement practices, the issue that often arises is finding an appropriate business process model for the software development effort that does not devolve into a highly artificial simulacrum of the waterfall SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) process.


Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

Boston Dynamics ‘Big Dog’ robot – the 21st Century Army pack mule April 17, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Defense Contracts, Manufacturing, Military Contracting, Military Contracts, Products, Robotics.
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Boston Dynamics is based in Waltham, MA. The Big Dog robot’s development was funded by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US government. Early in the company’s history, it worked with the American Systems Corporation under a contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) to replace naval training videos for aircraft launch operations with interactive 3D computer simulations.

Marc Raibert is the company’s president and principal project manager. He spun the company off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992.

The Most Advanced Quadruped Robot on Earth
BigDog is the alpha male of the Boston Dynamics family of robots. It is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog’s legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.

Take a peek at Boston Dynamic’s other quadraped robot, “Little Dog”

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