Compare EDI vs API for B2B Integration

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) plays an important role in the integration of external B2B systems and Trading Partners since decades. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) provide selected system functions in real time, which can be accessed and used by other applications. If APIs are built for it, they can be used for B2B Integration as well. So it is worth to compare EDI vs API so that you can choose the right approach for your next B2B Integration project!

EDI vs API Track Record

Particularly in supply chain-oriented industries, EDI sets the standard for exchanging information from system to system in an electronic format without the need for paper and manual processes. EDI has been connecting trading partners and automating Supply Chain Management (SCM) since the 1970's. With EDI the data is exchanged in a structured form which, over time, has led to several EDI messaging standards in various industries and regions. EDI continues to dominate supply chain processes for the automotive, logistics, CPG and retail, manufacturing and utilities industries.

EDI uses a file-based or batch communication style with asynchronous calls.

APIs have a long track record as software interfaces to web services and systems. The concept APIs represent today resulted from the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) movement and the rise of REST and web services over HTTP since the year 2000.

For today’s B2B transactions, APIs are more suitable for real-time business processes and are intended for a more synchronous communication style. Representational state transfer (REST) or RESTful web services provide API interoperability and allow the access and change of textual representations of web resources using a uniform and predefined set of stateless operations.

How do EDI vs API Compare?

EDI and API are both integration technologies. Due to their respective origin and purpose, there are differences between EDI and API.

Figure 1: Comparison Table EDI vs API
HistoryEstablished since the 1970s and have grown over timeSOAP available since ~2000, REST raising in Cloud context
Transport ProtocolVarious protocols including AS2, AS3, OFTP2, SFTP and many moreHTTP/S as underlying transport protocol for API calls
Call PatternAsynchronous call with acknowledgement messages for structured dataSynchronous call for real-time exchange of structured data
Message FormatEDIFACT, ANSI X12 and others based on standardized formatsXML (for e.g. AS4), JSON (for REST)
Format DescriptionMessage GuidelinesOpen API standard (Swagger), WSDL
Directory of Available FormatsRelevant EDI GuidelineAPI Catalog of API Provider
Data SizeCapable of handling mass dataNot intended for mass data
Typical ScenariosBatch-driven processing of bundled information - System-to-System - Data conversion of bundled information - B2B/EDI connection to external trading partners via AS2, OFTP2 or VAN - Information request of modular single requests close to real time - Real-time booking in sequential steps - Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) - Connect to API-enabled cloud applications
Content Error HandlingDue to asynchronous batch processing with files this typically takes places in the application (e.g. ERP) that books the received files.Due to the synchronous approach, any error typically stops the API call and error handling takes place at the sender side.
StandardsHighly standardized with industry-specific flavorsNo widespread and established standards
Business DriversDriven by process optimization and cost reductions in long term business partnershipsDriven by digitalization and monetizing of data, open up new ways of integration, incl. “ad hoc”

Technically, it would often be possible to replace well-established EDI B2B integration technologies with APIs. However is such a replacement just possible or is it also feasible?

The optimal business value comes with the right choice for the use case, which can be derived along the lines of the above comparison table.

EDI and API on One Platform

EDI and web services APIs can work together seamlessly and complement each other. Thus, APIs are part of a reasonable B2B integration strategy today adding real-time access for a holistic approach of all sorts of B2B transactions. Real-time and file based batch process are complementing each other seamlessly if these processes are running on the same platform and can interact with each other.

SEEBURGER’s Business Integration Suite (BIS) is the Hybrid Integration Platform (HIP), which empowers exactly this approach. BIS offers over 55 different communication adapters enabling all sorts of B2B integration scenarios including not only EDI and API but also MFT, IIoT and E-Invoicing.

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