One of the most common search terms we have hitting our web site is “How do I become a VAN?” Great question. There is no off-the-shelf VAN software. Each and every VAN has built their own system, designed to handle standard (X12, EDIFACT, TRADACOM, etc.) and non-standard EDI data. And for the sake of this argument I will also include EDI Service Providers, who built their own systems and are only not considered VANs because they don’t “Interconnect” directly with VANs (See US Court of Appeals Follow-Up).
Each of us has built our own VAN to target a certain market. The early systems were designed for the big Fortune 500 Hub players with some accommodations for the trading partners (Spokes). They worked fairly well for the hubs, and not so well for the spokes. Then came the Internet and “Web VANs” which provided much better tools for the spokes.
None of this can be bought out of the box. Everyone is built from scratch, or based on a general business process management (BPM) system and then extensively customized.
Let me tell you about my VAN, ECGrid. I built that. Not a group of programmers, not an overseas outsourcer. Me, Todd Gould. I built that. I am the chief architect, the senior and junior programmers, the comms expert, the database designer. Every single line of code. From the data parsing, to the document management, the user interfaces.
I even wrote a multithreaded FTP client to boost our throughput. I designed and wrote every line of code in the ECGridOS API. I wrote our integrated AS2 system. I designed the database structures, pioneered IPSec VPN usage, I created the ecosystems, I wrote the manuals.
When our customers need a customization, I program it; and normally deliver it to them within HOURS, not days, weeks, months or years.
My incredibly awesome Network Operations department takes all of this, adds their skill and experience and delivers the most customer responsive VAN out there. Then they take all their interactions with customers and give me all sorts of new features to add to the system, making it that much better, continuously.
I wrote ECGrid and ECGridOS to provide an out-of-the-box VAN in the cloud for every single company that wants to be a VAN, a VAS or some highly specialized, super cool, processor of EDI data we haven’t even thought of yet. That’s my value-add. I enable companies to become VANs competing on a level playing field, instantly. I add innovation. I add competition. EDI might not be considered cool and sexy, but ECGrid is sexy, it’s hot and it scares the shit out of GXS.
I rarely take offense to mean and stupid comments made by people about me, I’m bigger than that. However, when GXS’ counsel declared in court that I am freeloading off their network, the one they built, that I was benefiting by the fruits of their labors, that I did not build it. Well Mr. Schwinger, I don’t know if you have ever built anything in you life other than large legal bills for your clients, but when it comes to EDI and VANs, you can have no doubt: I BUILT THAT!
Loren Data Corp.