While EAI and B2B are distinct activities, it makes sense that the larger an enterprise becomes, the more it will benefit from an EAI program. The requirement for EAI is driven by the volume and periodicity of transactions. It also makes sense that B2B becomes easier if there is fully automated transaction processing on the back end. Fortunately, there is likely to be a convergence of B2B and EAI technology - driven by real-time requirements on both sides of the firewall and by the emergence of XML-based standards in both inter-company and intra-company interfaces. Web Services (XML+UDDI+WSDL+SOAP) creates the possibility that the same technologies that are applied to solve B2B problems can be used for EAI applications as well. In this case, it is possible to initiate both activities with a reasonable assurance that the result will be able to exchange data between systems, even if they use different technology paths (i.e., Sun vs Microsoft) for implementation.
In conclusion, it makes sense that EAI should come before B2B in the sense that a company should have its house in order before it conducts business with the outside world. EAI and B2B face the same fundamental challenge, which is non-technical. The corporate head office must elevate its master data dictionary to the same level as the global chart of accounts and sponsor a department of end user specialists to maintain it. The primary concern of this department should be "what" and not "how" even if preferred technology solutions are supported. The success of both EAI and B2B hinges on the acceptance of lightweight protocols that allow system independent transaction processing. These technologies are emerging today in the form of Web Services.
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