Understanding Managed File Transfer (MFT) and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in an iPaaS


To exchange data, most medium and large organizations leverage the following two classes of data exchange technologies:

  1. Electronic data interchange (EDI) – The computer-to-computer exchange of business documents such as purchase orders and invoices in a standardized electronic format between an organization and its trade partners. Current EDI standards include X12, EDIFACT, EANCOM and HL7 and enable data transfers over special EDI messaging protocols with smaller payloads. EDI data may require parsing, mapping and transformation.
  2. Managed file transfer (MFT) – A platform enabling the secure transfer of sensitive, large file-size or compliance-protected data between corporate entities. MFT data exchange files are usually much larger payloads over generalized protocols and APIs. MFT helps guarantee delivery and security without the overhead of parsing and transformation.

In the past, a combination of integration technologies—such as an enterprise service bus (ESB) architecture, integration platforms as a service (iPaaS), B2B gateways, API gateways and integration brokers—was used to exchange data in B2B solutions.

So, let’s first look at the traditional integration architectures where EDI and MFT data exchanges are configured as separate flows using different platforms.

Then, we’ll look at how the integration of file transfer with integration platforms is now simplifying transfer of both data exchange types into one seamless solution.

Traditional Architectures of EDI and MFT

EDI Data Exchange Architecture

In EDI data exchange, organizations use software such as B2B gateways, value-added networks (VANs) or integration platforms.

Diagram of businesses exchanging EDI data using b2b gateways, VANs and iPaaS

MFT File Exchange Architecture

For MFT file exchange, organizations use traditional file exchange technologies such as SFTP / FTPS protocols, servers and clients.

Diagram of businesses transferring files using SFTP, FTPS, other protocols, servers and clients

Integrating EDI and MFT with iPaaS

When considering modern data exchange solutions, IT decision-makers do not have to make a choice between MFT and EDI technologies. Instead, organizations wanting to integrate MFT and EDI seamlessly with cloud and on-premises data workflows can now turn to iPaaS to accomplish the integration.

What Is an iPaaS?

Gartner defines iPaaS as “a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations.”

Benefits of iPaaS with API-Based Integration

Leading iPaaS vendors, such as Boomi and MuleSoft, provide cloud-native platforms designed for API-based integration. To align with modern integration strategies, organizations need to select cloud-based data exchange technologies with extensive APIs.

Trying to connect legacy platforms that have poor or non-existent APIs and rigid architectures that require fat on-premises infrastructure is destined to fail. Choosing a cloud MFT platform that includes APIs and iPaaS-ready connectors to integrate its file sharing capabilities will prove to be the most cost-effective and adaptable strategy. The ability to connect any type of endpoint to business process flows provides the best flexibility and interoperability needed to do business with any type of partner in the extended enterprise.

Modern B2B File Transfer Solution using iPaaS & Thru’s MFT

Thru is a cloud-based MFT service whose design provides an API-centric native extension of iPaaS. Thru certified connectors enable integration with the iPaaS data channel for file/data exchange and Thru APIs enable integration with the iPaaS control channel for orchestration.

The iPaaS + Thru combined solution provides organizations with an integrated platform to support all data exchange—both EDI and MFT—between trading partners and enterprises. This is accomplished with a combination of direct EDI-to-iPaaS and direct MFT- and hybrid MFT-to-iPaaS exchanges in cases where data transformation is required for files coming from MFT sources, as illustrated in the diagram below.

Diagram shows iPaaS receives data from business partners or units. EDI data is processed directly through iPaaS. File-based data requiring transformation is sent using Thru's MFT service integrated via API or connector to the iPaaS. MFT files that do not need transformed get sent directly to target in the enterprise using Thru's MFT.

Directly Share Files with MFT

Thru’s MFT service provides file exchange when larger payloads are delivered over general file transfer protocols and guaranteed delivery is a requirement. Because Thru is built on a cloud file system with elastic scalability, the files are stored by Thru until delivery is successful, regardless of the file size or number.

Thru’s file transfer flows, partner organizations and endpoints are loosely coupled and are more flexible than other traditional MFT solutions. This publish-subscribe model enables subscribers (users) to implement process integration projects involving any combination of cloud-resident and on-premises endpoints.

Files Requiring Transformation Are Passed to iPaaS

EDI data traffic is exchanged and processed by the iPaaS platform as usual.

In cases where the files picked up by Thru’s MFT require data transformation or mapping, the data will be routed from MFT to iPaaS processes via Thru iPaaS connectors and then the iPaaS routes the data to the enterprise.

View File Activity in Central Dashboard

Thru’s MFT is designed to be completely aware of the process flows in the iPaaS with exception handling and outcome reporting so that flows can be viewed from a central dashboard. No complex LAN deployments are required; internal and external traffic is tracked in one audit and reporting interface.

A Comprehensive Integrated File Exchange Solution

An iPaaS platform combined with Thru provides a comprehensive, integrated file transfer solution that supports both MFT and EDI data exchange. Thru’s MFT service manages the security, tracking and reliability of file deliveries while the iPaaS and service APIs orchestrate the business processes in the application ecosystem.

To read about this topic in depth, please download our Managed File Transfer (MFT) and iPaaS white paper »



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