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EIDX Glossary

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This letter last updated 08 November 2002

Abstract Class - A class that contains the common features of components of several classes, but cannot it be instantiated by itself. It represents an abstract concept for which there is no actual concrete expression. For instance, "mammal" is an abstract class - there is no such real, concrete thing as a generic mammal. Instead, there are only instances of mammal, such as human being and monkey, which are types of mammals, and share common characteristics, such as having warm blood and body hair in at least part of the lifecycle.

Abstraction - 1) A process of identifying which details in a given context are essential, and should be visible, and which are non-essential and can be hidden "behind the scenes". Abstraction also helps to identify common components of objects or processes that could be grouped in a way that makes those components or processes re-usable in more than one context without having to repeat all the details in every context.  Abstraction is very useful when developing standards for business documents, where blocks of information like contact information, address information, etc. are repeated in many document definitions.  See also Encapsulation and Information Hiding.

2) Another type of abstraction is the process of creating an abstract class.  This is convenient when several types of a thing share common attributes or components, and you only want to define the components only once.  For example, you could define an abstract class BasicForecastData in which you describe attributes that are used in all types of  forecasts,  but you would never create an actual "BasicForecastData" document or file. Instead you would create type of forecast, such as a Material Release Replenishment Plan.  The Replenishment Plan class is a specialization of BasicForecastData; it uses all the attributes in BasicForecastData plus some additional attributes.

Activity - The transformation of inputs into outputs via a resource under the direction of a control.

Acceptance test - Test performed by the user that checks a device for its proper function as specified by the manufacturer.

Address - The location of something on the internet.  See also IP Address, domain.

Agent - 1) A person or party empowered to perform activities or make decisions on behalf of another person or party.  When buyers or seller's use a third-party to perform some function, such as inventory storage and management, the third-party is the buyer's or seller's agent.  2)  A software program that performs some function on behalf of a user, especially software that performs the function out on the internet.  Software that is capable of making decisions based on information it finds is called an intelligent agent.  See also Intermediary, Service Provider.

Aggregator  Model - Models where buyers pool requirements to increase their buying power, and buy in a block, sellers pool their offerings under one umbrella to increase their selling power.   Also called Net Market.  More information about B2C aggregator model here.   Note: The FCC is starting to watch aggregates for price fixing.

Algorithm - Special set of simple mathematical and logical procedures used to solve a problem in a finite number of steps.

Allocated Inventory - Allocated inventory is inventory on hand or on order which is assigned to a specific production or customer order. The possessor of the inventory holds title to the inventory; title may transfer when the goods are transferred (sold/shipped) to the customer, or allocated inventory may become consigned inventory, with title transfer to occur based on contractual agreement. Synonyms: Reserved inventory (reservation); assigned inventory; mortgaged inventory; obligated inventory; bonded inventory.   See also Consigned Inventory, Safety Stock.

Analog Communication - A method of transmitting signals where data is represented by continuously variable, measurable, physical quantities, such as length, width, voltage, or pressure.  Opposite of Digital Communication.

  • Computers are digital devices.  If you are using dial-up communications, your modem converts the computer's digital signals to analog signals for transmission over phone lines, and converts analog signals received into digital signals for the computer.  If you have DSL, the signals don't have to be converted; in this case the function of the modem is to enable the higher signal speeds.

Anonymous - Something that is not named or identified. In Internet terms, a method of accessing a site or establishing a connection to a server where the user is not identified, or displaying data so that the target of the information is not identified by name nor by implication.

ANSI - American National Standards Institute. Organization devoted to development of voluntary standards to enhance productivity and international competition of American industrial enterprises.

ANSI standard - Document published by ANSI that has been approved through the consensus process of public announcement and review. Each of these standards must have been developed by an ANSI committee and must be revisited by that committee within 5 years for update.

Anti-disintermediation - See Re-intermediation.

Anti-virus Software - Software programs that detect, cleanse, and erase harmful virus files on a computer, Web server, or network. Unchecked, virus files can unintentionally be forwarded to others, including trading partners. Because new viruses regularly emerge, anti-virus software should be updated frequently. Here's a current list of available anti-virus products.

Applet - A program that can be downloaded over a network and launched on the user's computer.  See Java.

Application acknowledgment - Transaction set whose purpose is to return a response to a transaction set that has been received and processed in an application program. The Purchase Order Acknowledgment transaction set 855 is an example of an application acknowledgment. It is used to respond to the Purchase Order transaction set 850, which queries whether the receiver can fulfill the order and if it can be done on time.

Application - a specific function or a computer program that implements one or more business processes.

Application Interface Software - Software that performs integration.  It is most commonly used to refer to the integration between a gateway and a company's back-end systems, which gives us the term "back-end integration".  Sometimes the application interface software is created by changing the application itself to enable interfaces, and sometimes middleware is used.

  • During the inbound flow (from your trading partner to you), the application software extracts data from your application system and places it in a flat file for subsequent conversion into a standard data format prior to transmission to one or more trading partners.  Some applications extract data directly into a standard format, but if multiple standards need to be supported, the data may still need to be mapped before being sent to a partner.
  • When the data flow is outbound (from you to your trading partner), the application system interface software extracts data from a flat file and prepares it for acceptance by your application program.
  • Some middleware applications packages do not use a flat file. They exchange data directly with the application system data base, eliminating the need for interface software between the application system and the translation software.

Application Service Provider (ASP) - An Internet-based provider of hosted applications and/or services, or an applications/services outsourcer.  ASPs provide applications and services such as a business-to-business auction site or electronic catalog.  Think of such applications and services as being available for rent (for hire); the ASP is the landlord and is responsible for maintenance, improvements, certain utilities, pest control (security), etc.   An ASP provides comprehensive services to fill a market need.   Many of these ASPs provide exchange services; many use a term other than "ASP" to describe themselves, such as ESP (Exchange SP, eBusiness SP) or FSP (Full SP).

  • ASP's are motivated to keep applications upgraded in order to keep pace with competitors.
  • ASP's are useful for businesses that want to have up-to-date, internet-enabled applications but do not necessarily want to build, own and maintain those applications.
  • Operating system-neutral, internet-based applications provided by ASP's are also a boon to to Macintosh® users who often find that most off-the-shelf applications are useable only on PC platforms with a Windows® operating system.
  • Accessing applications through a dial-up connection can be slow.  If you are thinking of signing up with an ASP, ask if the application has been tested on a dial-up connection as well as a fast DSL, cable-modem or T1 internet connection.

Architecture - The design of the overall structure of a computer (hardware) system, software system, or network.  Specifically, the design of how the components fit together.  The architecture is the "high level" or "top level" design.  An architecture may be based on a high-level, conceptual framework, or may be build as a means of discovering a conceptual framework. An architecture itself can become a framework for designing multiple systems, and for the analysis and comparison of those systems. 
By identifying the shared components of different systems at the right level of generality, an architecture promotes the design and implementation of components and subsystems that are reusable, cost-effective and adaptable, i.e., critical interoperability interfaces and services are identified.

  • A Network Architecture defines the underlying structure of a computer network, including hardware, functional layers, interfaces, and protocols (rules) used to establish communications and to ensure the reliable transfer of information.  Since a computer network is a mixture of hardware and software, network architectures are designed to provide both philosophical and physical standards for enabling computers and other devices to handle the complexities of establishing communications links and transferring information without conflict. There are numerous network architectures in existence, among them the internationally accepted seven-layer open systems interconnectivity (OSI) model of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and IBM's System Network Architecture (SNA). Both the OSI and SNA architectures organize network functions in layers, with each layer dedicated to a particular aspect of communication or transmission and with the use of protocols that define how functions are carried out. The objective of these network architecture is to create communication standards that will enab

Area (in a transaction set or message) - Identifies a predefined area within a transaction set (header, detail, summary) containing segments and their various attributes.

ARPANet - A predecessor of the Internet. Started in 1969 with funds from the Defense Department's Advanced Projects Research Agency.

ASCII - American Standard Code for Information Interchange.  Standard set of characters devised in 1968 to enable efficient data exchange and compatibility among different computer devices and peripherals.  The ASCII character set is composed of only those characters included in the original 128-character ASCII standard.  ASCII is a seven bit code with an eighth bit used for parity. The term is used to describe the format for transmission and for storage.  

  • ASCII is a universal computer code for English letters and characters. Computers store all information as binary numbers. In ASCII, the letter "A" is stored as 01000001, whether the computer is made by IBM, Apple or Commodore.
  • ASCII also refers to a method, or protocol, for copying files from one computer to another over a network, in which neither computer checks for any errors that might have been caused by static or other problems.

Asynchronous - Not synchronized - not at the same time.  1) For computer programs, it refers to a form of concurrent input and output communication with no timing relationship between the two signals; data is transferred one character at a time.  It means that processes operate independently of other processes; when data is transmitted from Computer A to Computer B, Computer A does not have to wait for a response from Computer B before transmitting more data, where as in synchronous mode, Computer A must wait for a response from Computer B before more can be transmitted. 

2) In B2B, asynchronous refers to communications where both partners don't have to be on-line at the same time.  E-mail is considered to be asynchronous communication - you can send your message any time, whether or not the recipient is on-line.  

  • Using the second definition of the term, trading partners desire the ability to exchange business data asynchronously.  In point-to-point communications, while it is true that the partner's system does not have to be on-line, the machine the partner uses for internet communications does have to be on-line, or your computer will receive and error signal that your data could not be transmitted.  Your transmission process should include parameters for number of retries over n number of minutes before the communications session generates an error message and closes.  The desire for asynchronous(2) communication is also why companies with large internet volumes are turning once again to VANs to handle internet traffic.  The VAN provides 24x7 connectivity, and can continually perform transmission retries to your partner's machine, thus eliminating the need for you to keep your machine connected for very long periods of time.

Attribute - a characteristic of an entity or object which allows one instance of the entity or object to be differentiated from another instance of the entity or object.

Auction - An auction is really a specific way for a buyer to locate items they want to buy or for a seller to advertise items they want to sell.  An auction usually reduces the negotiation to a single variable, price.

Buyer's Auction (Reverse Auction) - In 'standard' on-line auctions, items or services available for sale are posted and buyers place bids for them. On a Reverse Auction Web site, the buyers post their needs, and suppliers bid for the business.  This is really a form of the traditional quote process, whereby a buyer sends out a Request for Quote, usually indicating maximum acceptable price, and sellers respond with Quotes (bids for the buyer's business), and the buyer may choose to send the request to a limited list of suppliers (Closed Auction) or may broadcast the need publicly (Open Auction).

Closed Auction - In a seller's auction, notification of items for sale is sent to a limited list of buyers, usually buyers who have previously done business with the seller.  Likewise, in a buyer's auction, the request for quote is sent to a limited list of suppliers.

Open Auction - In a seller's auction, notification of items for sale is broadcast publicly, and any buyer who receives the notice may submit a bid to buy.  In a buyer's auction, notice of the buyer's need is broadcast publicly, and any seller who receives the notice may bid for the buyer's business.

Seller's Auction (Standard Auction) - Items or services available for sale are posted and buyers place bids for them.  An Open Seller's Auction is much like placing an advertisement in a newspaper, to which any buyer may respond.  In a  Closed Seller's Auction, the notice of items for sale is published to a limited list of buyer's (bid is by invitation only).

Authentication - Mechanism that allows the receiver of an electronic transmission to verify the identity of the sender and the integrity of the content of the transmission through the use of an electronic key or algorithm which is shared by the trading partners. This is sometimes referred to as an electronic signature.

Automated Clearing House - U.S.-wide electronic payments network for both debit and credit items. ACH is an EFT mechanism using the Federal Reserve Network. Funds are transferred/settled next day.