Many e-commerce software packages now let you transmit electronic data interchange (EDI)-like transactions over the Web. Microsoft's Site Server Commerce Edition (SSCE), Netscape's SellerXpert, IBM's Net.Commerce, and Open Market's Transact software all offer EDI support on Windows NT. Also you can use a mail format to transmit EDI-like transactions over the Internet.

You can use SSCE 3.0's Commerce Interchange Pipeline (CIP) to create transactions in NT similar to EDI transactions. SSCE's transactions exemplify the approach many NT e-commerce packages are taking toward EDI. The CIP consists of a set of APIs. Using this tool, you can manage purchase orders, invoices, receipts, and shipping notices for multiple trading partners. The software reduces the data to an ANSI X12 flat file and codes the data representation in Extensible Markup Language (XML), which makes the transmissions more self-documenting than traditional EDI transmissions.

The CIP lets you deliver transactions via email (e.g., Simple Mail Transfer Protocol--SMTP), data file upload (e.g., HTTP), or data transfer at the component level (e.g., distributed component object model--DCOM). If the trading partner site is running the CIP software, you can negotiate the transaction in realtime. Because the CIP lets you use alternative transport methods and exposes the pipeline to third-party products that work with EDI value-added networks (VANs), SSCE will work with a variety of businesses.

You use Site Server's Commerce Interchange Pipeline Manager (CIPM) add-on to manage the CIP. CIPM provides a structured framework for managing transactions over the Internet. CIPM is a snap-in to the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). You can use CIPM to define and manage trading partner profiles that you can use to communicate EDI data. When you associate business documents with a partner profile, CIPM manages the CIP to dynamically generate the operations required for different EDI communications.

CIPM creates and manages the interchange pipelines for EDI transactions according to the profiles and communication agreements you specify. CIPM serves as an intelligent address book that stores information about the documents you share with trading partners and provides setup wizards that help users create and maintain EDI transactions. CIPM comes with a software development kit (SDK) that you can use to add third-party components and applications that let you create a COM-based enterprise application to exchange business documents between organizations. On its Web site, Microsoft provides a list of several companies offering solutions that use Site Server to map EDI transactions.