What is an EDI Subsystem?

The EDI subsystem (called an EDI translator for most non-SAP EDI people) is a system that translates SAP IDocs from and into industry standard electronic documents. These documents are then traded with suppliers, customers, and partners electronically.

Basically, SAP has its own format (IDoc), as do most ERP systems. Since these don't align with industry standards, a need exists for an application that can do this. Otherwise, you can't really do EDI.

Do I need one?

If you're trading standard EDI documents (X.12, EDIFACT, UCS, TRADACOMS, etc) with other companies, then, yes, you probably do.

The reason is because SAP understands IDoc format; but not everyone is running SAP. And those folks running SAP are usually running different versions. And even if they're on the same version? Well, they'll have it configured differently.

So the bottom line is that if you're trading standard documents electronically, then you probably need a translator of some kind. And it's a good idea to buy one, even if they seem to be expensive at first glance. Remember, this is an important purchase, so consider the alternatives wisely.

A word of advice: don't try to write your own translator. This may sound like a great idea after a couple beers; but your business partners will generally not be excited to know you're running a homegrown translator that probably won't ensure accurate compliance with EDI standards. And you will be overwhelmed eventually by the maintenance nightmare as your scale increases and you need to manage multiple EDI versions (and possibly standards).

Who sells them?

Sterling Commerce
Gentran (Windows, UNIX, OS/400), Gentran Integration Suite (most platforms)
Harbinger TrustedLink (Windows, OS/400)
ACTIS EDImanager
mendelson business integration (mbi) (JAVA)
(additional translators)

Tip: To make things easier, most vendors also sell extenders (additional cost, cha-ching), which help you connect their product to SAP. They usually include command scripts and/or transport software. Be sure your connector also includes application definitions for the IDocs you'll use (ORDERS04, INVOIC02, etc) and template maps you can copy and use. While this sounds trivial, you'll find it a major time-saver in the long run.

Extension Notes

  1. Gentran for iSeries v3.3