Did SAP recognize that this will never work and created the SAP XI or do they still believe they can appoint the general standard for EDI?
The history behind XI is a bit of an odyssee. SAP has its workflow engine and the IDoc format to exchange data. For external communication you need something in addition: adapters. Adapters read the protocols of legacy systems (SAP expects others to deliver their format). Mapping and conversion are alpha and omega of every SOA approach. To convert e.g. EDIFACT they needed a middleware layer. As they did not dare to write it in ABAP (a big mistake from today's perspective) they decided to license WebMethods (SAP Business Connector) as external converter tool. Then they wrote their own converter tool, which is XI and factually a replacement for WebMethods. This is all a result of the Java frenzy that got SAP back then. Instead of relying on their great ABAP technology they thought that it could be a good idea to implement a middleware in Java. The next step will be the ESA framework, which integrates message queue and Enterprise services repository into the SAP ABAP engine. So after a long journey SAP will be back where they always should have been.
Regarding EDI: the general standard for EDI are flat files! EDIFACT is an approach to catch it all but often far too complicated for most businesses. We see often that messages are exchanged using the EDIFACT ontology, but the important information is then transported in the EDIFACT text segments as comments. In practice most working EDI systems rely on exchanging simple, flat ASCII files only! An EDI standard is the corrollary of a common description of business objects anyway. As long as we cannot agree on a commonly accepted ontology of business processes, we won't see a proper EDI standard.
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