In this section we will look at the main elements in a Link document exchange scenario. To illustrate the basic Link concepts, we will go through an example scenario.
An example: ACME sends an order and receives an invoice
ACME produces explosives; to do so, it needs to purchase various products from various vendors. The company owns a Link solution which is used to electronically send and receive orders and invoices from the vendors. To produce order files, ACME has an old internal system that exports orders in a unique text-based format. Most of the vendors are only able to receive orders in the EDIFACT format. A while after receiving the order, the vendors will send an invoice to ACME. Again the EDIFACT standard is used by the vendors, but ACME’s software infrastructure requires incoming files to be in a unique CSV-file format.
The following diagram describes the basics of the needed document flow:
Let’s go through the basic Link concepts, imagining that Link is used to handle the scenario in this example.
The data owner
The data owner is usually simply the company that owns the Link solution. In this example, ACME would be the data owner and would have the right to monitor all communication with Vendor X via Link. While it is possible to have multiple data owners in one Link installation, it is not very common.
In Link partners can be either internal or external. ACME would be the internal partner and Vendor X the external partner. An internal system could also be a partner.
Two document types are involved in the ACME example: the order and the invoice. These would be developed according to the concrete content and conversion needs. For each document type a so-called CDM (Canonical Data Model) document would be developed. The CDM document holds all the relevant data items for a certain type of document in a very structured manner. The good thing about using CDM documents in the middle of document conversion is that you are likely to be able to reuse your conversion logic.
In Link two distributions would be created to support the example: one regarding the document type ‘Order’, where ACME is the sender and Vendor X is the receiver, and one regarding the document type ‘Invoice’, where Vendor X is the sender and ACME is the receiver.
For each distribution it would be required to configure relevant in- and output document formats, variants and versions and to specify locations (document receive/send endpoints). The conversion logic between the stated formats and the CDM documents would be created in BizTalk (as maps).
The purpose of this simplified example is only to familiarize you with the terms and concepts in your Link solution. You will meet these terms again and again in the following chapters, which describe how to work with the application.
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