May 1, 2001
RosettaNet is delivering on the promise of extensible B2B integration

The Electrified Supply Chain

by Rajeev Kasturi

Over the past decade, the information technology (IT), electronic components (EC), and semiconductor manufacturing (SM) industries have seen unprecedented growth. New products and services are fueling continued expansion, led by investments in science and technology and demands for high productivity. IT, EC, and SM industry supply chains are now more complex and dynamic. There is a real need for an effective, fast communication and transaction backbone to satisfy unique and growing e-business needs.

RosettaNet, a self-funded, nonprofit consortium of over 250 IT, EC, and SM businesses, has been working since 1998 to establish and implement industrywide standards for e-business. Trading partners adopting RosettaNet standards will benefit from a common language and communication protocols based on Internet and XML technologies. Using the standards also will result in reduced transaction turnaround times, greater transparency in translation and integration with backend systems, reduced costs, and increased efficiency.

RosettaNet wants be the "lingua franca of e-business," an important goal given the huge economic impact of the IT, EC, and SM industries: RosettaNet reports that its members alone represent a trillion dollars traded per annum. The initiative has the support of industry heavyweights, including IBM, HP, Compaq, Dell, Lucent, 3Com, Agilent, and Cisco Systems, coupled with strong participation by solution partners such as SAP, CommerceOne, WebMethods, Vitria Technology, Andersen Consulting, and Viquity.

What Are the Standards?

RosettaNet standards address four aspects of transactions between trading partners: business processes, data elements, communication protocols, and product/partner codification. In a nutshell, these four components encapsulate the exchange of information among trading partners.

RosettaNet's Partner Interface Processes (PIPs) are elements that define business processes among supply-chain partners, such as pricing and availability requests, purchase orders, and order acknowledgements. PIPs are system-to-system, XML-based dialogs carried out based on certain specifications and guidelines.

PIPs lie at the bottom of a hierarchy headed by clusters and segments. Clusters represent fundamental business process groups. Clusters are further broken down into segments, which represent interenterprise processes involving different types of trading partners. Segments consist of PIPs that define specific processes.

For example, Cluster 3 is for order management, and it includes a Segment A that pertains to quotes and order entry. This segment has seven published PIPs, including 3A1 (Request Quote), 3A2 (Request Price and Availability), and 3A3 (Transfer Shopping Cart). Each PIP comes with a message guideline and XML document type definition (DTD).

Dictionaries, which define data elements, come in three flavors: Business Dictionary, IT Dictionary, and EC Dictionary. Business data entities and properties are defined in the Business Dictionary, the IT Dictionary defines IT products and properties, and the EC dictionary defines components and their properties. All these elements are mapped to codification standards such as UN/SPSC.

One of the fundamental requirements for meaningful data exchange and efficient information processing for products and services is commonly accepted codification standards. Fortunately, RosettaNet supports three widely accepted codification standards. The Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) is maintained by Dun & Bradstreet and identifies a business and its location. The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) identifies products, and the United Nations/Standard Products and Services Code (UN/SPSC) robustly and comprehensively classifies products and services.

Another fundamental requirement for meaningful data exchange and information processing is a communications protocol. The RosettaNet Implementation Framework (RNIF) adequately covers this need for communication standards. The framework defines open exchange protocols and guidelines for communications between applications on networks. These specifications encompass various requirements such as message packing and the transfer of PIP objects between Web or browser servers; they incorporate protocols such as Common Gateway Interface (CGI), HTTP, and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). The RNIF also supports digital signatures, digital certificates, and SSL to ensure business transactions are secure.


Any standard or technology, however technically perfect, is only as good as its adoption and penetration. A standard becomes permanent (as much as that is possible in this fast-paced, ephemeral, Internet world) when it evolves as an integral component of business-as-usual.

RosettaNet already appears to be achieving this status, given its initial implementation successes and strong support from industry leaders and solution providers. RosettaNet has quickly moved ahead of Internet B2B "noise" to be viewed as a dominant standard, at least in the IT, EC, and SM arenas. RosettaNet also hopes to unveil plans for e-business standards for other industries. It remains to be seen if RosettaNet will continue to lead; nothing about B2B is yet written in stone. (Pun intended!)

Parlez Vous?

Participation Levels in RosettaNet Supply Chain Partner

If you are a member of the information technology, electronic components, or semiconductor manufacturing supply chain, you qualify to be a RosettaNet Supply Chain Partner. By providing the subject matter expertise and human resources for interface development project teams, you will have direct involvement in the development, approval, adoption and implementation of RosettaNet standards. Solution Partner If you provide the tools or services -- and can offer a solution -- to aid Supply Chain Partners with implementing RosettaNet standards, you qualify to be a RosettaNet Solution Partner. Coalition Partner If you are a trade association or not-for-profit government agency, you qualify to be a RosettaNet Coalition Partner. You will be involved in the development of RosettaNet standards and serve to enlarge the support base and constituency of RosettaNet by increasing exposure to its projects and standards.

From RosettaNet:, How to Join link

Rajeev Kasturi ( is a consultant on B2B and SAP technologies and author of the book SAP R/3 ALE and EDI Technologies published by McGraw-Hill. He welcomes comments and suggestions.

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