Exploring Integrations – The History of FTP and the Modern Day Applications for SOAP & REST APIs
Data integration within a supply chain context refers to the seamless and efficient exchange of data across different systems and applications involved in the supply chain. It involves combining and harmonizing diverse data sources, eliminating silos, and creating a unified view of the entire supply chain network. This integration allows for real-time visibility and insights into various aspects of the supply chain, from procurement and inventory management to production and distribution.
Needless to say, integrations are a critical component for supply chain management. To keep up with the ever-increasing demands for efficiency, transparency, and real-time data exchange, companies have turned to various integration methods, including SOAP and REST APIs. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the history of integrations and explore the use cases of these APIs in a supply chain setting.
The Dawn of Integrations
First published in 1971, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) was the preferred method for integration for years. Companies used FTP to exchange files containing purchase orders, invoices, and other critical supply chain documents. While not as efficient and real-time as modern APIs, FTP served as a reliable method for sharing important information.
However, as time has gone on and needs have evolved, FTP has become largely obsolete. In particular, the post-2000s boom in web-based stores, media, and more necessitated a seamless and quick transfer of data that FTP could no longer keep up with. APIs emerged to fill that gap, as they offered a simpler means of connecting a database to a website’s front-end that enabled end-users to more quickly gain access to the information they needed. Nowadays, the development of APIs such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Representational State Transfer (REST) have revolutionized the way businesses can deploy integrations in their information systems.
Out With the Old, in With the New
In the early 2000s, companies like Salesforce, eBay & Amazon deployed what could be considered some of the very first modern APIs into their technological infrastructure. These APIs granted access to developers who were looking to create third-party applications for these platforms, enabling a new frontier for customization. These platforms, however, were not the only ones looking to build feature-rich APIs that allowed for modern integration. The early 2000s also saw the development of two key API protocols & architectural approaches that revolutionized the way companies would eventually leverage integrations.
Representational State Transfer (REST): In 2000, scientist Roy Fielding published his dissertation introducing the concept of REST. This approach relies on the four fundamental functions of CRUD (create, read, update and delete), and operates using HTTP or HTTPS formats. In simpler terms, REST is an approach to data transfer that uses a URL-like line of text to request data from a particular server or platform. Because of its simplicity and ability to work with many data sources, REST became quite popular as a means of enterprise-grade data transfer. In the supply chain today, REST APIs are used for a variety of purposes, including real-time tracking of shipments and the sharing of product information.
Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP): First developed in 1998 by Microsoft, SOAP APIs are very similar to REST APIs with some very important differences. Like REST, SOAP APIs use URLs to request and receive data. Unlike REST, however, SOAP APIs are only able to read XML-formatted data, making them comparatively less useful for the simple transfer, reading, and writing of data. Where SOAP APIs shine is in their ability to conduct real-world operations. Companies today use SOAP APIs in their supply chain to automate tasks like the shipment of a company’s sales orders.
The Future of Integrations in Supply Chain
As technology continues to advance, supply chain integration methods will evolve. While FTP has played a significant role in the past and APIs like SOAP & REST dominate the operations of companies today, new technologies like GraphQL and gRPC are emerging as potential alternatives. These technologies offer even more efficient and real-time data exchange capabilities, which is invaluable in the ever-competitive world of supply chain management.
The history of integrations in the supply chain reveals the journey from proprietary systems to standardized, secure, and efficient data exchange methods. FTP, SOAP, REST, and other APIs have been instrumental in connecting systems, automating processes, and enhancing transparency. With ongoing technological advancements, the future of supply chain integration promises even more innovation and optimization for businesses worldwide.
If you’d like to learn more, consider checking out the full episode where expert integrations expert Sabina Sasu dives deeper into this fascinating topic.
Watch the full video below:
*Elements of the video have been paraphrased for readability.
Charles Fallon, LIDD Founder & President
It’s the end of the week! And someone has stolen my chair.
Sabina Sasu, Developer[/expand