Using CruiseControl.NET to manage EDI Invoice processing

A few months ago I started working in an area I previously knew little about, EDI. EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange and it defines standards for how businesses communicate with one another electronically. The basic flow of information for what I’m working on looks like this:

The document numbers above correspond to the following:

  • EDI 850 = Purchase Order (PO)
  • EDI 810 = Invoice
  • EDI 997 = Functional Acknowledgement

My client represents the seller’s side of this diagram and I’m specifically working on the lower half of this picture, the invoicing portion, as there is existing software which handles PO’s. As indicated in light red there is a trading partner involved which brokers various services between buyers and sellers including providing EDI services. The EDI “documents” are cryptic delimited text files exchanged via numerous transport mechanisms though FTP is used in this case.

The Flow

Basically, there is a system which polls the trading partner, again via FTP, looking for new purchase orders. When one is found the file is downloaded, validated, processed and an acknowledged (EDI 997) is transmitted back to the trading partner. Eventually, the order works it’s way through the system and an invoice is generated at which point, an EDI 810 is generated and transmitted to the trading partner, validated and again acknowledged with an EDI 997, a mirror image of the EDI 850 processing. For brevities sake I’m glossing over parts of this process but you get the gist of what’s going on.

When I first was assigned to start working on EDI invoicing I had a lot of things to learn including EDI, the current processes involved in invoicing and the software that handled purchase orders among others. I quickly learned via not so subtle hints that the existing software which handles PO’s wasn’t considered maintainable and is badly in need of replacement.

Using CruiseControl.NET

Once I got my feet grounded I realized this system closely resembled a continuous integration process and started investigating using CruiseControl.NET as the primary engine to drive invoice handling. I already knew CruiseControl.NET brought a number of interesting features to the table including:

  • Open Source
  • Polling architecture for trigging task execution
  • Open plug-in architecture for things like source control providers and task execution
  • Easily configured using XML (ccnet.config)
  • A customizable web based portal for monitoring projects
  • Email publishing for notifications
  • Logging

Basically, you can envision CruiseControl.NET as the two blue circular arrows in the middle of the above diagram. In a future, post talk more about the specific implementations of ISourceControl and ITask that I’ve written to manage this EDI process.