Definition of B2B Gateway?
B2B pertains to Business to Business Gateways. Enterprises cooperate and interact with one another to satisfy their business needs. This is accomplished through message exchanges structured in XML/cXML/EDI format.
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A B2B Gateway functions as a conduit for two-way communication between two business partners. It guarantees secure message transmission within networks that use encryption/decryption technology.
B2B technology is extensively employed across various sectors, such as supply chain management and marketing.
In this article, we offer a synopsis of the testing procedure for B2B messaging systems.
You Will Learn:
B2B Communication System
To facilitate B2B solutions, businesses utilize various EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) tools like INOVIS, Babelway, e-Insight, Beacon EDI, and more. These instruments aid communication in sectors like finance, marketing, sales, eCommerce, automobile, logistics, and manufacturing for data exchange.
For deeper understanding, let’s look at an example.
Automobile companies produce vehicles and source parts such as glass, tires, seat covers, electrical components, fiber parts, aluminum parts, etc., from third-party suppliers. To do this, the automobile company sends a list of needed parts in message form (XML/cXML/EDI format) to the supplier.
The B2B Gateway oversees the secure and reliable transmission of messages during this communication.
See Also => What is Integration Testing?
B2B Messaging Procedure
This section concentrates on the mechanism behind the transmission of messages via the B2B Gateway.
Consider this straightforward transaction example between Company-A and Company-B.
We have two companies, namely Company-A and Company-B. PMAPL represents the last layer of Company-A’s application, while VAPL does the same for Company-B. Company-A is the parent company that manufactures the finished automobile product. To procure raw materials, Company-A interacts with Company-B who supplies the materials.
Following the finalization of the business agreement between the two companies, they initiate trading through communication. Company-A places an order using its internal applications, which progresses through the system until it reaches the PMAPL application. The PMAPL application prepares the final XML message for the vendor.
(Reminder: An enlarged view is available when you click on the image)
The PMAPL application acts as the boundary layer for Company-A. Once the message gets past the PMAPL application, it reaches the B2B Gateway application. At this juncture, the received message by the B2B Gateway is translated into a format the gateway can comprehend. Consequently, the XML message structure/elements sent by the PMAPL application change when they arrive at the B2B Gateway.
The B2B gateway interprets the message and converts it into a desirable structure.
The B2B Gateway then handles the message, encrypts it if required, and after encryption, the B2B Gateway sends the message to the VAPL application at Company-B. Before it gets to the VAPL application, the B2B Gateway decrypts the message back into XML format.
After that, the B2B Gateway converts the message into a format that suits the vendor’s application. The vendor may also verify the security and accuracy of the received message.
After these steps are completed, the vendor accepts the message and returns an acknowledgment to the PMAPL at Company-A. If there are any discrepancies, the vendor responds with a failure message, refusing the transaction.
Another key player in these transactions is the firewall, guarding against unauthorized messaging. As such, ERP Firewall solutions are employed by companies to authenticate every incoming and outgoing message. Any unexpected messages or documents that do not comply with the rules or configuration get blocked by the Firewall.
In B2B messaging, upholding EDI standards is vital to facilitate effective communication among trading partners. These standards safeguard the reliability of message transmission. You can learn more about EDI standards here.
How to Examine the B2B Messaging System?
The inspection of any application’s B2B messaging system is an important task. All messages need a thorough analysis for accuracy, completeness, format, and security, particularly during tests at the supplier end.
Before commencing testing, the tester must comprehend the system’s message/data flow architecture. This involves:
- Creation of input XML
- Evaluation of XML
- Understanding the transformation that takes place when the message is sent to the B2B Gateway
- Exploring how the B2B Gateway sends the message to the supplier
- Knowing the form the supplier receives the message in
Usually, this data can be located in the SA/BA/Design document. Ascertain that the XML to XML mapping and XSD documents are settled prior to the start of testing.
10-Phase Method to Examine B2B Gateways
Let’s use the previously described example to detail the testing process:
Application PMAPL generates the outgoing XML message1.
Firstly, assess XML message1 against the input data and the mapping document to confirm the accuracy of the data values. Also, verify the XML header, metadata, and elements based on the provided XSD.
Once XML message1 is confirmed, the PMAPL application processes the message and sends it to the B2B Gateway application. A transformation takes place at this step, resulting in the B2B Gateway application receiving a new, transformed XML message2.
Extract the XML message from the B2B Gateway application.
You’ll see that the values in the XML message stay the same, yet the XML header, metadata, and certain element names might have changed. This is because the message is now in the format that the B2B Gateway prefers.
Compare XML message2 with XML message1 using the mapping document to validate the accuracy of the data values.
Sometimes, the element data type might change, requiring appropriate adjustments for validation.
Additionally, confirm the XML header, metadata, and elements in accordance with the provided XSD.
Hint: Excel can be advantageous for XML validation. You can drag and drop the XML messages into Excel sheets and compare the values for accuracy and completeness.
The next level of transformation happens with the B2B Gateway application encrypting XML message2 before sending it to the vendor. (Encryption/decryption of the message may not always be required, as it depends on the mutually agreed format and data security between trading partners.)
Once XML message2 is encrypted, the B2B Gateway sends XML message3 to the B2B Gateway on the vendor’s side.
The B2B Gateway application confirms the arrival of XML message3 at the vendor’s side.
Challenge: From this point on, the tester may face restrictions, as the vendor’s site might limit the extent of testing. In this case, the tester has to wait for a positive or negative response from the vendor. Conversely, if the tester is working on the vendor’s site, similar steps as described above would need to be undertaken.
The B2B Gateway application decrypts XML message3, creating XML message4. Afterward, the VAPL application transforms XML message4 into XML message5 in the preferred format of VAPL for further processing.
The VAPL application returns a positive/negative acknowledgment message back to the PMAPL application through the B2B Gateway application. The communication process is similar to the one mentioned above, albeit in reverse.
Potential Failures While Testing
Let’s go over some possible failure scenarios that might occur during testing, using the previously mentioned example.
- An error may occur in the PMAPL application’s processing of XML message1, due to technical difficulties such as data retrieval, middleware failures (like Webservice, MQ message, API), or code issues (such as DB value mismatch). Conducting a root cause analysis in these situations would be crucial to identifying the underlying problem. Having a keen understanding of the application architecture would greatly aid the tester in this scenario.
- Transformation failings could occur during the transmission of XML message1 due to incorrect XML format.
- The XML message may not be received after transmission due to a middleware malfunction between PMAPL and B2B Gateway.
- Inability to generate XML message2 due to formatting issues or improper definition of XSD structure.
- Failure of XML message2 in the B2B Gateway application due to firewall-related issues. It’s crucial to note that firewall-related issues can arise at any stage of the B2B Gateway operations, hence the need for continuous firewall support. Generally, each trading partner has its own exclusive firewall support team.
- Failure in encrypting XML message2 in the B2B Gateway application.
- Apart from that, there may be environment-related failures such as server problems, Windows patch issues, configuration snags, server downtime, etc. The respective server/environment support teams should deal with these issues.
We trust this article has shed some light on B2B along with its testing methods and the challenges that come with it, using examples. The examination of B2B systems calls for thorough application support at multiple levels and a highly coordinated team effort for successful execution.
About the Writer: This is a guest article authored by Asish K Mallik who has over 7 years of experience in testing ERP systems