An ESB? Is that not the same as an EDI?

 Dovetail is an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), a vertical bus that connects endpoints to each other through network protocols and applications and languages ​​that already exist in the organization.

This is often confused with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). There are, however, a number of important differences.


EDI is a standard for the electronic exchange of certain business documents, such as orders, invoices and certain messages or confirmations.

EDI was developed in the mid-60s to replace paper business transactions with digital ones. It is made to offer a number of advantages compared to the old paper communication, such as:

  • Reduce overhead costs (manual document management)
  • Save printing and paper
  • Prevent data entry errors
  • Reduce inventories and inventory costs
  • Minimize the risk of incorrectly following guidelines

There are a number of EDI standards such as EDIFACT (developed by the United Nations), HL7 (health care), TRADACOMS (British supermarkets), VDA and ODETTE (car industry). Within the retail and logistics a very large number of transactions takes place through EDI. Many large (international) retailers require their suppliers to use EDI to exchange orders, delivery notes and invoices. The EANCOM variant of the Edifact messages is often used for this.

EDI restrictions

EDI runs into a number of limitations:

  • Complex legacy integrations between more than one system (ERP, CRM, HR) are not possible
  • Departments can use more than one system for the same function through acquisitions, consolidated services, projects, etc. Standard linking via EDI is then not possible.
  • There is a high dependence on the availability, scalability and performance of the EDI gateway
  • Different partners can support different EDI standards
  • Different EDI standards may be incompatible with other EDI formats
  • There is no compatibility with different communication protocols
  • EDI transactions are not easily traceable and reportable
  • Legacy EDI implementations require adjustments, making them difficult to manage


An ESB is an architectural software construction (pattern) that simplifies communication between service recipients and their providers. To this end, the ESB offers an interface agreed with the applicant on the applicant’s side, which may be a web service (e.g. API), but also an SMTP (e-mail) interface, for example. On the provider’s side, the ESB will communicate via the interface that has been agreed with the provider. Thus it can happen that an applicant for a service communicates with the ESB in a completely different way than the ESB with the provider. The ESB translates the message into the correct message type and forwards it to the correct recipient.

The Dovetail ESB is more than just an EDI solution

An ESB solution is much wider than an EDI solution, but all functionalities of an EDI are in the Dovetail ESB solution. Dovetail uses standardized templates for this.

Below you can see where the limitations of an EDI system are compared to the total solution of a Dovetail ESB.

  EDI Dovetail
Endpoints 2 Multiple
Data transformation No Yes
Application Often masterdata All data
Communication setup Machine-to-machine Machine-to-man
Data enrichment No Yes
Technology Fundamental Incremental
Communication Standard templates Flexible
Implementation Takes a lot of time Quick to implement
Data availability Scheduled Realtime
Processing Batchwise Transactional
Person level authorization Not possible Possible
Monitoring of applications Not possible Possible


It is clear from the above that an EDI and an ESB are not the same. Do you want to know which solution is suitable for your organization? Then contact us.