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LIEN

Lightweight InterEnterprise Integrator (LIEN)

What is LIEN?

LIEN (French: link) stands for "Lightweight Inter-Enterprise Integrator", a tool for secure electronic exchange of documents among different parties.

The classic application for this type of service is exchange of purchase orders between business partners, but LIEN will work with any structured document.

A "structured document" is a document (or file) where the layout is defined outside the document and information in the document can be extracted by using the layout definition to interpret the document. Examples of structured documents are: XML files, EDI messages, etc.

This tool was designed to perform tasks that historically were associated with EDI but using today's Internet capabilities. LIEN is the result of invaluable field experience in trying to harness the complexity of the b2b integration paradigm.

The tool performs the following tasks:

  • Secure communication across the Internet by sending PKI-encrypted files.
  • Transformation of the sender's document format to the receiver's document format by passing trough a neutral XML format to ensure interface autonomy.
  • Management of monitoring and tracking information at multiple levels (e.g. acknowledgements, acceptance receipts, etc.)

Benefits

  • Simplicity: LIEN uses commonly accepted and widely used Internet protocols: SMTP, POP, IMAP, PKI, etc.
  • Fast implementation: it takes virtually minutes for a new business to set it up for use and only a few hours or days to prepare his custom data transformation map.
  • Zero maintenance: No client side user intervention necessary.

How it works

  1. LIEN takes a document from a computer system, encrypts it and sends it to a server.
  2. The server decrypts the document and identifies the intended destination.
  3. The document is converted to the format required by the destination.
  4. The reformatted document is encrypted and sent to the destination.
  5. At the destination, LIEN decrypts the document and makes it available to other systems.

There are multiple possibilities for customisation of the operation. The simplest version takes files from a directory at the source and delivers them to a directory at the destination. Communication with the server is by email. Alternatively, documents can be passed directly (and a s a data stream) from/to LIEN to/from another system.

Within the functionality, LIEN ensures confidentiality, integrity and authenticity:

  • All data transferred by LIEN is encrypted using Bouncy Castle Crypto package which is on Sun's list of Cryptographic Service Providers and Clean Room Implementations.
  • Decrypted files are not stored on the server. Transformation is an in-memory process. Although use of virtual memory (cache) may cause data to be written to the disk, it is not retained there.
  • At each stage, feedback is provided to monitor a document's progress through the LIEN system.