The Odette File Transfer Protocol (RFC 2204) currently provides a standard communications base for sending and receiving EDI messages throughout Europe and most of the world. Whilst being designed with the automotive industry sector in mind, it has been adopted by a wealth of industry sectors including retail, white goods, manufacturing, government, transport, insurance, banking and both chemical and petrochemical industries to name but a few.

Today, it also provides the common element for the large number of VANs available. In particular it is supported by Dinet, Easylink (previously AT&T), GXS (previously GEIS), Tradanet, IBM IE, BT EDI*Net, Inovis/OCS, Azertia (previously Teleinformatica), EDIServ and Telefónica.

This section provides the background to this universally accepted communications standard, as well as defining the enhancements and future of the protocol.

The OFTP Protocol

The OFTP is a high level protocol, applied to the way in which files and messages are sent. It is not involved in defining the physical communications channel across which they travel.

The OFTP allows for the transfer of several different types of file. They may be either ASCII (or EBCDIC) or binary files. In addition they may be formatted with fixed length records, variable length records, unformatted or text format.

Benefits of OFTP

  • The OFTP is an extremely simple protocol that consists of just fourteen commands.
  • The OFTP is extremely efficient, allowing large transmission windows to be utilised whilst incorporating file restart, data compression and security.
  • The routing capability allows messages to travel via a number of third party intermediaries e.g. VANs.
  • OFTP can happily support multiple communications sessions within or across international boundaries.
  • OFTP has been designed to allow companies to communicate directly with one another, or via a third party as in the popular use of VANs.
  • OFTP removes any need for knowledge about the remote user’s computer system.

Advantages of OFTP

Some form of standardisation is required for the lower levels of communication carried out between the computer systems and network facilities used by different trading partners. The reason is that many companies communicating across a network have widely differing computer hardware platforms.

A single dedicated conversion between one system and another is fine while there are only two systems trying to communicate. When there are interconnections between several companies, things get more complicated.

A company which connects with several trading partners will need to set up appropriate conversion facilities for each of them if they all have different computer systems.

This problem can be reduced if the companies involved use a communications method that shares a common standard, and therein lies the advantage of the OFTP to users who support direct connections.

In addition, it has advantages for the VAN providers as it simplifies the networking aspects of their services. However, it also allows customers to sign onto new networks without having to change their hardware and software.

OFTP support in DI products

All Data Interchange communications products provide OFTP and OFTP2 support.