Providing a PEPPOL Access Point
The Access Point specified by PEPPOL can also be used for other types of document exchanges. This means it is technically feasible to implement an Access Point and yet not be a part of the PEPPOL community. That is, to establish an independent service based on the same technology as used by PEPPOL.
However, one of the major attractions of providing a PEPPOL Access Point is not only the ongoing governance of the service but also the potential to reach a larger number of participants in the European eProcurement community.
The governance model is based on a continuation of the centralised PEPPOL Coordinating Authority supported by several PEPPOL Authorities.
Probably the primary consideration for providing a PEPPOL Access Point is the desire to add value to your customers’ service. After considering the governance and long-term sustainability of PEPPOL, the decision about providing an Access Point then needs to be understood as a business case.
Firstly, there are various levels of service that an Access Point provider should consider:
Providing just a pure Access Point service
Providing an Access Point and associated Service Metadata Publisher for registering customers/participants.
Providing additional value added services to integrate customer’s applications with the PEPPOL business processes, such as basic post-award procurement transactions.
Providing additional services, such as archiving, monitoring, reporting.
A business case should be considered for each scenario. Some factors to take into consideration are:
There are direct costs involved in developing and supporting any network or eProcurement services that need to be evaluated against the commercial or business opportunities of providing the service.
As an Access Point Provider, your requirement would be to obtain or develop and provide suitable software, personnel and network capacity to support the services outlined in the PEPPOL Transport Infrastructure Agreement.
Existing eProcurement service providers will recognize this as similar to developing interconnection services – albeit one interconnection to potentially any government procurement agency.
The PEPPOL project offers all its documentation and specifications under a creative commons licence. This means it is free to copy, distribute and transmit and also adapt the work of PEPPOL, provided you acknowledge PEPPOL as the author and in doing so do not imply any endorsement by PEPPOL for your adaption or implementation.
The PEPPOL software components are available under a similar licence (the European Union Public Licence (EUPL) open source software licence).
In addition, a growing number of open-source, sample implementations and out-of-the-box solutions are being published under the PEPPOL Enterprise Interoperability Architecture (EIA).
However, as with any new service, there will inevitably be further software development, integration and customization required. The scale of this cost will vary on a case-by-case basis.
Note that, under the PEPPOL Transport Infrastructure Agreement, providers cannot charge for traffic between Access Points.
With a PEPPOL Access Point, organizations no longer have to resort to point-to-point connections or expensive third party interconnections to access the various European eProcurement communities.
Looking into the future, organizations may no longer have to resort to point-to-point connections or expensive third party interconnections to access a broad range of digital services and communities.
Because PEPPOL includes standardized business processes and document formats it becomes possible to commoditize integration of business applications.
Additional benefits (for service providers):
PEPPOL provides public sector contracting authorities with access to suppliers all across Europe - giving them greater market choice and potential cost savings.
Equally, it provides your customers who may be suppliers to the public sector with access to a wider range of European contracting authorities and greater market opportunities.
Taking these factors into account it should be possible to create a pricing model based on variables such as the number of customers, charging fees and expected number of transactions.
Potential Access Point (and SMP) providers can only be registered in the PEPPOL Transport Infrastructure once they have signed the relevant agreements. When entering these agreements, providers commit to fulfil the stated quality, compliance and security requirements.
The Transport Infrastructure Agreements are available at: http://www.peppol.eu/peppol_components/-transport-infrastructure/governance/transport-infrastructure-agreements
The PEPPOL Coordinating Authority (or a PEPPOL Authority) may perform checks on providers, including a review of documentation and statements of compliance. The Coordinating Authority has the right to suspend or revoke their registration, if a provider fails to fulfil its obligations. This removes the provider from the list of trusted service providers and makes their services invisible to other users. As of Sept. 1st 2012, the PEPPOL Coordinating Authority is OpenPEPPOL AISBL.
As with any network service it is necessary to appreciate the requirements and operational impact of providing an Access Point (or an SMP).
This involves evaluating how the PEPPOL eProcurement processes can be aligned with the current supply of services to your customers and how your customers will access the Access Point service – e.g. using existing network connections or via new services.
- Availability: The PEPPOL Transport Infrastructure uses a continuous availability protocol, meaning Access Points must be capable of sending or receiving messages at any time. The Transport Infrastructure Agreement details the precise service availability levels required.
- Security: The network protocol between Access Points is designed to ensure message secrecy and integrity, and it provides a high level of delivery guarantee. However, communication channels between the Access Point and the end-user are not standardized and should be provided by the service provider in compliance with local regulations (e.g. archiving) and customer requirements. For instance, PEPPOL does not specify that messages (e.g. invoices) should be electronically signed at document level, but this may be a local requirement.
- Support: PEPPOL does not offer any direct resources to support a participant’s use of the service. It is the responsibility of the Access Point provider to offer first level support to their customers.
In order to achieve interoperability in business processes, each PEPPOL participant is registered (in their SMP) claiming they (and their Access Point) can support the PEPPOL business processes relevant to their requirements. Participants may in addition, be registered in the SMP as supporting additional business processes if approved by their PEPPOL Authority (or the PEPPOL Coordinating Authority).
Business Process Considerations
There is a minimum requirement on a PEPPOL Access Point provider to support the PEPPOL business processes relevant to their service offering (for example, eOrdering and eInvoicing). The PEPPOL Access Point provider may in addition provide support for additional business processes (if approved by the PEPPOL Coordinating Authority or a PEPPOL Authority).
PEPPOL business processes are specified in a document known as a Business Interoperability Specification or BIS.
For defining business processes and document formats PEPPOL BIS’s follow the CEN Workshop on “Business Interoperability Interfaces on public procurement in Europe”, known as BII. The objectives of the CEN BII workshop are to provide a basic framework for technical interoperability in pan-European electronic transactions, expressed as a set of technical specifications. For more details of this committee see: http://www.cenbii.eu.
A PEPPOL BIS defines the processes, data and document formats required for exchanges between Access Points. The PEPPOL post-award BISs cover the following processes:
The full specifications are available at: http://www.peppol.eu/ressource-library/technical-specifications/post-award
Many Access Point providers offer value added services, such as document validation or integrating customer’s applications with the PEPPOL business processes.
In total the PEPPOL specifications cover both pre-award and post-award processes as described in the yellow boxes shown on the diagram below:
Should you decide to operate an eProcurement business process service for your customers then you will probably need to provide transformations of data as well as maintenance of any required mappings, code sets, etc. The precise tasks required for this will depend on the types of service offered.
The PEPPOL Transport Infrastructure uses a set of technical specifications known as BusDox (Business Document Exchange Network) to allow participants to securely and reliably exchange electronic documents.
The BUSDOX specifications comprises of the following components:
- Defining the interfaces for the SML (Service Metadata Locator)
- Defining the interfaces for an SMP (Service Metadata Publisher)
- Defining the messaging protocolused for point-to-point transfer of documents with other PEPPOL Access Points (known as START)
BusDox is document agnostic, meaning participants can transfer ANY kind of electronic document between ANY network. The significant difference between BusDox and other document exchange systems is that BusDox is designed to support what is known as a 4-corner model. The 4-corner refers to the fact that the trading participants (such as buyer and seller) may exchange their documents via two (or more) intermediary service providers.
An important advantage of the open 4-corner model PEPPOL employs is that any participant can access the network through their own Access Point provider and have immediate connectivity with all other participants on the network.
BusDox has been developed by the PEPPOL project but is being incorporated into a new set of international messaging standards known as Business Document Exchange (or BDX) by an OASIS Technical Committee. For details of this committee and the future specifications see http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/tc_home.php?wg_abbrev=bdx
A short guidance document on "How to become a PEPPOL Access Point provider" is also available in pdf-format here.