It is not a stretch to describe Kleinschmidt as a company that has innovation wired into its DNA. After all, founder Edward Kleinschmidt pioneered in his lifetime an automatic fishing reel, a macaroni twisting machine and the company’s longtime breadwinner—the teletypewriter. That machine helped the Deerfield, IL, company usher in a new era of telecommunications, enabling industries to shift from Morse code telegraphs to teletypewriter terminals. Today, Kleinschmidt’s electronic data interchange (EDI) integration and B2B messaging solutions connect thousands of customers to their vast global trading partner communities.
Kleinschmidt built its current business on a robust data processing infrastructure developed with the same fierce dedication to innovation established by its founder. As the company transitioned away from the teletype’s impending obsolescence in the 1970s, Kleinschmidt began transacting point-to-point electronic business data between railroads and other parties. As large-scale data processing was still in its infancy, the company engineered proprietary software to build services around the Tandem NonStop fault-tolerant transactional computing platform. They constructed an in-house data center to accommodate servers, modems and related systems. Over 30 years of growth, Kleinschmidt continued to expand both its data center footprint and private cloud operations, as it built cutting edge transactional processing solutions upon the latest iterations of the HPE NonStop platform.
Now Kleinschmidt is embarking on a new round of innovation – this time using the public cloud. As a leader and pioneer in EDI and data integration across all industries, the company determined that its product development efforts were being hamstrung by its reliance on a traditional, on-premises data center model. Scalability and speed of deployment were not the only limitations. Clients were demanding modern data exchange services based on web services and APIs. However, the day-to-day operations of managing infrastructure, maintaining facilities and continually deploying new hardware were limiting the company’s growth in this area, as well as reducing their options for expanding into new lines of business.
“Kleinschmidt is not seeking to replace our core platform; we are looking to extend it to make it even more capable,” said CEO Dan Heinen. “As a company on the forefront of EDI integration and B2B messaging, the robust transactional processing solutions that we have built upon the underlying NonStop platform continue to drive business with a wide variety of customers, brands and firms. It is a unique approach, and it is why HPE’s foundational NonStop architecture will remain core to this line of business as we move forward toward our hybridized vision.”
In order to build a sustainable hybrid solution, Kleinschmidt needed a long-term plan to integrate public cloud into its mix. It also needed to tap some industry expertise to help with the integration of its existing HPE NonStop platform, to ensure that long-term initiatives were maintained and immediate day-to-day services for its global customer base were not affected. The company partnered with the HPE Pointnext services team to jumpstart the project.
Kleinschmidt first started working with HPE in October 2018. It had selected the Microsoft Azure public cloud platform, in part because of Microsoft’s strong B2B messaging product portfolio and native integration capabilities. But as the company had not yet pursued any tangible public cloud initiatives, Kleinschmidt needed HPE to onboard it to Azure. This included extending its existing cutting-edge transactional processing logic into the cloud, as well as establishing a sustainable hybrid cloud that would take advantage of future cloud-based technology innovations, while maintaining the robust processing power of the HPE NonStop ecosystem.
Laying the groundwork
To lay the groundwork for a four-phase cloud enablement plan, HPE worked with Kleinschmidt on some introductory issues. A team of six started with a round of discovery sessions. They met with IT staff to understand the technical facets of the existing NonStop processing architecture, so HPE could translate the on-premises processing and messaging operations to the cloud. Next, the team set up all the subscriptions, then moved on to implement the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) active directory, security and monitoring. The team used native Azure PaaS components – rather than infrastructure as a service (IaaS) elements – to allow for easier management and scaling.
Conducting the project in four phases enabled the team to manage the transition of technical know-how to the cloud and operationalize it. It also reduced risk. Kleinschmidt’s NonStop processing platform has been developed, refined and iterated over three decades. Along the way, custom software and a cutting-edge logic engine added a complex web of dependencies to account for. Shifting resources in chunks and repeatedly testing capabilities in a phased approach avoided disruptions in ongoing operations.
In the first phase, the team implemented a system that executed transactions between one customer and one trading partner. HPE developed specific web services for just a few transactions—working in the development environment first and then creating a template for expanding into other segments.
Second, HPE introduced web-based authentication and authorization through the use of an Okta cloud identity and access management platform. The team also administered connections to trading partners from the back end – creating one-to-many connections for widespread cloud-based data exchange.
Once that phase was complete, the HPE team introduced the core processing and logic engine into the product, giving the cloud service the ability to support transactions between any customer and any trading partner. This created a fully-enabled any-to-any transaction system within the Microsoft Azure cloud.
In the final phase, which is targeted for completion by the end of 2019, HPE is supporting the enablement of the management of the core engine through an easy-to-use, customized web-driven interface.
The initial phases have been executed successfully. The project has created support for document and data transformations in the cloud technology stack. It has also established Azure PaaS components with highly diverse connector support for B2B messaging – all maintained by the DevOps model of organization, process and execution.
The new system enables Kleinschmidt to offer managed B2B connectivity, mapping and data translation software services utilizing the capabilities of both the highly scalable Azure public cloud platform alongside the on-premises HPE NonStop system and processing back end. Supported by Kleinschmidt’s custom any-to-any data processing and transformation logic, the company’s hybridized approach can blend the power of traditional EDI with modern web services and APIs. This breaks down barriers for businesses needing to exchange data with a global trading partner community that requires a complex variety of document types, data formats and communication protocols.
The capability to transform any business data and connect to any trading partner can be securely provisioned, custom engineered and dynamically scaled based on an individual business or partner’s development requirements.
Looking to the future
The project also enables Kleinschmidt to expand its offerings in the future. The company is an EDI and data integration leader in freight transportation, logistics, retail, materials and manufacturing, amongst other verticals. With the implementation of a cloud-based platform, Kleinschmidt can readily offer more streamlined, secure transactional services to other industries, such as healthcare, finance and biosciences, which require rapid scalability and specialized processing environments. The company also aims to use the agility offered by the cloud to expand its offerings in consulting, hosted SaaS environments and solution-specific ERP and business system integration solutions.