The technology behind PEPPOL

PEPPOL is built for secure, simple e-tendering, e-procurement and e-invoicing. In this description, we focus on e-procurement solutions, including e-invoicing. The PEPPOL e-delivery network standard defines how perform messaging, address book and address lookup. The PEPPOL e-delivery network can be used both within a country and across borders.

The technical basis of PEPPOL creates increased interoperability i.e. system solutions that can communicate more easily and simply with each other and between trading partners' systems. This reduces the constraints on getting started with e-procurement.

Interoperability is achieved by:

  • service-based architecture
  • open source code (available to service and system vendors wishing to build support for PEPPOL into their solutions)
  • standard-based format specifications
  • freely-available tools for validation and testing
  • a well-functioning ecosystem that provides support and guidance.

Below we provide a full description of the various basic components of the PEPPOL network. Detailed specifications and technical support can be found on the OpenPEPPOL website.

Access Points send or receive business messages

The business partners (buyers and sellers) join the PEPPOL network using access points. Through their access points, business partners can exchange business messages with each other.

A service provider provides an access point. For example, a service provider may be a VAN service or the like. It may also be a system provider (of ERP solutions) that offers a built-in access point. It is also possible, in exceptional cases, that a business partner chooses to establish its own access point. It is necessary to meet high availability requirements and to undergo a certification process in order to become an Access Point Service provider in PEPPOL.

For transfer of business messages, it may be useful to be aware of three different concepts:

1. Applicability Statement 2 (AS2)

A well-proven specification describing how the access points send and receive electronic messages and transport data securely and reliably over the internet, using signed payloads and receipts, and encryption.

2. Standard Business Document Header (SBDH)

A UN/CEFACT standard used for enveloping data. SBDH is used in conjunction with AS2 to guarantee a rational exchange of information in PEPPOL.

3. PEPPOL BIS

PEPPOL's name on the standardised business processes for various business messages. Business processes are, in turn, based on CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) standards, with some adjustments (in the form of an implementation guide describing how the different profiles are to be used in practice).

Service Metadata Locator (SML)

SML is a key feature of PEPPOL that makes it easy to find business partners. The PEPPOL network has no central register including all the data from all the parties, instead there are many distributed registers. This means that a service provider can hold a separate register for its recipients or that several service providers can merge and hold a shared register. To identify the register a recipient is in, the PEPPOL feature uses SML, which is a lookup system.

Each message recipient's identity is registered in SML with a link to the register (SMP) that has information about the organization's receiving service. The sender can thus find the necessary information about the recipient as long as they know the recipient's identity, without having to know exactly what SMP data is registered.

SML is based on a Domain Name Server (DNS), which is a standardised system for simplifying addressing of computers on IP networks, such as the Internet. There is only one SML in PEPPOL's e-delivery network, operated centrally by the EU Commission.
When a new recipient is to be registered in SMP, DNS is simultaneously updated via a call to SML.

Service Metadata Publishing (SMP)

SMP is the registers contained in the PEPPOL network consisting of information about sellers and buyers and how they can be accessed (searched and downloaded).
SMP is based on the REST technical solution using simple, predictable http-based addresses. The following information about recipients is stored:

  • The message format supported (for example, UBL or other XML standard).
  • The standard format supported (for example, PEPPOL BIS invoice, Svefaktura).
  • The technical address used to receive messages.
  • The process profile supported (corresponds to the SFTI scenario).
  • The transport profile supported (AS2 in the normal case).

Based on this information, an access point will send the correct type of message to the recipient and use the correct shipping protocol and address.

There are several different SMPs in the PEPPOL network, linked through SML. Often, the same service provider offers both access point and SMP, but this is not a requirement. Norway have established a national SMP, known as ELMA.

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