A New Watermark For Enterprise Printing
Are you out of touch, out of phase and out of sorts over your output? Well, it's possible to keep from getting out of joint, if you stop outguessing the demands of managing your enterprise printing and imaging. Find out how HP and an IBM reseller kept one government agency from screaming out loud.
As companies move to more distributed business environments and away from centralized printing sources, they are looking for ways to better manage enterprise-printing needs. "Rather than a data center model in which companies print and distribute, many companies have moved into more of a distribute and view environment," says Herb VanHook, Vice President of the Meta Group. "Some companies have been looking for ways to have localized print capabilities with their network printers." Such an environment also enables users to view documents before printing, then print only what is necessary, while maintaining some documents in an electronic format. In some instances, these companies are trying to connect network printers with fax machines, personal and mainframe computers, and, in some cases, the Internet.
These disparate systems often have widely different printing architectures. "You need a way to route this information in a secure and guaranteed fashion," VanHook says. For example, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) had a mainframe and numerous network printing systems spread across 100 locations throughout the state. With three separate print technologies, the company never looked at overall solutions, so they needed three separate people to maintain each print environment. In short, IDHW’s various distributed print systems were over-duplicated making them, not only difficult to manage, but costly to support.
Like many business enterprises, IDHW didn’t have anyone in-house who could offer an overall view of the company printing systems and needs. Such an overall view can often reveal ways for companies to print more efficiently and save money. Enter HP’s Digital Workplace Services (DWS) Group. DWS helps clients make such aggregate assessments of their printing needs, capabilities and options. They also track applications that create output, the path that output travels to reach print devices, and output volumes from each application. The group then recommends improvements to reduce network size, eliminate redundant printers, and implement a centralized model of distributed printing.
E Pluribus Print
To help IDHW to better manage its printing needs, the DWS group designed a new print architecture that consolidated multiple print systems into a single architecture. HP worked with Levi, Ray & Shoup (LRS), a provider of IBM host print-management solutions. "LRS provided a centralized point of control in what they needed for that environment," says Jaimie Houser, Service Generation Manager for HP’s DWS group. "There were literally applications that could print only on specific networks on specific printers. They had printers side-by-side that each had a specific part they were printing. And they couldn’t trade back and forth."
Now, using LRS’ VPS enterprise-management software, IDHW has a single point of control for printing across the network. The agency’s new printing architecture enables users across the state to print mainframe or network files to the closest department printer. In addition, the state agency now has a single point of control that allows it to determine costs and to maintain and support its environment more easily and with fewer resources.
Companies need to get printed materials to users quickly and conveniently, Houser says. "A lot of times they want to look at centralized printing, and then go to a distributed network," Houser explains. "We analyze the specific host environment. Then we also take a look at the processes within the distributed environment and the critical users, then determine the most efficient way to get information out into that environment. We also look at the new output environment and finding out if it is a cost-effective environment for that user. A lot of companies don’t understand what it’s costing them in that type of environment."
THE ins and outs of enterprise Printing
In mid-December, HP’s DWS group and LRS formed a strategic alliance. Company officials expect to leverage HP’s network printing knowledge with LRS’ output printing solution expertise. Together, the companies expect to help firms and agencies like IDHW that are trying to integrate their host and local area network printing environments. The two companies had worked together for several years, but there hadn’t been any formal arrangement.
"We made the decision to partner specifically with HP Digital Workplace Services because they’re the only service to offer a precise device-independent methodology that first assesses the customers’ printing needs and then finds a solution to match their specific requirements," says Daron Worth, LRS Business Development Manager. The combination with LRS puts Hewlett-Packard far ahead of other printing companies, most of which are still focusing on the hardware end, according to VanHook. Hewlett-Packard’s expertise has always been in hardware, but HP bought Dazel Software in May of 1999 to gain expertise in the personal computer market.
That acquisition still left a hole in service to companies that rely on mainframes for much of their computing needs – hence the strategic alliance combining HP’s network printing expertise with the host output printing software provided by LRS. Under this new alliance, HP’s DWS printing and imaging professional services will recommend and implement LRS’ VPS enterprise-management software as part of its host print-services offerings. IDHW is the only enterprise using the HP/LRS partnership to date, but several other deals are in the pipeline, according to LRS’ Worth.
"I’ve seen a trend in which organizations want to migrate internal production reports off central printers to LAN printers in an effort to deliver critical information closer to users," says John Curtis, Consulting Manager for HP’s Digital Workplace Services Division. "They are seeking outside expertise on how to do it simply and efficiently." LRS provides the architecture to print from any application, as long as an OS/390 system is installed somewhere within the architecture in which the LRS software operates.
"Applications are typically installed and implemented, then people think of printing last. The printing support is built into the application," Worth says. "What LRS does is separate the application from printing responsibilities, allowing the management and movement from any application to any printer on any network. Now this includes data mining, faxes and Web browsers. The movement to TCP/IP is fueling distributed printing," Worth adds.
A HIGH WATERMARK
Although traditional printing companies are still focusing on the hardware, HP does have competitors for this market, VanHook says. For example, Mobius Management Systems Inc.’s Electronic Document Warehouse products store and integrate documents and transactions of different formats on a variety of computing platforms and electronic storage devices, making them quickly available via corporate networks and the Internet. However, the Mobius system doesn’t have the same hookup with localized printers, according to VanHook.
Additionally, VanHook questions how large the market for the HP/LRS partnership might be. "This type of enterprisewide solution probably isn’t needed by 70 percent of companies," he says. "It’s primarily needed by global companies that have offices in multiple marketplaces, like manufacturing companies and large financial services firms."
But Worth counters that the business combination is ideal for customers who require centralized control over their entire enterprise print environment. "You always have companies with a third of [printing] technology that is outdated, a third that is present-day and a third that is coming in to be accepted," Houser adds. "Everybody thinks of printing last because they expect it to be built into the operating system. In today’s systems, there are eight to 10 operating systems and three to six networks that connect those applications."
Felix Gorrio is a writer for the Washington News Bureau.