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Editor's Note: With the recent introduction of our LRS CloudPrint® product, I felt it was a good time to revisit a story my colleague Brent Black wrote a few years ago, which provides a thorough discussion of various Cloud computing models. At the time, LRS customers were already running our solutions in a private Cloud model. But the last two paragraphs of his article were prescient, especially this line: "Will LRS ever offer a public-cloud solution? Yes, someday."

Turns out, someday is today.

Clouds are everywhere, and I am not talking about the white fluffy ones in the sky.  Instead, I am referring to cloud computing models, namely private, public and hybrid clouds. From a marketing perspective, the cloud concept is so strong that every IT vendor feels compelled to associate their products and services with the cloud. Hey, don’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

At LRS, I think the facts make a good story on their own, without the need to stretch things. It’s time to talk candidly about “LRS and the cloud.” Let’s start with some terminology definitions from Wikipedia:

  • Cloud computing is a type of Internet-based computing that provides shared computer processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. It is a model for enabling ubiquitous, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., computer networks, servers, storage, applications and services), which can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort. Cloud computing and storage solutions provide users and enterprises with various capabilities to store and process their data in either privately owned, or third-party data centers that may be located far from the user–ranging in distance from across a city to across the world.
  • Private cloud is cloud infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third-party, and hosted either internally or externally.
  • A cloud is called a "public cloud" when the services are rendered over a network that is open for public use…...Technically there may be little or no difference between public and private cloud architecture, however, security consideration may be substantially different for services (applications, storage, and other resources) that are made available by a service provider for a public audience and when communication is effected over a non-trusted network.
  • Hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community or public) that remain distinct entities but are bound together, offering the benefits of multiple deployment models. Hybrid cloud can also mean the ability to connect collocation, managed and/or dedicated services with cloud resources.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the subject of printing. There are three general components in an end-to-end print workflow:

  • Applications that generate output (documents) to be delivered to a print device
  • Output management (middleware) software that captures the application output and delivers it to the target print device
  • Network print device(s)

Applications are the most likely candidates for cloud deployment, followed by the output management software. Network printers and multifunction devices will always be “on premise.”

LRS’ current print and output management solutions can provide value in every cloud deployment model, including distributing output from public-cloud, SaaS applications. This is where the concept of “printing as a service” comes into play. You need to view the LRS Enterprise Output Server as a single, middleware architecture that captures and delivers documents from all applications and platforms to a variety of hardcopy and softcopy destinations. This middleware provides consistent functionality, service levels and user experience across all applications and platforms in the form of a “service layer” that insulates applications from the complexities of document distribution and simplifies the delivery of new services without application changes. You can logically view this service layer as an extension of your organization’s existing IT service catalog.

The LRS Enterprise Output Server is currently not available as a public-cloud, SaaS solution; however, it fits nicely in private and hybrid cloud environments when there is network connectivity to the upstream applications and downstream print devices.

Many LRS customers have deployed our solutions in their on-premise private clouds, and some customers have even deployed them off-premise, leveraging cloud hosting providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). By using a secure cloud-hosting provider, organizations can deploy the LRS Enterprise Output Server on a highly-scalable computing platform while maintaining complete control of their output management system. This approach reduces the time required to spin up new server instances, allowing organizations to quickly scale capacity up and down based on your real-time computing requirements. The net is – organizations have several IaaS and PaaS options for the LRS Enterprise Output Server.

We occasionally receive inquiries from partners and customers for an output management solution that runs in a public cloud as a true SaaS offering. Most of these inquiries come from partners that want an easy way to trial, sell and deploy our solutions. Very few such requests come from our traditional market of large enterprise organizations, where most critical business applications are running in a traditional data center or a private cloud environment.

Will LRS ever offer a public-cloud solution? Yes, someday. We are carefully listening to the market, discussing the general cloud subject with customers. We want to know what they need, and when they need it. We also need to understand their security requirements concerning application output (print data) in a public-cloud environment. Finally, we are carefully evaluating cloud host providers, and the required technology changes we need to implement to have a multi-tenant capability.

In the popular movie, Field of Dreams, there is an oft-quoted phrase - “build it, and they will come.” We believe there is a future opportunity for LRS in the public-cloud market, but we want to get it right. Said another way, “build it poorly, and they will not come.” In the meantime, our customers have several options available to address their output management requirements in a cloud environment. Contact LRS for help with your document distribution challenges in a private, public or hybrid cloud deployment.

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