Serverless printing, single server printing or print server consolidation?
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
by Linda van der Westen
The print server; a necessary component of any IT infrastructure. One that has its challenges as well, especially within larger organizations. The costs can add up to quite a substantial amount. So when the term serverless printing first surfaced, it got quite some attention. Because people instantly saw the value of printing without print servers. But was that really what the term serverless meant? Or would ‘printing with less servers’ have been more accurate?
Today, we see different terms being used, including single server printing software and solutions for server consolidation. Eliminating print servers is still a popular term, but it does create the expectation that this is serverless printing. When in reality a minimum of one server is always required. For us at Cirrato, printing with one server is normal. But with more and more solutions out there, we also see that the terminology can be confusing. So let’s look into terms used for solutions that enable organizations to remove print servers and what benefits and risks this brings with it.
As said, serverless is not really accurate. One server is always required. It just does not need to be a dedicated print server. So even when a solution is serverless, it still requires one server. The software component needs to be installed somewhere, or how can the print environment be managed? Therefore, single server printing could be considered the better term. One (dedicated) server to manage all printer queues and drivers. This solution offers most cost savings and it heavily impacts IT admin time as they only have the one server to maintain (read more about the benefits).
There is a large variety of single server printing solutions these days and some of these might come with limitations depending on how they manage print job submission and processing. The following areas in particular are cause for consideration:
- Print jobs sent over the network: if entire print jobs are still sent over the network, having one print server will impact speed and increase bandwidth consumption. The solution will be limited to a certain number of printers and users. Cirrato does not send print jobs to the server, but instead uses a ticketing system and leaves the job local, either on the user workstation or on a HOP (handover point).
- Job by job processing by the server: some servers will process jobs as they come in. If a certain job cannot be processed because a device might not be suitable or available, it could potentially put all printing to a complete halt. Cirrato can process incoming jobs simultaneously, even multiple jobs submitted by the same user.
- No tracking by the server: You don’t want jobs to be submitted and processed without clear order and tracking system. Or things can get real messy. The Cirrato patented technology creates a unique ID for each print jobs and follows the job from the moment the user hits print to the moment the document has been printed.
These are important things to take into consideration as one of the main purposes of investing in a single server printing solution is to unburden IT, not to add to their workload by adding hundreds of calls about slow printers, users not being able to print and ‘missing’ print jobs. Single server solutions can be a great benefit to an organization, provided it is suitable for the print environment.
Last, print server consolidation. This is the broader term. An organization might simply remove some print servers while keeping the rest of the print environment as it was before. The main reason to have traditional print servers is to ensure quick processing of print jobs by not having them travel over the network multiple times. Taking some print servers out qualifies as consolidation, but impacts bandwidth consumption and will slow down printing.
More often the term print server consolidation would be used when changing the print environment and implementing a solution that caters for a reduced number of servers. Print server consolidation could result in removing all but one print server. Or it could be reducing the number of servers to only a few. But why have multiple servers when you can have only one? When implementing a software with limitations, having multiple servers could be the way to resolve these limitations. Another reason could be a matter of choice. If an organization does not want ‘just’ one server, they can have multiple ones. With the latest release, multi server environments are now supported by Cirrato with the same benefits for the IT department as our single server solution has offered to hundreds of organizations for many years.
In conclusion, single server printing is very specific: printing with one server, whether this server is a dedicated one or not. Print server consolidation however is more complex. It can mean a number of things, including changing to a print environment that runs on one single server. The number of organizations that are moving away from traditional print environments is rapidly increasing. So it makes sense that many of the traditional printing solutions adjust their offering to accommodate these changes and that new solutions keep rising to the surface.
With this article, we aim to clarify the meaning of some of the terminology used when it comes to printing with less servers. As well as the benefits and risks that come with it. There is a lot to be said for removing print servers and there are rapid ROIs. But in the end, the thing that matters most, is that printing is fast and reliable. So choose a solution that matches your environment. Read more about the pitfalls or contact our team of experts via firstname.lastname@example.org on how to change your print environment.