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Distributed Mainframe Printing Challengeby Pate Cantrell

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Today, with more than 70 percent of mission critical business applications and data residing on centralized mainframes, corporations face the challenges of distributing that information. These challenges are intensified when corporations move certain applications to client/server platforms while keeping other applications on their mainframe. This combination of different platforms creates gaps in the computer infrastructure that need to be addressed in order for corporations to effectively deliver information to their customers, employees, and partners over wide geographic areas. Much of this information is supplied to individuals in the form of printed documents, such as invoices, catalogs, transcripts, and checks.

Barr Systems, Inc. and Xerox Corporation have teamed up to offer comprehensive solutions for corporations with mainframe printing needs. Two case studies presented here, demonstrate how these two enterprise-printing companies working together, effectively meet the current challenges of print distribution.

Case Study 1

Industry Challenge

A food distribution company had three OS/390 mainframes (running MVS/JES2), each of which was located in and dedicated to servicing a specific geographic region. In each location, there were several Xerox Docuprint 4635 and Docuprint 4090 LPS printers channel-attached to the mainframe. After deciding to consolidate its operations into a single mainframe and convert the other locations to regional print centers, the company faced the task of supporting channel-attached printers without an adjacent mainframe at the remote locations.

End-to-End Report Management

CBuilding a successful reporting strategy requires taking stock of your existing printing infrastructure: print and report management systems have to be able to work together to produce an optimal result. Above all, that means getting print data off the host in a format your reporting software can accept. Since reporting and data mining systems vary widely in terms of the formats they accept, the more flexible and powerful your print management solution is, the better.

Critical print data in the enterprise originates from a spectrum of platforms, including mainframes, AS/400s, UNIX systems, Windows NT machines, and many others. These systems, in turn, host applications that produce printstreams in a variety of data formats, ranging from line data and escape sequence-based printer languages to full-blown compositional formats and page definition languages.

These considerations present significant networking, hardware and data transformation challenges for a print management solution that must support end-to-end report management.

Barr-Xerox Solution

Instead of purchasing expensive channel extenders to support the existing printers, the food distribution company turned to Barr Systems and Xerox Corporation for a better and lower cost solution. At the host site, the company installed a Barr Enterprise Communications Server. Configured on the host as a 3174 cluster controller, this Server functions as an SNA gateway that is channel-attached to the mainframe via a Bus & Tag interface. It isolates the SNA traffic on the mainframe from the TCP/IP traffic on the wide area network (WAN).

Next, the company installed a Barr Enterprise Print Server at each of the two remote locations. In addition to a core spooler, the Windows NT-based Print Server included the BARR/NJE and BARR/PRINT390 modules. The BARR/NJE module provides the communication link to the mainframe over the WAN through the Barr Enterprise Communications Server. Network job entry (NJE) is the most common method used by mainframes to exchange reports and jobs in a peer-to-peer networking environment.

In this installation, the mainframe operates as if the Barr Enterprise Print Server is a peer host. Using the standard NJE protocols, the BARR/NJE module feeds print and job sets to the print server, and subsequently to the printers, for the mainframe. Each job is transmitted without any translation so the print jobs are the same as they were on the host. The print server is configured to automatically send jobs to the Xerox channel-attached printers based on information contained in the header fields such as JOBNAME, FORMNAME, FCBNAME, AND UCSNAME.

Finally, to drive the Xerox channel-attached printers, the BARR/PRINT390 module is added. This solution includes a hardware adapter and Bus & Tag cable that connects to the first printer. The rest of the printers are daisy-chained.

Case Study 2

Industry Challenge

A community college decided to install several new Xerox Docuprint NPS printers along with multiple N-series printers. These printers support PCL and PostScript print data. This combination works well for print data generated by LAN applications. However, the college still had applications on the mainframe generating print data, including AFP data streams, which needed to feed into the new network-attached printers. In addition, the institution wanted an installation that would minimize the amount of time and money spent in configuring the mainframe for the new printers and bypass the TCP/IP setup on the mainframe.

Barr-Xerox Solution

By installing a Barr Enterprise Print Server with the BARR/NJE and BARR/PRINT AFP modules, the college avoided the expense and technical requirements of installing and managing the TCP/IP stack on its mainframe. With the Barr installation, the Print Server channel-connects to the mainframe via Barr Systems' BARR/CHANNEL for SNA Server (Bus & Tag). As described in Case Study 1, the host programmers define the NJE module as a peer node.

With the BARR/PRINT AFP module, the college views and routes its AFP jobs through the BARR/SPOOL to its new network printers. Each document represented by the AFP data stream is faithfully rendered on the screen and any printer with a Windows NT driver. The non-AFP documents are converted to ASCII and, using the override tables, a PCL form is selected and sent to the printer.

By processing these data streams, the BARR/PRINT AFP module converts fully composed AFP files to Windows GDI format. This enables the Print Server to send PCL and Postscript formatted data to Xerox NPS printers. In this way, department employees can take advantage of the print/reprint capabilities by logging in, remotely, to the Print Server to check the status of jobs and, when necessary, to print information.

These two industry case studies show some of the complex decisions that come into play when organizations plan and grow their remote printing capabilities. Expertise and reliability are key considerations to the enterprise, which must evaluate overall expense and efficiency of operations. When industry experts like Xerox and Barr Systems, with more than 20 years mainframe connectivity and printing reliability, team up-you know your enterprise is up to the distributed mainframe printing challenge..

Pate Cantrell is a Marketing Strategist at Barr Systems. For more information about Barr Systems' full range of connectivity and high-speed printing solutions, call 800-BARR-SYS or 352-491-3100.

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