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Barr Teaches Indiana University How to Take Distributed Printing Online

Barr Systems is in the data communications spotlight at Indiana University (IU). For a company like Barr, whose host connectivity and document distribution products work quietly in the background, and outside the line of sight for many end users, that's a nice place to be.

Barr Distributed Printing at Indiana University

With 100 of its degree-programs placed in the top 20 by prestigious national ranking organizations, IU is an institution with a great deal of academic clout. And of course, sports fans will be more than familiar with Indiana's basketball team. But a visit to IU's University Information System's (UIS) Web site reveals that there's more to Indiana's premier ivory tower than health, law and Hoosiers. It has developed and implemented a system-wide information technology strategy that would make many large companies, outside the academic world, green with envy.

Barr is proud to play a role in this strategy, and is working closely with the university to implement a statewide distributed printing system. Whenever IU students, faculty or staff want to print a document from the data center computers to a nearby desktop printer, they will encounter a Web page that allows users to submit printing requests and update network printer information.

"All of our print jobs will be processed by the Barr Enterprise Print Server," explains Lee Easley, UIS's distributed printing engineer. "The Barr system connects to the mainframe through an ESCON channel-to-channel connection, eliminating the gateway devices. This will provide the functionality that we need in all aspects of printing, including support for remote network printers, printing to centralized channel printers in the data center, and printing to our electronic mail services."

Easley worked closely with Barr sales and support consultants to provide a comprehensive plan for distributed printing, and now he and his associates are preparing to roll out the new system for university-wide operation. Executive and managerial guidance for the project is provided by Dennis Cromwell, Director, and Dan Miller, Operations Manager of UIS.

Headers and Hoosiers

The Barr solution developed by Easley and the Barr team is a model of simplicity, in retrospect at least. The main consideration is the volume of data that the Print Server has to be able to handle. IU consists of eight campuses dispersed throughout the state of Indiana. On each campus there are hundreds of desktop and departmental printers that need to be connected to the data center in Bloomington.

Attaching such a horde of printers to a mainframe through one box would have been practically unthinkable before the release of the Barr Enterprise Print Server, a Microsoft Windows NT-based host connectivity and print management product. What makes it possible is two mainframe communications technologies originally pioneered by IBM: Network Job Entry (NJE) and channel connectivity. These allow high-speed file transfer to enhance batch processing capabilities.

Easley uses the Print Server as the foundation of his solution. BARR/NJE, a module of the Print Server, provides powerful NJE-based input and routing options that serve as the basis of the distributed printing system. Using NJE, header files allow jobs to be routed individually, or in batches, to specific destinations on the entire network.

Connectivity will be provided by Channel To Channel (CTC) via an ESCON adapter, a hardware and software solution that attaches the Print Server and BARR/NJE box directly to the mainframe. As Easley remarked earlier, CTC-NJE eliminates the need for gateways, controllers or routers when connecting the Barr solution to the mainframe.

Print requests from TCP/IP hosts on the network will be accepted via BARR/PRINT TCP/IP, a module that uses Line Printer Daemon (LPD) to route jobs according to such control file variables as LPD queue name, job name and user name.

Barr's sales and support team is an integral part of any effort to roll out a demanding solution such as IU's distributed printing system. The astonishing level of service provided sometimes takes customers by surprise.

Easley summed up the importance of these Barr professionals as he finalized the implementations that his department had sought.

"Final tests and pre-production testing should move along very rapidly now, thanks to the Barr support team," said Easley. "Talk about calling your lifeline!"

Sharing Knowledge

The cooperation between IU and Barr Systems in putting the distributed printing system together is one example of corporate and academic interests coinciding for the benefit of the university community. This kind of interaction between solution providers and large public interests will be increasingly important as the data communications and document distribution industries continue to shape the way knowledge is passed from one generation to the next.

"...this will provide the functionality that we need in all aspects of printing, including support for remote network printers, printing to centralized channel printers in the data center, and printing to our electronic mail services."

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