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September 20, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

The Unix industry has drawn itself up yet another set of battle lines, this time around network printer control and management. Last week Digital Equipment Corp, SunSoft Inc and Xerox Corp announced a strategic alliance they say will result in seamless enterprise-wide printing, and printer management (CI No 2,748). Facing them down is IBM Corp, which this week unwraps a Printing Systems Manager that does precisely the same job, technology it is also understood to have licensed to printer leader Hewlett-Packard Co. The Printing Systems Manager is a long-overdue implementation of the Palladium print management interface model prototyped many moons ago as part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Athena project (on which IBM, DEC and others worked), which led to the creation of X Window and the Distributed Computing Environment, among other things. Palladium was originally intended to have surfaced in the Open Software Foundation’s ill-fated Distributed Management Environment. IBM, which says Printing Systems Manager is the the killer application that Distributed Computing has been looking for, says it will fill the print management requirement in its desktop-to-mainframe SystemView network and system management environment.

Draft printing

Printing Systems Manager also supports the Palladium-derived ISO Document Printing Application standard developed by IBM, Xerox and DEC, as well as X/Open Co’s Printing Systems Interoperability Specification and the IEEE Posix P1387.4 draft printing standard developed by Hewlett-Packard, DEC, Sun and IBM. The DEC-SunSoft-Xerox crowd will also base what they’re calling Printxchange on the ISO Distributed Print Application standard, but it will not require Distributed Computing Environment. They will embed Printxchange into their respective Unixes (and Xerox will make its printers Printxchange-compliant), while Printing Systems Manager will be a separate software tool running first on AIX 3.2 over DCE 1.0.X – AIX 4.1 and DCE 1.1 by year-end. As well as delivering any print job to any printer on the network – and reaching printers on NetWare and TCP/IP local networks through gateways (with some loss of functionality) – Kerry Bensman, director of software solutions at the IBM Printing Systems says the currently Distributed Computing Environment-only Printing Systems Manager could also be implemented upon other distributed computing mechanisms although there don’t appear to be any plans for that right now. IBM will license Printing Systems Manager to all-comers on economical terms, claiming that an offer to license it to the Printxchange companies was turned down by all the companies involved. Meantime the Printxchange companies want to bring their technology to other operating systems, and say all necessary app lication programming interfaces will be available. They’ve had rather half-hearted support from Novell Inc, which says it will work with Xerox to provide a gateway between NetWare Distributed Print Services (also based on ISO Distributed Print Application), and Printxchange for users running with Unix/NetWare networks. Novell hasn’t committed to implementing Printxchange within UnixWare though the Printxchange group says it’s more interested in NetWare anyway since this is where the bulk of users are, and because Novell is supposed to eventually merge UnixWare and NetWare into SuperNOS. While Printing Systems Manager is said to work with all printers supported by AIX (including PostScript, Printer Control Language, and PPDS formats), Printxchange-enabled printers are required for that technology: Eastman Kodak Co has joined Xerox in committing to integrating the technology, but so far that is the extent of the support from the printer community. Solaris and Digital Unix users will get Printxchange free, although it will not ship until the middle of next year, while Printing Systems Manager for AIX is shipping now at a base price (including a single server licence and an unlimited number of desktop clients) of $2,500, with the graphical user interface

for it costing $4,500.

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