Host-to-Windows Workflows - Brooks Internet Software

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Simple tools for connecting IBM-based
data with the Windows world
◊ As a side note, SNA has long been the preferred
IBM host communication method, even though
maintaining individual SNA connections can
be expensive. With today’s increased Windows
connectivity requirements, TCP/IP is now favored.
TCP/IP is the protocol underlying the data
interchanges discussed in this article.
»» iSeries™ and
zSeries® Windows
A major challenge for IT managers and system administrators is that much of
the data they need to access and use in Windows environments is stored in
iSeries and Mainframe host systems running critical company applications. Traditionally, unlocking this host system data and making it available in Windows
environments for printing or further processing has involved major reprogramming on the host side and significant investments in hardware, software, and
other resources. There are, however, simple, inexpensive solutions that address
this data divide, the jump from host to Windows.
First off, what are some advantages of making host data available in Windows environments?
»» I ncreasing data availability: When host data is available on Windows
PCs, say on an end user’s desktop, or servers accessible on the network,
the information can be used in documents or presentations, easily
analyzed for business decisions, or made available for remote access and
review. When information is available and easily accessible, it becomes a
driver for key business processes.
»» C
onnecting cross-platform applications: The heart of most organizations is an IBM host running critical business applications. But at the
same time, peripheral applications reside on Windows PCs or servers,
and these applications need access to the data residing on the host.
Creating a reliable, flexible data bridge is essential.
»» L owering printing costs: Windows-based printers are common, inexpensive, and relatively easy to maintain. Being able to print mainframe or
iSeries jobs easily to these resources lowers printing costs.
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“One of the simplest, and possibly
most useful, host-to-Windows tasks
is printing documents on network or
attached printers.”
»» I ncreasing printing convenience and flexibility: Windows-based
printers can be placed conveniently next to a PC or in high-traffic areas.
New printers can be added to the network when needed, either when
one is down or when more resources are needed. This kind of flexibility is
available in Windows-based print environments.
In theory, connecting two systems should
involve simply opening a pipeline and pushing information through to the
receiving system: an iSeries opens a port and transfers host data to Windows.
Problem solved. Host data is available for use.
In practice, there are, of course, complications. And that’s where the solutions
discussed here come in, solutions that provide a data bridge and address the
nuances of the transfer.
One of the simplest, and possibly most useful,
host-to-Windows tasks is printing documents on network or attached printers.
Hardware and software print servers provide the solution. Starting with V2R3
on the iSeries, functionality has been available to use TCP/IP for sending print
jobs to remote print servers using the LPR/LPD protocol. The hosts’ queues are
simply pointed to the print server’s address, which receives jobs and passes
them to a Windows-based printer. There are two types of print servers: hardware and software.
Most hardware-based print servers are easy to install
and set up: Simply connect the print server to the network and to your printer.
Most can be configured (if necessary) through a Web interface, allowing you
to fine-tune the process. As a general rule, hardware print servers function well
as pass-through devices (receiving and passing jobs to the printer without
modification to the data), but support only one connection at a time from the
host and do not support printer finishing functions.
Simple hardware print servers are generally less expensive than software counterparts, but if you have multiple printers that you want to print to from the
host, a hardware server is required for each.
Software print servers, while maintaining pass-through
functionality, have data massaging capabilities. The same job, which was
formatted incorrectly with a hardware server, can be formatted by a software
server. For example, a hospital information system provider needs to create
labels from AS/400 healthcare applications. Host data is sent to a software print
server, then transformations are performed: SCS is converted to ASCII, orienta-
Host Printing White Paper | Simplify Document Workflows.
“Although host-to-Windows printing is
one of the most common connectivity
tasks, software print servers are often
put in place to enable multiplatform
tion is changed from portrait to landscape, font is changed to Tahoma 10pt,
lines per inch are changed to 8, and page margins are altered. Patient or pharmacy labels are then printed correctly to a Windows-based, local or network
thermal label printer.
These formatting functions can be applied in many other situations across all
industries, such as printing traditional greenbar reports on common paper
and printers. A large state agency, by replacing green screens with PCs and
3270 emulators, and using TCP/IP in place of SNA, has saved millions of dollars
directing mainframe print jobs to locally attached parallel cable and USB-attached printers. Printouts are conveniently available and printer costs are
significantly lower.
Software print servers, though more costly than hardware servers, provide
much more functionality. A single instance of a software server can also be
used for multiple output printers. Although host-to-Windows printing is one
of the most common connectivity tasks, software print servers are often put in
place to enable multiplatform workflows.
like those outlined in Sarbanes-Oxley, have highlighted another key feature
of software print servers: the ability to archive print jobs to disk. Some software print servers allow a document to be saved to disk to comply with audit
requirements. An institution in the financial industry has been able to print
jobs from a mainframe to Windows printers while at the same time saving the
jobs to disk. Another process archives the
folder’s contents to DVD periodically for
future auditor access.
This same document archive feature is
used as a bridge between host data and
Windows-based applications. A print file
residing in a watched folder is picked up
by other applications, which can perform
further functions on data, including parsing, converting to PDF, and passing the
information to the next process. For example, many forms-generation packages
use software print servers to gain access
to host data, parse the data, format it, and
burst the generated forms. In this setup,
Host Printing White Paper | Simplify Document Workflows.
“...while software print servers are often
the final step in host-to-Windows
processes like printing, the same servers
are just as useful as the first step in more
complex workflows spanning many
systems, platforms, or organizations.”
the print server is simply a go-between for platforms.
Supply chains can also benefit from these functions. A document flow facilitator uses server software to link ERP systems. The host sends jobs to the print
server, which saves the jobs either to disk or “prints” to the receiving application. The print data is parsed and often converted to structured XML, which
can be imported into the partner’s ERP system. Some solutions will publish the
data on the web in HTML or PDF format, so remote associates can securely access the information from anywhere.
So while software print servers are often the final step in host-to-Windows processes like printing, the same servers are just as useful as the first step in more
complex workflows spanning many systems, platforms, or organizations.
The hardware and software print servers discussed in this article are
inexpensive, easy to configure, and easy to maintain. The main advantages
of using print servers, software print servers in particular, to connect hosts to
Windows environments are as follows:
356 W Sunnyside Rd, Ste A
Idaho Falls, ID 83402 USA
Phone (208) 523-6970
Fax (208) 523-9482
◊ Founded in 1995, Brooks develops TCP/IP network
printing solutions that allow Windows-based
computers to print to and receive data from nonWindows computers: INTELLIscribe® for sending
print requests, RPM Remote Print Manager® for
receiving host print requests, and ExcelliPrint®
for receiving AFP/IPDS print requests from IBM
mainframe and midrange servers. For more
information, call 208.523.6970 or visit www.
»» M
inimum host-side modifications: Putting a print server in place
requires little change to the host. In most cases, the host printer simply
needs to be redirected to the server’s IP address. Generally, no additional
software is required on the host system.
»» Simplified print job management: Managing print jobs in the Windows environment reduces host system operator’s expense.
»» A
dvanced formatting and finishing capabilities: Host data can be
formatted for a specific Windows printer allowing full use of all printer
finishing functions, including double-sided printing, stapling, hole
punching, n-up, watermarks, etc. Margins, fonts, and text compression
are generally supported. Other data massaging options can be supported, including PCL removal, ASA/Fortran, CR to CR/LF, EBCDIC conversion,
and SCS to ASCII.
»» O
ther connectivity: Even though most print data comes from an IBM
host, environments often contain other systems, including UNIX, Linux,
and other operating systems. A software print server is capable of receiving (and transforming) data from these other systems. Multiple inbound
connections and protocols can be supported.
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