Abstracts - 12th Systems Administration Conference
Building An Enterprise Printing System
Ben Woodard - Cisco Systems
Cisco Systems has chosen to internally develop an enterprise wide
print system that provides access to more than 2000 printers for both
Unix and PCs. The requirements for this print system were that it had
to be very cheap to construct, highly scalable, easily maintained by a
very small staff, fault tolerant, and mission critical reliable. In
other words, management essentially wanted everything for practically
nothing. To meet our objectives we built our print system out of
interchangeable low cost running PCs Linux, LPD and Samba as well as
other standard Unix applications. The low cost of PC hardware and the
lack of licensing fees for Linux allowed us to deploy the print system
vary widely without having to go through all the managerial
justifications necessary to authorize larger scale purchases. By
making each print server interchangeable we achieved scalability as
well as a certain degree of fault tolerance. The flexibility of
running a Unix like operating system such as Linux as opposed to
another more restrictive operating system allowed us to develop a
worldwide printing application that can be managed very easily by only
two or three people. And finally the robustness of Linux made it
possible for us to use our print system in mission critical
environments such as manufacturing production floors.
discusses the process by which the print system was implemented and
the wisdom learned in the process. It covers topics such as how to
gain and maintain control of the printing process, why it is necessary
and how to keep printers a completely network managed device, how we
learned to deal with large numbers of server, the advantages and
problems we ran into as the number of servers grew, and the many
advantages and few disadvantages of basing the system entirely on free
software. It also highlights some of the major processes that we
automated and the success we had devolving power first to the the
local technical support people and then ultimately to the users.
Finally, it discusses many of the problems that we are running into
now that the print system is a few years old and the steps that we are
taking to ensure that we do not become victims of our our own success
and that we do not have the whole system collapse due to data rot.
Since the real key to managing thousands of printers effectively
is figuring out how to save time, the real world experience we gained
and the time saving tips we discovered while learning how to manage
thousands of printers should be valuable even to sysadmins that have
only a few printers to manage.
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