Volume 11, Number 5 -- February 8, 2011

I-O Finds Success with Host Print Software for i and z

Published: February 8, 2011

by Alex Woodie

A few years ago, I-O Corp. developed a software version of its hardware-based host print adapters, which convert AFP, IPDS, and SCS print jobs from IBM System i and System z servers into regular PCL jobs that can be executed on less expensive, non-IBM printers. Last month, the Salt Lake City, Utah, company announced that sales of this software product, called Adaptio, increased by a whopping 300 percent in 2010, and expectations for 2011 are just as high.

Founded in 1977, I-O Corp. has sold a variety of hardware devices designed for IBM midrange and mainframe environments, including print protocol converters, dumb terminals, thin clients, twinax connectivity, and remote controllers.

In the print protocol category, I-O developed two hardware-based offerings for IBM i-type servers. Its I-O 3235 converts Intelligent Printer Data Stream (IPDS), Advanced Function Printing (AFP), and SNA Character Stream (SCS) print jobs into standard Printer Control Language (PCL), the Hewlett-Packard printer data stream that has become the de-facto standard for network printing. This offering plugs into a Windows PC via Universal Serial Bus (USB), a Compact Flash, or dual in-line module (DIMM) memory. The company also offers the I-O 4260, which plugs into the Enhanced Input/Output (EIO) slots of select HP LaserJet printers to provide SCS connectivity from IBM hosts (via parallel or serial cables). Its I-O 9320 provided similar capabilities for S/390 mainframes.

The test for I-O was to deliver the same printer emulation capabilities of a device like the I-O 3235 through software, says I-O president Matt Brady. "A few years ago, I challenged our engineers to take our hardware printing products and create a more scalable software solution that would support up to 128 host printing sessions and allow our dealers to more quickly provide evaluation product for their customers," Brady says in a press release. "The result was Adaptio, and since then, we have seen continual annual revenue growth from this product."

Installed on a Windows server, Adaptio allows users to connect an IBM midrange or mainframe server with up to 128 printers from HP, Canon, Kyocera, or other manufacturers. The software installs as a Windows service, communicates through port 9100 or as a Windows Printer Object, and can support print speeds up to 250 pages per minute, I-O claims.

The vendor says Adaptio users can expect the same high level of two-way communication for AFP and IPDS jobs that they have grown to rely on when using IBM printers. This enables error reporting and printer monitoring to continue as if the server was communicating with a fancy production AFP printer from IBM. (Of course, IBM no longer sells printers, having sold that business to Ricoh four years ago. Today, Ricoh continues the IBM product line through its venture, InfoPrint Solutions Company.)

Adaptio customers can save lots of money compared to the old method of hardware-based emulation, I-O claims. One of I-O Corp.'s resellers, Redwood Computer, recently announced that one of its customers--a System i shop headquartered near Chicago--saved $100,000 by transitioning from hardware-based print emulators to Adaptio running on a Windows PC.

The company, which was not named, needed a new printing solution to support its expansive network of 100 branch locations, each of which required access to System i resources to print documents. The company was using IPDS conversion cards that installed directly onto the printer. But this created difficulties and expense when a printer would fail, as they are prone to do every few years.

The problem was that sometimes the old IPDS card would not fit into the new PCL printer, which required the company to buy an IPDS card compatible with the new solution. Instead, the company adopted Adaptio, which provides a layer of software-based virtualization, of sorts, between the company's new PCL printers and the System i server.

Redwood Computer President Daniel Cohn says Adaptio helped his client by providing greater flexibility. "They can mix and match various laser printers and keep their IPDS solution the same," he states in a press release.

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