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OS/400 Edition
Volume 3, Number 45 -- November 18, 2003

MPI Tech Brings IBM Print Protocol Converters to Linux

by Alex Woodie

Now there's another reason to run Linux in your shop. MPI Tech, the French-owned company that makes print protocol conversion hardware and software for iSeries and zSeries servers, is bringing its DocOut and BlueServer print protocol conversion software products to Linux. With the announcements, IT organizations will be able to use a Linux server to convert their SCS, IPDS, and ICDS print jobs to PostScript, PDF, and other commonly used formats, allowing them to print these documents on inexpensive LAN printers.

IBM's Advanced Function Printing (AFP) system is a tightly bundled collection of components, which includes Intelligent Print Data Stream (IPDS) and Print Services Facility (PSF) print drivers, that give iSeries and zSeries users a great degree of control and error detection on high-end print jobs. However, that extra control comes at a price, as AFP and IPDS printers are generally more expensive than their basic ASCI counterparts than can connect over standard LANs.

The high price of IPDS and AFP printers created an opportunity for companies like MPI Tech to provide IPDS protocol conversion solutions. MPI Tech became one of the largest companies in this niche when it acquired its rival, i-data international, in 2002. Today, the company's i-data division, which is based in Denmark, specializes in developing hardware-based protocol converters, called dual inline memory modules (DIMMs), that plug into standard LAN printers and allow them to read IPDS and other mainframe print data streams. The MPI Tech side of the business, meanwhile, focuses on delivering these capabilities in software-based solutions.

MPI Tech says its DocOut and BlueServer software offerings, which are roughly equivalent in price, can go far in reducing the costs associated with buying and maintaining IPDS printers from IBM and other high-end printer manufacturers. DocOut and BlueServer can even prove more cost effective than its DIMMs, which range in price from $995 to about $1,200 each, the company says. What's more, the two software solutions are also better at maintaining the integrity of the IPDS datastream, providing IPDS emulation, rather than conversion, an MPI Tech official says.

Last month, MPI Tech announced that its DocOut print protocol conversion software, which previously ran only on Windows, now runs on Red Hat Linux. Later this month, the company is expected to announced a Linux version of its high-end BlueServer software, which ran on Windows, Solaris, and Novell NetWare environments before.

The DocOut product converts IPDS and i-data Compressed Data Stream (ICDS), which i-data had developed for mainframe applications, into PCL5/5c, PostScript, and PDF. The software can support multiple hosts and printers, as well as multi-function printers (MFPs) and digital copiers. The software runs on Red Hat Linux 7.2 or higher, and for IBM midrange environments, requires an AS/400 or iSeries server with PSF/400 and OS/400 V3R1 or higher. Pricing for DocOut can be as low as $750 per server (when a 32-server license is purchased) but organizations with smaller needs will pay more than that, on a per-server basis.

The BlueServer product converts AFP/IPDS and SCS/DCA print streams via SNA, TCP/IP or Channel 370 to PCL, PostScript, PDF, TIFF, or BMP documents. It, too, can support multiple hosts and MFPs in a single instance, and requires OS/400 V3R1 or higher. Besides the additional print protocols supported by BlueServer, the primary difference between the two products is that BlueServer provides a standard GUI and support for duplex printing, whereas DocOut supports a command-line interface, and requires an inexpensive add-on product, called PrintGuy, to provide a GUI and duplex support, an MPI Tech official says.

The main reason that MPI Tech is bringing its DocOut and BlueServer products to Linux is because that operating system is more secure than Windows, the official said. He also noted that, with the capability to run Linux servers within logical partitions on the IBM machines, the value proposition posed by Linux increases even more.

Pricing for DocOut Linux is based on the speed of the printer it works with. For printers printing at 55 pages per minute (PPM) or less, a license for DocOut Linux costs $2,000 per server. One year of maintenance, at $400, is also required. For more information on DocOut, BlueServer, and the DIMMs, go to

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News Briefs and Product Shorts

Alex Woodie

Managing Editor
Shannon Pastore

Contributing Editors:
Dan Burger
Joe Hertvik
Shannon O'Donnell
Timothy Prickett Morgan

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Kim Reed

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