New Version of AFP Unveiled
August 16, 2011 Alex Woodie
The AFP Consortium unveiled a new version of the Advanced Function Presentation (AFP) printing protocol this month. IS/3, as the new version is called, features operational improvements, support for new fonts and graphics, and greater interoperability among AFP-using products, the group says.
AFP is a high-end printing architecture primarily used by large organizations that need a great deal of control over their high-volume, variable-data printing environments. The software is often driven by IBM mainframe and IBM i servers, although AFP versions also exist for Windows, AIX, and other platforms.
At the core of AFP is MO:DCA-P, which stands for Mixed Object:Document Content Architecture-Presentation. This page description language (PDL) file format (which used to be called AFPDS) excels at combining all of the components that go into a given print job, including the text, graphics, vector images, and objects (such as barcodes). MO:DCA-P works with other AFP subcomponents, such as the Intelligent Printer Data Stream (IPDS) print protocol, to efficiently route large numbers of variable-data print jobs among large numbers of printers and servers.
That integration and communication is set to get better with IS/3. IS/3 will bring “smoother integration across the elements of a printing system–including formatters, servers, transforms, printers, AFP viewers and archive systems–with less customization and faster time to production with any given configuration,” the consortium says in a press release.
IS/3 solidifies AFP’s position as the standard presentation architecture for monochrome and color variable-data production printing, AFP Consortium chairman Harry Lewis says. “By improving interoperability of AFP solutions across vendors, we reassure customers that they can design their print environment using best-of-breed AFP components from multiple vendors with confidence that they will work together easily and efficiently,” he states in a press release.
The AFP Consortium was created by IBM in 2004 to maintain the printing standard and to write new AFP standards. The organization is based in Boulder, Colorado, formerly the home of IBM’s InfoPrint division, which IBM sold to Ricoh in 2007 and is today operated as InfoPrint Solutions. InfoPrint Solutions plans to close its Boulder headquarters as part of a larger reorganization and renewed focus on high-end printers.
InfoPrint Solutions, which claims credit founding the AFP Consortium, endorsed the new standard. InfoPrint’s George Promis, who holds the IBM-esque title of vice president of Continuous Forms Solutions and Technology Alliances, called IS/3 “an important development” for AFP customers and the printing industry as a whole.
“The IS/3 standard provides customers with improved interoperability and operational efficiency, helping to ensure the value of their long-term investment in AFP,” he states in a press release. “It represents a new level of maturity of an architecture that is the backbone for thousands of customers who print millions of documents each day.”
Now that the IS/3 standard has been published, it is up to AFP Consortium members to implement it in their products. The consortium currently has 32 members, including system vendors like IBM, HP, and Oracle; printer makers, like InfoPrint Solutions, Lexmark (another IBM spin-off), Oce, and Xerox; document and content management software companies, like Open Text, Cincom, and Elixer, Solimar Systems, Inventive Designers, and PrintSoft, enterprise application vendors like FIS Global (Fidelity National Information Services), and print protocol converter makers, like, MPI and Crawford Technologies.
For more information, see www.afpcinc.org.