Novell Serves Up Enterprise Printing for BYOD Era

Seeking a foothold in more enterprises running Microsoft software, Novell has introduced an application to streamline the process of connecting employees to workspace printers, even if they are using non-Microsoft computers and mobile devices, such as iPhones.

Seeking a foothold in more enterprises running Microsoft software, Novell has introduced an application to streamline the process of connecting employees to workspace printers, even if they are using non-Microsoft computers and mobile devices, such as iPhones.

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"We're giving the administrator a very easy way to do browser-based administration of the print environment," said Kai Reichert, a Novell product manager for collaboration. For the end user, the iPrint software provides a Web interface for easily setting up a new device relationship with a printer.

IPrint has been available as part of Novell's Open Enterprise Server (OES) for some time, though now it can be run as a stand-alone software package. This version of iPrint is packaged in a VMware-based virtual machine, so it can be run as a virtual appliance.

IPrint provides a way for users to set up connections between their Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac, or Linux computers with their workplace's network printers, without the need for contacting an administrator.

"The user would just go on the browser and see the floor plan, and click on the printer next to his [workspace] and from there iPrint would take care of everything else," Reichert said.

Through iPrint, Apple iOS and Android mobile devices can also print documents, which is a new feature that Microsoft's own enterprise software can't offer.

Even BlackBerry and Windows Phone users can print their documents as well, by emailing attachments of what they need to print to the iPrint server.

Novell has had a long history of offering software for managing enterprise printers, dating from its widely used NetWare network operating system of the 1990s, which, among other duties, acted as a print server.

NetWare successor OES, based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, includes the iPrint capability, but this is the first time Novell has split iPrint off into its own offering, Reichert said. Purchased by Attachmate in 2011, Novell has recently embarked on a mission to regain prominence in the market for enterprise software.

To prevent unwanted guests from using the organization's printers, iPrint can also work with any LDAP (the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) setup, such as Microsoft's Active Directory, in order to permit or deny employees access to specific printers, based on their roles defined by the administrator.

"We're just synchronizing the user information, but we're not synchronizing the passwords. So the administrator can assign the rights, but the actual authentication is always done against whatever back end the customer has," Reichert said.

IPrint has some competition in the enterprise printing space. Hewlett-Packard offers similar capabilities though its own ePrint, which can also provide printing services to mobile devices.

Novell's iPrint could be more appealing to enterprises, because unlike many other mobile printing offerings, it does not need to communicate with outside cloud services to complete a print job. Organizations that worry about the security of their documents may be wary of routing print jobs outside the enterprise firewall, Reichert said.

With Apple iOS devices, iPrint uses the Apple AirPrint wireless printing feature. The printers themselves don't need to be AirPrint compatible. IPrint connects with the Apple devices through AirPrint, and then relays the print jobs to the non-AirPrint printers.

The software package currently will run only on a VMware virtualized environment, though the next version of iPrint will also be packaged in virtual machines able to run on Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix Xen hypervisors as well.

IPrint Enterprise edition starts at US$900 for a 50-seat annual subscription license, covering both mobile and desktop use. Pricing options are also available for mobile-only clients -- for offices that already have printing management for desktop computers -- that start at $350 for an annual subscription of 50 users.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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