Jul (07-02) - Hurdles on the road to TCP/IP

July 15, 2002 Editorial

Equipment specials: https://www.argecy.com/Specials.html

The summer doldrums are upon us and most users seem to have taken a wait and see attitude. New projects, already a rarity, have seemed to have evaporated. Users appear to have postponed project development. Lets hope that the fall holds opportunity.

Ethernet cards continue to be a limiting factor for most of the older IBM printers. Any supplies of the feature cards that fit IBM's 43xx family are quickly snatched up to put on current inventory. Most dealers have little incentive to pull features off machines for fear of having "orphan" printers. Users have begun to consider external print servers from Lexmark and Troy as alternatives to overpriced HP.

As reported here in the last issue, a popular mainframe based print application called VPS (Levi, Ray and Shoup) cannot handle IPDS over IP�A big problem for many users trying to move toward TCP/IP. One user went so far as to implement an IPDS to PCL conversion on the host and then send the huge datastream to remote laser printers. Unfortunately, no such solution exists for impact printers. We expect a release to fill this "hole" but no release date has been announced. There are a few middleware products designed to run on PC/NT based machines, but they are expensive, less reliable, and more difficult to deploy than host-based applications. While IBM�s PSF is the product of choice, many users are reticent to deploy another application for the incremental function this brings. Meanwhile, users continue to rely on IBM and compatible controllers in lieu of a true IP-based solution.

Converting to TCP/IP from SNA? Check out this overview for printers: www.argecy.com/Connectivity.html

How to deal with the glut of gear in the market? I am reminded of a transaction many years ago which is quite telling. A leasing company had banked on a renewal of a huge quantity of terminals at an end-users locations. When over 7000 pieces of IBM's 3180 terminal hit the market, rumor and hearsay had already taken their toll. The used market prices collapsed, bringing the whole terminal market with it. Prices for substitutes fell in order to remain competitive with the cheap and abundant supply of 3180's.

Today I see another example of the cost of the poor handling of large take-outs. Users often find pride and glory in the acquisition of new gear but fail to properly handle the disposition of the used assets being replaced. As a result, the rumor mill starts churning and market prices fall in anticipation of the supply. Even if the supply never actually materializes, the damage has already been done. In order not to participate in the rumor mill, I will omit the details. Suffice it to say: Ask an expert before making assumptions.

Last fall the US economy hit "full employment", while productivity improved. Given the facts, it is difficult to see where growth will come from in the beleaguered IT business. While vendors struggle to maintain unit shipment volume, and prices continue to fall, one wonders how HP/Compaq can survive without drastic action. Dell reported improvement, but, again, how long can we count on replacements of existing infrastructure to justify "growth" projections. To restate: What do we do now that the market has reached an appreciable level of saturation?

Work harder. Buy smarter. Make what you have last longer....

Tough to find:
4322 InfoPrint 21� they weren't in the market long and now they are like hen's teeth.
Internal Ethernet for the whole 43xx family lasers don't hold your breath.
Lexmark Optra T610, T612, T614, T616.
IBM twinax impact printers in the 4230 family � especially IPDS versions.
DEC LA series impact printers (There are a few choices in software for lasers, but no good solutions for impact)

Not so easy:
IBM 6400's, especially with ethernet and IPDS.
IBM 6262's-A machines (everyone wants to go ASCII/IP).

Good supply
IBM 3112 or 3912 � inexpensive workhorse with IPDS support
IBM 4317-001 � still whittling down the huge supply � features are the only real problem.
IBM 6262, most models
IBM 6252 � these are really nice high-speed impact printers. Cheap alternative for durable iron.
IBM 3900, 4000�s
Genicom 3470 � New in box = less than the IBM gets for theirs.
Lexmark Optra 1855�s � a large package from Federal Government and other sources.
Lexmark Optra E�6ppm desktop lasers are a steal at @ with supplies
Lexmark Optra SC1275 � Color laser = (!?) supplies extra.
DataSouth XL family impact printers � a large end user rollout.