In conjunction with file sharing services, printer sharing represents one of the most fundamental aspects of a network operating system. For the purpose of this document, each network operating system shall be evaluated on its ability to share local printers, support hardware-based print server devices, and interoperate with the TCP/IP Line Printer Daemon (LPD) standard for IP-based printing. Additional areas evaluated are client support, printer device support, and management tool support.
In Solaris 7, the Print Manager component of Solstice AdminSuite has been implemented as a separate product. The new Java-based version, called Print Manager 1.0, can run from any Solaris or Windows NT-based desktop and allows system administrators to perform all essential printer management functions. Using Print Manager 1.0, you can install printers locally or remotely, configure printer settings, modify printer access controls and delete printers as well.
Still, the configuration and installation process is more complex than in either Windows NT or Windows 2000. Each system with a printer attached gets both the SunSoft Print Client and SunSoft Print Server software installed. There is a limited number of printers supported with the emphasis on printers that can use PostScript. All of Solaris printing is LPD-based and there is no equivalent to the simple “attach a printer and install its driver” experience that a user can get with any current version of Windows. There is no Plug and Play printer support. Each printer attached to a standalone server or installed as a network printer requires the same convoluted installation process. The Windows NT 4.0 installation process of attaching the printer locally and electing to share it on the network is far more straightforward than the convoluted process to provide a network shared printer in Solaris 7.
Network printers can be found through the Solaris naming service (NIS or NIS+) once the SunSoft Print Client software has been installed. And since the NIS service (but not NIS+) can integrate with the Sun Directory Service, printers are made available to users of the directory service. While this makes finding network printers considerably easier than in Windows NT 4.0, this aspect of the Solaris network printing implementation lags behind the simplicity in Windows 2000.
Windows NT Server 4.0 Implementation Details
Windows NT Server 4.0 features a complete network printer sharing architecture. Unlike Solaris 7, a single unified architecture makes planning, configuration, deployment, and ongoing administration easier.
Windows NT Server 4.0 contains printer drivers for all popular printers, making device installation and configuration an easy task. Sharing support is provided for all parallel and serial printers by default. Hardware print server devices are supported via the DLC protocol for Digital Network Parts, Lexmark DLC Network Ports, HP JetDirect network ports, and via TCP/IP for Lexmark TCP/IP Network Port-compliant devices. Additionally, because Windows NT Server 4.0 uses a modular device architecture, additional device support and print server support can easily be added from the thousands of drivers available from third party OEMs.
Printer sharing services are provided to all NetBIOS-capable clients over the NetBEUI, TCP/IP, and IPX/SPX network protocols. Additionally, LPD-capable clients running the TCP/IP protocol can also connect and print via Windows NT Server 4.0, as full LPD server support is provided. Management is accomplished through the GUI interface present in the Printers folder, which is stored in the Windows Control Panel. As would be expected, printing rights can be fully restricted and auditing is supported as part of the Windows NT Server 4.0 security model.
Beyond basic printer sharing support, Windows NT Server 4.0 features the automatic download and configuration of device drivers, greatly easing a client’s task when using shared printing resources. Additionally, printer pooling provides a single share point for client connectivity that can be load-balanced between multiple printers.
Windows 2000 Server Implementation Details
Windows 2000 Server improves on the printing support found in Windows NT Server 4.0 by adding the features summarized below:
Internet Printing provides a full printer management solution over the Web. Users can print to a URL at local or remote sites. Potential applications include such things as commercial printing, hotel business centers, and Internet faxing. Additionally, print queue status can be viewed from any browser, allowing users and administrators alike to monitor status over the Internet or an intranet. Finally, print drivers can be downloaded and installed over the Internet automatically as part of the Windows 2000 printing implementation. For example, if a user wants to print to a neighbor’s printer over the Internet, the driver can be downloaded and automatically installed on the user’s computer directly from the neighbor’s machine assuming security criteria have been met.
Active Directory Integration allows users to easily share and locate printers across the network. Using a standard printer object that is stored in Active Directory, users can search for printers on the network by attributes such as location and capabilities.
Print Server Clustering allows organizations using Clustering Services to provide transparent failover of printer sharing services to ensure absolute availability.
Image Color Management 2.0 API provides the ability to send high quality color documents to a printer or to another computer faster, easier, and with greater consistency.
UniDrive5 offers improved color printing, support for OEM customization (allowing application developers to exploit printing device features without custom development) and an overall increase in printing speed.
Support for Plug and Play makes the installation and setup of printers for the workstation more straightforward. Users no longer need to know about driver models, printer languages, or ports – printers are automatically discovered and configured.
Enhanced Management Tools allow for quick-and-easy setup of printing on common network configurations. This allows administrators to get up and running faster, and to more easily set system-wide printer defaults.
Printer Sharing Services Summary
Windows 2000 Server boasts a complete feature-set, a powerful architecture, and easy management. Its networked printing services implementation is equivalent or superior to Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 in every area. . Additionally, Windows 2000 Server features fault-tolerant printing services, Web-integration and management, and industry-standard Plug-and-Play support.
While Solaris 7 does offer a GUI-based tool for managing and installing printers and software as well as the ability to integrate printers into a naming service, the installation and configuration of the print server and print client software is very complex.
Although Windows NT Server 4.0 does not feature the directory integration available in Solaris 7, its architecture and management are considerably simpler and less complicated, making it a more readily deployable solution. Additionally, it is the only solution besides Windows 2000 Server to offer support for DLC-based print server.