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15.0: The making of Site Server

Damien White, Application Engineer

As one of the newest Product Owners for PaperCut, it was only a matter of time before I “volunteered” to blog. And there’s no better way for me to jump into the deep end with my first blog than a major release. Version 15.0 of PaperCut NG and MF (for those not familiar with our version numbers 15.0 represents the year 2015), has great new features, enhancements and more! For an at a glance overview, see what’s New and Noteworthy.

Far from a PaperCut novice, I’ve been working with the software suite for well over a decade before kissing my shirt and tie goodbye, and joining the team last year. (That’s me pictured in the Dark Knight t-shirt on the right)

Our development team

Our Site Server development team, from left to right: Dean, Mark, Kelby, Matt, Geoff, Amir and Damien.

 

As well as resiliency with on-site servers, a new look logo and updated green in every part of the software, there are updates to the Global Print Driver, scalability improvements and support for Novell iPrint and more.

Calling all scrum masters

My journey started in October 2014 at PaperCut, with only a few settling-in days under my belt, I was asked to take on the role of Product Owner (using our agile software development mantra) for the PaperCut Site Server project, a new feature in 15.0. Site Server is the first change in PaperCut architecture (both software and system implementation architecture) since the addition of the PaperCut Secondary Print Provider.

To give some context to the size of development effort in this feature, we have 14 developers in the team here in Melbourne. Of this team, 7 members were dedicated to the project – a project that was 6 months from inception to release. There is simply no other feature in the product that has required anywhere near this level of development effort prior to this.

Our own Development Manager, Geoff Smith tells us more about the A-team.

“4 developers including myself along with our co-founder, Matt Doran who acted as a tech consultant to review complex parts of the code. A new hire, QA engineer Dean Sanelli came along to keep things flowing, along with Damien, who represented the customer.”

 

Keeping our ears to the ground

It was made clear to us by our customers, Authorized Solution Center (ASC) partners and resellers that there was a perceived “gap” in our architecture that needed to be addressed. Whilst we have always been confident in the stability of our solution, we rely heavily on network communications to deliver functionality across multiple servers and not all corners of the world are as lucky to have the same reliability of service we have here in Melbourne, Australia. We appreciated this point of view, so we began planning our solution.

SiteServer-MultiSiteMultiServer

Introducing PaperCut Site Server – in a Multi-site, multi-server resilient deployment

First, we defined the problem in more detail. We had numerous conference calls with ASCs, manufacturers and resellers around the world and understood the need to ensure organizations can continue to print and copy within a site even that loses its connection to the outside world.

A key milestone for the project was our PaperCut Global ASC conference in September 2014 where we demonstrated our commitment to the concept and validated our story. Geoff did an intensive 4 week development to bootstrap the project and prepare a demo. “The positive feedback from the demonstration gave the team a big boost to continue developing and set our sights on launching in 4 months time with version 15.0.”

Matt-Geoff.png

Matt and Geoff checking on Site Server code

A network outage isn’t a PaperCut problem per se that we need to resolve, however, it became clear we cannot be part of the problem by preventing access to MFDs when this happens. So we focused on delivering business continuity for PaperCut customers; ensuring a customer can continue to perform the work.

Understanding the crux of the problem was loss of communication to the Application Server, we also knew the solution was to replicate the critical services of the Application Server to each site, which is where the concept of the Site Server was born. It’s over simplifying the process to suggest the team, led by Geoff, simply broke the work required down into small tasks, allocated these to team members and started working through them one by one, but in effect this is what they did.

Turning a mountain into a new feature

There were just a lot of tasks that took a long time to get through. Over time, these smaller deliverables began to make the solution as a whole. Individual deliverables were stitched together to make larger more complex parts of the system. Weekly meetings moved from looking at an overwhelming list of ‘to do’ items to a team of smiling developers as the list of green “completed” items started to consume the list.

Lab rats from Portland to Melbourne

To address testing, we developed User Stories to shape the expected usage of the system from a number of perspectives (end user, administrator, support team, system engineers) and configured our Melbourne and Portland offices to be sites in a multi-site deployment (we used an Application Server on the Private Cloud).

Like all offices we print and copy in both sites, so were in a perfect position to use some firewall trickery to mimic connections dropping without creating a company wide disturbance. We certainly had the desired effect with this testing. Improvements and tweaks were made over the weeks we were our own guinea pigs before we opened access to the solution to our ASC network.

What’s Next?

Site Servers can help you move print apps into the public cloud “One day you might see the configuration and control happening from the cloud service but the site server is your black box that you just install on site to manage the devices.” said Geoff

Incorporating the feedback from our network of partners, the team are very proud to release Site Servers to market as part of 15.0. Give us your feedback, we’re keen to hear your stories.

To read more about what’s in the release, check out:


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Comments

  • Adam

    Just what Papercut has been waiting for, looking forward to trying it!

    • Hi Adam, let us know when you do get to try it, we welcome your feedback!

  • Ian

    Hi Damien, as an active reseller of your solutions in the UK I was involved in some of those early discussions. It’s great to work with an organisation that genuinely listens to feedback and acts on it appropriately and in reasonable time scales. Great job and we’re looking forward confidently proposing v15 to some of our larger clients with somewhat fragmented infrastructures.

    • Damien White

      Thanks Ian, maybe you can make contact with us again soon and let us know of some of your success stories too. The development team always enjoy the real world examples of how their work has been implemented.

  • Tom

    Hi PaperCut Team! I have a feature for your consideration. When ignoring printers on the system I have to edit the print-provider.conf file and add a list of printers in manually with all the variations possible. e.g Send to Onenote 2010,Send to Onenote 2013,Adobe PDF,PrimoPDF etc etc.

    Please could you make it so that wildcards are available to use, and an easier way for this to be pushed to secondary servers. Maybe the secondary servers can update the print provider from the primary on a schedule if enabled.

    • Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your feedback! Regarding the wildcards, that should currently be possible – there should be a brief explanation in the print-provider.conf file as per:

      # Wildcard expressions can also be used.
      # Use ‘*’ to ignore any span of characters, and ‘?’ to ignore a single character.
      # For example, to ignore any printers which start with the phrase Copy Room:
      # IgnorePrinters=Copy Room*

      That feature was included in 13.4 according to https://www.papercut.com/release-history/13/ , so if you’re running an older version you would have to upgrade to get that functionality.

      Regarding your feature request for managing the list from the primary, would you be able to send an email into support@papercut.com with a little more detail on the kind of behavior you’d like to see please? Currently the ignore printer functionality means that the printer doesn’t appear in PaperCut at all, but it might be a good idea to be able to manage mass-ignores from a central location if necessary.

      If you could give a little more detail about whether you mean that you’d be able to manage the printers that would be hidden, from the list in PaperCut? And also what you’d want to see if printers were needed to be un-hidden? If you can send that in by email, hopefully we can get an internal ticket created – that way the dev team will be notified that there’s interest in that type of functionality!

      Thanks again for your feedback – much appreciated!

  • David Carter

    Hi all,

    When will Site Server be released fully? It obviously seems to be a major part of version 15, but then you can’t use it without being a part of the Beta? 🙂

    • Hi David, the Site Server feature is fully tested and not a Beta release. Included with 15.0, Site Server is under the Early Access Program (EAP) so that we can keep in touch with customers to share their experiences and assist our future development. If you would like to use Site Server as a part of 15.0, please let us know via sales@papercut.com. More information is available here: https://www.papercut.com/kb/Main/BetaTestingProgram

  • Nice post. Thanks

  • please help me i want to create server for my site

    • Dan (Papercut Support)

      Hey,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      If you send us a mail at Support@Papercut.com , one of our support team will be able to help you out there!

      Thanks

      Dan

  • i have two site and want to create server at my home how to do..

    • Jemma – PaperCut Support

      Hey Megan,
      Thank you for reaching out to us!
      Please send in an email to support@papercut.com, so our support team can troubleshoot your issue further from there.
      Thanks!

  • Turning a mountain into a new feature is great line i have read ..

    • Dan (Papercut Support)

      Hey Lisa,
      Thanks for reaching out to us!

      I am glad you liked that line, we certainly like this feature and we are glad our customers do too!

      Cheers
      Dan

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