Network Computing: Like the Old Days: Cisco Runs Print Jobs Off Linux

“Ivereigh knows all about tradition at the company. He was the
mastermind behind Cisco’s worldwide distributed print-server
architecture, based on Linux: It is classic retro-Cisco given
Linux’s open source code. Cisco’s move to Linux began three years
ago when the company began expanding its branch offices and added a
data center in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The company needed more
print servers to support the growing number of PC desktops that now
had begun replacing its old Macs. “I couldn’t budget to buy
more SunOS servers, so I started playing with Linux at home and
realized there was no reason I couldn’t do [Linux] instead
Ivereigh says.”

“A big power outage in Cisco’s San Jose, Calif., data center a
year later knocked the company’s two main SunOS print servers
offline. They didn’t come back up, and Cisco’s production printing
for its manufacturing line was down for a couple of days.
Meanwhile, two little Intel-based Linux servers sitting alongside
the Sun servers recovered from the outage, so Ivereigh ported the
production print jobs to them and three other PC-based Linux
servers. That sold Cisco corporate on PC-based Linux as a print
server OS. The cost was a factor, too–at the time, you could buy
four or five PCs for the price of one Unix server.”

“The next step was distributing the print server functions so
that print jobs weren’t all being sent over the WAN. Cisco now has
three main hubs in San Jose; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and
Sydney, Australia. Branch offices house their own Linux print
servers. “It’s all remote administration [to the branches]–I’ve
never even physically seen most of the servers,” Ivereigh says. “I
send them a floppy and load the system from scratch over the
network.” New Cisco acquisitions also automatically get sent Linux
print servers, too, he says.”