Thought I'd pop this one out there as I'm curious to see if anyone has already found something that does this.
I'm looking at a setup where we have groupings of 3 and 2 inkjet printers which I've kitted out with continuous ink supply systems. Up to now I've just had them as part of a pooled printer so that one group of 3 C86's are seen as a single printer and likewise with the other grouping.
What's become apparent fairly quickly though is that the first printer in the pool is being given a thorough thrashing while the others are seeing as little as one printjob in 5, so the wear and tear on them is pretty unbalanced.
I've been trying to find something that would enable the printers to be treated in the same way as a DNS round robin, ie: printjobs being sent in order.. job #1 to printer #1, next job to printer #2 and so on.. in a circle.. That would make it a lot easier to spread the load and keep everything ticking over nicely..
Having only really looked at the problem today I've found that printer pooling cannot be manipulated in this way and the only other possibility is something called Intelliscript (http://lpr.brooksnet.com/index.html) along with a module that supposedly allows you to share the printers out.
I'm waiting to see if I can get it to test it but in the mean time has anyone else hit this and found a solution?
Are these printers on jetdirect type devices with IP addresses? If so you can use DNS round robin to load balance them. For example if you have two hp laser printers in a room 16 (for example):
DNS name = hplaser1
IP (A record in DNS) = 10.0.0.20
DNS name = hplaser2
IP (A record in DNS) = 10.0.0.21
You'd then create a couple of CNAME dns entries to create your round robin.
CNAME room16printer IN hplaser1
CNAME room16printer IN hplaser2
Now once that's done you can create a new printer on your print server. Use the same settings/drivers as you have setup on your original printer queues. However when you come to adding the printer port you must use the CNAME dns hostname. So where as normally you'd use the printers IP, you'd put in 'room16printer'.
Hey presto, load balanced printing.
There are a few disadvantages:
1) The printers need to be identical.
2) You can't rely on the 'supplies status' being correct.
3) If you have one printer offline is hit and miss if you can print (if it's a long term thing you can remove it's CNAME from the round robin though).
Alternatively, migrate to a Linux/CUPs/PyKota based print server. This can load balance print queues as you wish without the disadvantages.
We've found unbalanced useage in our pooled printers too. If you find a way of cracking it I'd be glad to hear it.
I finally found the time to install this on our setup here and I have to say that I'm pretty impressed.
We've 3 Epson printers (C84, C86 & D88) all setup using HP 3700en printservers and pooled under the common C84 print driver.
I did discover that the setup procedure was a little non standard on the Win2k3 server as it doesn't let you setup the ports via the documented route but if you just use the intelliscribe utility to setup the port you can then manually change the port of a relevant printer to the new one.
The only other issue was that the Epson printers didn't like the Jetdirect port settings so I had to use the LPR/LPD approach.. the former resulted in status queries being output by the printer on paper while the latter worked without this issue.
For all that though I've now got a thoroughly useable system of printers that work as a round-robin. The Intelliscribe port checks the status of the printers as it goes and will retry a printer a few times if it finds it's unavailable before handing off the job to another in the pool.. If the printer becomes available again later it will start sending jobs to it again although it can restart a job on another printer if the offline printer comes back mid job (may be an epson specific issue).
In terms of cost you're looking at the Intelliscribe LPD client + the SPA share module cost... You need to check that out... not cheap but it does work...