Cisco, Xerox join for mobile printing

They are developing internal and cloud-based services for printing from mobile devices

Cisco Systems has teamed up with Xerox to create a mobile printing system that lets users print from any device to any printer.

The companies plan to make printing faster and easier for employees on the move, adding software to routers and switches to make the process faster and more secure. Cisco channel partners will resell the technology and a managed service that will be delivered by Xerox from a data center built with Cisco's UCS (Unified Computing System) servers, the companies are announcing on Monday.

With mobile printing, an employee can send a document from a smartphone, tablet or other device to a service that will make that document available to every printer in an organization. The employee can then go to one of those printers, punch in the code for that document, and have it printed out. This could overcome a problem caused by the growing adoption of both mobile devices and virtual desktops in enterprises, said Forrester Research analyst Rob Whiteley. Printing is often overlooked, he said.

"The appetite to implement those types of changes is very high ... and then, lo and behold, things like print quickly become one of the things that just flat out don't work, or they do work, but there has to be some kind of complex workaround," Whiteley said.

A typical ad hoc method for getting a document printed from a mobile device is to e-mail it to someone who sits near a printer and have them print it out, he said. Besides being awkward and time-consuming, this may bypass company security policies governing who can view or store a document.

Printing from mobile devices is increasing in importance as more users rely on phones and tablets, but the technology is still in its infancy, said IDC analyst Angele Boyd.

"The infrastructure barely exists today," Boyd said.

Xerox introduced a mobile printing system earlier this year, but left it up to enterprises or system integrators to deploy and configure. Other vendors, including Cisco rival Hewlett-Packard, have also introduced such systems. The idea behind the partnership between Xerox and Cisco is to bring the network into the picture.

The companies will build print agents into Cisco routers and switches, starting with the ISR (Integrated Services Router), the popular multipurpose router designed for small businesses and branch offices. They will also use Cisco's wide-area network acceleration products to help print jobs travel faster, and Cisco security tools to make sure information doesn't end up in the wrong hands, the companies said.

The technology doesn't require a Cisco network from end to end, the companies said. In the future, Xerox aims to make it work with other vendors' printers and with printers outside of the users' own organization, such as one at a customer's office.

Cisco and Xerox will deliver the mobile printing capability in three products. Xerox Managed Print Services (MPS) over Cisco Borderless Networks is a software product from Xerox that provides the tools for an enterprise to implement mobile printing services to its own employees. The software, which takes advantage of IOS (Internetwork Operating System) on Cisco network equipment, provides the security, WAN optimization and print monitoring for mobile printing. Cisco channel partners will also be able to use Xerox MPS to offer these services to enterprises. Xerox MPS should be offered through Cisco channel partners in the U.S. starting in July or August and in Europe in January.

Xerox Cloud ITO Services is a set of services, including mobile printing, that Xerox will offer to enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses. The services grow out of Xerox's acquisition of ACS last year. They will run on Xerox data centers built with Cisco's UCS (Unified Computing System) servers and the Vblock infrastructure made up of Cisco networking and computing, EMC storage and VMware virtualization software. These services will also be sold through Cisco's channel. They are available on a limited basis now and are likely to be generally available next January, the companies said.

There will also be client software written specifically for Cisco's Cius enterprise tablet and for its Cisco Virtualization Experience Client devices, which reside on enterprise desktops and can present a virtual desktop to users. This Xerox Mobile Print Solution will allow users of those clients to securely print documents on any printer in the enterprise. The software will be available as soon as the Cius goes on sale on May 31.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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