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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PaperCut co-founder wins sailing World Championship

Dinghies with sails glide across the open seas off the coast of Western Australia. The surface of the water hides the white-pointer sharks that silently menace below. This sounds like a dangerous pastime reserved only for daredevils with a death wish. (We can’t help but think of the Jaws movie, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”).

But what has all that got to do with PaperCut?

Tasar Start Line

If you’re following us on Twitter, you’ll already know that our CEO Chris Dance is an avid sailor. His twitter handle is @sailespresso and when he’s not dreaming up the next big idea in print management software, Chris spends his time on his other two passions; sailing and good coffee.

The world championships

Chris headed to the remote town of Busselton, a small town on the south west coast of Australia.  (For those not familiar with Australian geography, it’s like flying from LAX to NYC then another two hours in the car.)  He settled into competition mode with his crew mate Peter Hackett. They readied their boat Doppio for the 10 individual races that make up the Tasar World Championships from January 2-9, 2015.

What’s a Tasar?

Not to be confused with a ‘taser’ electroshock weapon, this Tasar is a little bigger! It’s an international, one-design ‘sailing dinghy’ where all boats are identical.  The 14-foot (4.3 m) fiberglass boat races with 2 people and has a larger mainsail and jib (a triangular staysail that sets ahead of the foremast).

Where did the name Doppio come from?

In true PaperCut style, Chris can’t do anything without a coffee. So what is a Doppio? You guessed it… it’s a coffee!

The race

Peter and Chris set out on the seven day series, against 120 boats from all over the world. Each race is a 40 minute sprint, with the goal to stay in the top 20 as each day progressed.

  • Race 1: 3rd place.  Fantastic way to start
  • Race 2: 5th place.   Going the wrong direction guys… but still doing a great job
  • Race 3: FIRST!!! Woo Hoo!!
  • Race 4: Pulled out FIRST AGAIN!! We’re on a roll.
  • Race 6: 6th place.  Tough going today but still respectable.
  • Race 7: 3rd place. Still going strong… Doppio is in the lead overall, but it’s a really tight race
  • Race 8: Cancelled…. There’s that pesky white pointer shark in the way. Seriously!!
  • Race 9: 11th place. Giving the others a chance to catch up.

With 9 out of 10 races completed the Doppio team were neck-and-neck with another favorite, Coollit, from Sydney.

It all came down to a nail biting finish in the last race.

Chris and Peter (friends since childhood) were determined to do what they needed to do on that final day. They relied on the skills that had become second nature after the rigorous training in the Melbourne bay. Peter, a prominent leadership consultant, was calm and methodical as the pair rallied in that last race.

They came 8th.

But where was their rival Coollit? After all of the points were counted and double-counted, Doppio rose to take out the prize by the thinnest of margins.

Winners

Hailing from four generations of sailors, Chris has competed at national and international levels in various dinghy classes, meeting people from all over the globe. In fact, Chris met Geoff (PaperCut’s Head of Development), and Cam (PaperCut’s Canadian Authorized Solution Center Partner, ITC Systems) on the water.

What’s next for the champions?

Pending approval from the homefront, Chris and Peter will certainly be expected to defend their title in Gamagori, Japan in 2017.

If you’d like to see more, check out some video highlights from the event:

…and here’s an interview with Chris and Pete after getting first place in heat 3:


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New Year, New PaperCut

OK… you caught us. We were so excited about our new brand that we “accidentally” leaked it on our Christmas greetings. (And on Twitter.) We are terrible at keeping secrets, obviously…

So to avoid any further indiscretions, we proudly announce PaperCut’s new look for 2015!

A new look for PaperCut

It’s friendly, multifaceted and green – just like us! What do you think? (Send us your thoughts on Twitter @papercutdev)

PaperCut Cookie

What’s next?

In the new year you’ll start seeing the PaperCut conversation bubble popping up all over the place. The website, social media, events, and of course with our trusted ASC partners around the globe. You may even see some tweaks to PaperCut NG and PaperCut MF as we continuously improve our User Experience. What won’t change is our dedication to creating great software.

Thanks to everyone for helping make PaperCut the company that it is. Our new brand simply reflects the trust that you put in us every day.

Happy Holidays!!!

Behind the Scenes of the New PaperCut Brand

… A little more info if you’re interested in the process of how the new look came to be.
For newcomers to PaperCut, there are a four key things that Chris and Matt value that are incorporated into the design.

  • PaperCut is nimble - we release features fast and we release often. It’s important to get new things out to you, our customers, as quickly and easily as possible.
  • We are techno-geeks who love to use software to solve problems
    (The new PaperCut “P” is an A4 piece of paper, divided geometrically, with all sorts of techie rules.)
  • It sounds kitsch, but we really do care about every one of our customers, about our environment, and about the relationships that we’ve built during the last 16 years.
  • If you’ve been in our Knowledge Base, you’ll know that we’re as open and honest as we can be about pretty much everything. We don’t pretend to be something we’re not, and we’ll tell you how it is.

For those who know us well, we hope that our updated brand represents the company that we are a little more closely.


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Posted in Blogroll, General | 3 Comments