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Server Trends & RIPs--New Configurations, Network Solutions

March 1998


When do you think about your server? Probably not until something goes wrong. When the network is running smoothly, jobs are being routed seamlessly from prepress station to prepress station and performance is consistent—

despite the large volume of digital data.

The server may be the central player in a prepress environment, but, for all intents and purposes,

it's an invisible man—until a network crash demands immediate attention.

"Getting the best service from your server inevitably leads to a discussion about performance, because the primary objective in a production environment is to keep the [prep] work moving and the presses running," asserts Larry Halleran, product marketing manager at Harlequin.

With the bottleneck in commercial printing and prepress operations shifting to storage, archival and retrieval of digital assets, servers are meeting growing demands for workflows with enhanced content management power.

Here's what is happening:

• Server configurations are moving from a single host, with multiple processor configurations, to clustered solutions with multiple hosts, such as offered by Windows NT.

"In terms of sophistication, there is a trend toward servers with multiple processing units all connected to the same internal high-speed bus. This feature has been available on PCs and UNIX systems for some time, and it is one of the important new features of Apple's Rhapsody operating system," Halleran reports.

Such configurations, with multiple application clients, can overcome the bottlenecks and single point of failure problems in servers.

• Computing platforms are growing in speed and overall sophistication, while prices have dropped. In terms of speed, shops with DEC Alpha platforms running at 500+ MHz are becoming commonplace, and 600 and 700 MHz machines are expected soon.

• An all-digital workflow approach with the addition of trapping, imposition and proofing puts more load on the central server—the logical place to do all the processor-intensive tasks.

Scott Seebass, CEO at Xinet, reveals that the development and marketing of faster processors and enhancements to networking will empower the server to handle many tasks simultaneously, without performance degradation.

"The need for scalable speed and reliability will drive even more of the server market to UNIX, which is the only operating system that can currently take full advantage of multi-processor architectures—and can scale from a small system to a system suitable for the largest shop," he contends.

• Networks are becoming ever more powerful, with Gigabit Ethernet now available as well as a fibre channel.
 

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