Guest post by Guy Tucker, Solutions Architect, LRS
When I first joined LRS, my manager tasked me with researching a solution to manage printing in a desktop virtualization (VDI) environment. I thought to myself, how hard could this be? It’s basically just Windows, right?
When a typical user tries to add a Windows printer to our VPSX software, there are three questions to be answered: which printer, when to add it, and to which machine to add it.
For most users preparing a typical environment, those are relatively easy questions to answer: Add the printer by my desk on my machine and do it now.
However, when you are an IT admin responsible for delivering a secure, always-on IT environment to end-users who are clinicians responsible for healthcare, the stakes couldn’t be any higher. Several layers of complexity need to be thought through.
Trusting to partner with Citrix, a longtime healthcare partner, may then be a no-brainer. With a foundation of the industry-leading Citrix Workspace, IT professionals have expediently and efficiently addressed their most crucial pain points — the ones that stand in the way of service delivery to healthcare professionals on the front lines. Printing use cases, however, require a deeper drilldown.
Which Printer to Add?
In a standard Windows environment, it makes sense to say “the printer by my desk.” But when my desktop is virtualized, my work location can be anywhere. I probably want the printer to be near my desk, even if I have a different desk every five minutes. Oh, and naturally, I don’t want a zillion printers to choose from, just the one by my desk. The one I’m at right now.
Where to Add the Printer?
Even in the simplest of virtual environments, this can become complicated. There is the desktop (or maybe terminal) at my desk. But there is also that server site in the IT department. And when I hop from one place to another, my session may move around inside that data center — on different servers. Do I add the printer to my local endpoint? What happens to that printer when I move to another area? If I add it to the server environment, and then disconnect, that printer “goes away.” That means I have to add it every time I sign in. What a pain!
What’s worse, if one is not careful, printer drivers can seem unstable. So when a driver crashes in that server environment, everyone logged on that server can go away. Arghhh!
When to Add the Printer?
Then I move, so it’s time to add another printer.
Oh, and delete that one I added a minute ago.
Now. And now. And now.
Suddenly things aren’t so simple.
A few years ago, a couple of my colleagues looked at the challenge of printing in virtual environments with fresh eyes and realized a few things:
- Users log in and out of the environment.
- Citrix has built their workspace delivery in a user-centric manner and knows where users are located when they log in.
- Not all workers have the same pattern.
- Our VPSX software has Print Driver Management (PDM) functionality, which adds Windows printers whenever it’s told to do so.
The answer became clear to them: build the printer object using PDM when the user logs in. If the user wants to have different printers based on location, then build a table that relates each login location with the nearest printer and simply use that one. As with all good answers, the solution is simple.
VDI, therefore, may not be a pain when left in the hands of the right technology partner.
While the implementation is complex, Virtual Session Printer Agent (VSPA) manages to accomplish these simple tasks with elegance and grace by leveraging the flexibility offered by Citrix Workspace when delivering its VDI technology. Mission accomplished.