Could you provide our readers with a quick introduction to ThinPrint?
HV: ThinPrint has been around for more than 20 years as a partner to other EUC greats like Citrix, Vmware, Microsoft, Parallels, IGEL and many more. Our cloud printing platform ezeep was launched more than five years ago. And, in late 2019 ezeep Blue entered the spotlight as a launch partner to Windows Virtual Desktop and has since expanded significantly as the leading cloud printing platform.
ezeep Blue allows virtual desktops and applications of any kind to print from PCs, Macs, iOS, iPadOS, Android or Chrome devices and supports any type of printer with our native cloud-based drivers. ezeep delivers printing as a seamless, easy to use and administer, highly secure service to replace time consuming, tedious traditional print infrastrucutre, replace print servers and eliminate the need for the specialized know-how to administer printing in an organization. It makes it possible to easily and securely bridge networks, for example, between a home office and a traditional office, “the cloud” and an office, or a hospital and its affiliated doctor’s offices and clinics – all while providing a seamless and productive print experience.
Last year, ThinPrint introduced Cloud Rendering to the print market. Can you share more information about this and the significant to the industry?
HV: The ThinPrint team determined a significant gap in the enterprise printing market with no one truly delivering Printing-as-a-Service. To fill this gap, we developed what we call Cloud Rendering. This unique capability enables our ezeep Blue solution to ensure easy print management in the cloud with the same stability, scalability and high printing speed of our on-premise solution. By moving all of the complexity of printing to the cloud, we enable high-quality, true-to-format print jobs to users without having to rely on a printer driver on the user’s device or on any remote or virtual desktop.
Cloud Rendering enables ezeep Blue to deliver Printing-as-a-Service, especially when used with our ezeep Hub, a small, solid-state, micro-appliance that can cost effectively be deployed to home offices, offices, stores, affiliated clinics or doctor’s offices. The Hub securely and easily connects these location’s printers into the overall company infrastructure without servers and local driver installations.
Cloud Rendering also enables amazing partnerships like the one we pioneered with EdgeOS specialist IGEL. ezeep Blue is directly integrated into their OS as well as their Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) client and together we can deliver the only solution that allows WVD to print directly to a printer that is accessible via the user’s secure, Linux-based endpoint.
Cloud Rendering is tremendously useful in its current state as we build more flexible Hybrid Work environments and it will definitely also power some exciting developments for the future.
So, has everything been turned into a cloud service or does ThinPrint still do on-prem?
HV: We definitely still do on-prem. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in all the cloud enthusiasm but aside from a 20+ year history helping our customers deliver fantastic on-prem experiences we also have a long history with our Managed Service Provider partners that have used ThinPrint Engine to enhance their cloud offerings.
One of the latest developments for ThinPrint Engine are significant enhancements to the High Availability and Load Balancing mechanisms. While these mechanisms have been around for a while (since ThinPrint 11) feedback from customers as well as our own R&D teams showed the need for early warning system for spooler problems that examines the speed of spool processes and redirects print jobs to other servers if a timeout occurs. This proactively prevents printing outages.
We also now provide our customers with the ThinPrint Secure Tunnel that is used to protect the transfer of print data from remote and branch offices to head offices and can now be operated in high availability mode. To ensure the failure of one server doesn’t have any negative effect on printing, all connections are dynamically distributed to the existing servers. This means that if one secure tunnel fails, another is automatically used.
What is your take on the virtual desktop market? Do you think 2020 was the year of VDI?
HV: From my vantage point, 2020 was definitely the year of VDI. Only in a very different way than we always expected the year of VDI to happen.
For organizations that had already rolled out VDI to at least parts of their organization, the technology was a saving grace when we all had to start working from home. Environments could be comparatively easily scaled up and expanded to ensure employees were able to work from home even if that wasn’t previously part of their role and even if they had to use a personal device to access their VDI. With technologies like VoIP and meetings moving to Zoom or Teams, a user’s workspace cloud shifted from the office to the home office almost instantaneously.
Companies that were not yet invested in VDI were not quite so lucky. Laptops, webcams and even printers were next to impossible to come by for many months in 2020. Fortunately for many, Microsoft’s new Windows Virtual Desktop had just made its debut in the Fall of 2019 and I heard from quite a few customers, partners and managed service providers that tens of thousands of desktops had been set up with WVD to deliver user’s the tools they needed to do their jobs. And, while WVD’s story stood out since it was a new contestant from a highly visible company in the VDI space, it seems that Citrix, VMware and Parallels were able to leverage their technologies to help out a large number of customers, too.
It would appear to me that 2021 is shaping up to be the year of many new VDI environments growing up. What definitely stood out last year was the ability for the industry to rise to the challenge and meet the demands of an instant change in our lives. By refining, securing, updating and customizing solution we will be able to meet regulatory demands, offer a more productive user experience and encompass the lessons learned over the last year.
What trends do you see among your customers?
HV: With so much change occurring over the past year, I think ultimately, we’re seeing an acceleration in digital transformation. Our industry is taking full advantage of the flexibility of an increasingly digital workspace as way to compensate for people not being able to take advantage of the more traditional workspace due to social distancing, and even forgoing the traditional daily get together at work in favor of the benefits of working remotely.
With a path back to a more “normal” life becoming more clear – at least in the United States – our customers are busy determining how we can combine the lessons learned from the past year with the “normal” work life we know. There were definite advantages to our pre-Covid way of working especially in regards to collaboration. With sharing and team building happening naturally when people had the ability talk things through in person and someone might overhear and add to the conversation. However, there were also definite downsides in the form of long commutes and both the employer and the employee being tied to a particular location, making finding the right job or the right talent for a job more limiting and difficult.
Hybrid Work is the term that has emerged as a description for the post-Covid work world, but aside from its definition as “combining the best of both worlds” it still needs a lot of clarification. Many of the aspects will be individual to each employer and the specific needs of their business as well as their employees needs and preferences.
From the conversations I’ve had I am excited for what is to come. Some of our customers really have developed innovative and modern concepts and we’re ready to do our part to help them implement their vision.
As you stated, the happenings in 2020 accelerated digital transformation for many customers. Was that a big adjustment for ThinPrint or ezeep?
HV: It was, but it also wasn’t. As a company we had to go through all the same changes and trials as our customers. Abruptly making sure our business could run from our homes to keep our employees safe while supporting our customers. Additionally, we also had to make sure the pace of innovation didn’t slow and we were able to deliver what customers expect from us.
As a global company our teams had to adjust to a number of local conditions and regulations and they did a tremendous job. Much like many of our customers we learned a lot about our organization, our skills, our ability to pull together and adapt. I am very proud of the team for what they delivered. Also, not entirely unique to our organization, we learned that many of our team members were more ready for Hybrid Work that we were as an organization and were able to quickly make changes to our offices based on that to benefit both company and team.
Technologically we were in a fortunate position to be able to capitalize on existing technologies focused on branch offices and remote sites that enabled us to quickly deliver solutions to make their home offices a more integrated part of their corporate infrastructure as an “office of one”. This allowed us to more easily take advantage of the printing features, such as keeping print jobs waiting for users for their occasional stop by the office where they could then be picked up with just the swipe of their employee badge.
The ezeep cloud printing side of our business was able to deliver an effective, reliable replacement for Google Cloud Print as that was discontinued at the end of last year. It was a go-to solution for companies looking for an alternative solution. Additionally, the ezeep Hub, the cloud-based sibling to the ThinPrint Hub, was able to help integrate home offices.
Both our printing platforms have the ability to seamlessly integrate company locations, home offices, affiliates and customers into one comprehensive print infrastructure. This makes them both uniquely positioned for the Hybrid Work world we’re about to enter. We’re grateful to be able to help so many customers keep their businesses running optimally during the pandemic and beyond.
What is Next?
HV: We’re not building cars and we’re not going to do rockets, either. That much I can definitely say. But all kidding aside, I am very excited about the future of both our on-prem and cloud platforms. ThinPrint is a very mature product that already offers a wide range of features that allow customers to set up and use ThinPrint in even the most complex scenarios. This maturity also allows us to devote more time to enabling the more unusual, but increasingly important, scenarios that come up during this time of rapid digital transformation.
On the ezeep side we are expanding the platform’s capability by utilizing the unique advantages the cloud offers. Our customers simply bring their applications and their printers or their customer’s printers and we handle the rest. Since we can control the entire lifecycle of a print job, we have a unique opportunity to offer a print experience unlike anything seen before. We can enable existing features in new ways, create new features or use cases and integrate with other services. There’s a lot to figure out for our R&D teams in that arena and I am excited to see what they’ll come up with.