By Larry Brown
Since 1986 National Instruments (NI) has released over 20 editions of LabVIEW not including the separate toolkits and LabVIEW Real-Time. This presents a challenge to the system integrator who does not have a lab full of computers or a library of hard-drive images for each and every individual edition of the LabVIEW development environment
What often occurs is that once a LabVIEW version, for example 2012, is installed on an operating system’s earlier version, i.e., 5.1.x, that earlier version can no longer be installed on the same system. It is not uncommon to receive legacy development files that require modifications or new features creation. In the aforementioned scenario the version 5.1.x virtual instrument files cannot be opened by LabVIEW 2012 without migration. The files must be opened and saved by one of the intermediary editions between 6.0.x – 2011. Integrators have dealt with this issue for years and so it is not uncommon to have multiple versions of LabVIEW installed on one operating system at the same time. But, what if the customer wishes to keep the development files at the original version of 5.1.x?
The entire issue of version compatibility and version migration can be put to rest by the use of Virtual Machines (VMs). One laptop can become a warehouse for multiple editions of LabVIEW with a virtually endless number of possibilities for adding toolkits and third-party drivers without conflicts or compatibility issues sometimes encountered, for example, with NI-DAQ and LabVIEW. By installing separate editions on separate VMs, it is almost like freezing that version of LabVIEW in time, because it is never affected by the installation of previous or future editions. VMs achieve this by using emulation techniques that allow multiple operating systems to run concurrently on a host computer.
One of the great assets to the developer is that VMs can be accessed within minutes, whereas reimaging a hard drive could take up to an hour or more to achieve the same desired result. VMs increase efficiency and maximize versatility across the broadest range of possible project scenarios. They allow the developer to move back and forth in the LabVIEW timeline without affecting earlier installed editions, hence, saving redevelopment time on prior projects.
VMs can save valuable time and effort when emergencies arise and coding must be done in an edition of the development environment not previously installed. There is no longer a need to uninstall and MSI Blast the registry, simply create a new VM and enjoy the time savings you will achieve with this approach.