Thursday, August 31, 2006

"NI Open"

Yesterday, I saw a new posting on the LXI Blog of Test & Measurement World's Chief Editor, Rick Nelson.

I chatted with Rick at one of this year's NIWeek parties. He's a nice guy. We talked about a variety of topics, ranging from NI's involvement in engineering education, to Lego Mindstorms NXT, to LXI.

In his latest blog entry on Hybrid Instrument Systems, he talks about how NI and other vendors are realizing that most of our users are building hybrid systems with instruments from multiple vendors, using multiple bus technologies such as GPIB, RS-232, USB, PXI, and Ethernet.

While other vendors are only just now arriving at the idea of being "open", NI's been there for a long time. If you search on the National Instruments Instrument Driver Network, you'll find drivers for over 5000 instrument models from over 200 vendors. We didn't write those drivers overnight; they're the product of a couple of decades of commitment to making LabVIEW and LabWindows/CVI open platforms for our industry.


ChrisDC said...

The first time this really struck me was in 1993 at the Conference of Lasers and ElectroOptics. Most instruments on display were a plug-in card on a PC with an application. I still chuckle at the vision of a hybrid system of seven or so PCs lined up on a bench. I'm glad that, "other vendors are only just now arriving at the idea of being "open""

Anonymous said...

You said "While other vendors are only just now arriving at the idea of being "open", NI's been there for a long time"

It would be nice to see NI support LXI directly and whole heartedly, instead of a luke warm support via IOtech or MC. Openness helps the user community.

Brian Powell said...

Regarding LXI... I'm going to post more about it.

I'd like to know more. What do you think we should do to better support LXI?

From a low-level programming perspective, LXI hasn't standardize on much. The VXI-11 standard for Ethernet-based instrumentation (from 1995) is largely ignored, and I think many vendors are starting to move away from it. The LXI standard only mandates a higher-level IVI driver.

The device web page is primarily a configuration tool, and it's easy to get to from our own configuration tool, Measurement and Automation Explorer.

From the instrument driver perspective, as the original post mentions, we're working closer with Agilent to develop LabVIEW Plug and Play drivers for their instruments, including LXI devices.

From the IEEE-1588 perspective, we have a PCI-1588 board, and I've personally used it to trigger LXI class A devices.

I agree about your "Openness helps the user community" comment, and I think we're there with VXI-11, Web, IVI and IEEE-1588.

I hope you'll comment again to flesh out your concerns.

Brian Powell said...

It occurred to me overnight that maybe you're asking us to produce LXI measurement devices. If so, tell me more about your application, and how you plan to use LXI in it. What LXI features are critical to your success?

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian, Thank you for your open ;) (candid) response. THis is what I like about NI. I will give you more details on why LXI soon.

Anonymous said...

Converting a PXI system (or a PC for that matter) with modular instuments into a LXI or VXI-11 instrument system seems doable. This is what I had in mind. Something with NI-Device, maybe? Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

LabView does NOT support LXI. If you check out the LXI website for the member list, you will see that National Instruments is NOT listed here.

Aeroflex, Agilent, Anritsu, Keithley, and others support LXI and are listed, but not NI.

Brian Powell said...

Hi, anonymous. Are you the same "anonymous" that posted before on this thread? If so, I'd like to know what transpired to help you reach your conclusion.

It's true that National Instruments is not a member of the LXI Consortium. However, I can tell you firsthand that LabVIEW works quite well with LXI instrumentation. See my other post, What is LXI?, including the comment I made about our participation in the consortium.