Using virtual systems in automation.

Virtual systems are life saver in many industries, to use many benefits of the changing technology. Fortunately trend of this changing is toward better and more powerful systems. I don’t like to discuss its financial reasons of the technology growth, but I always look at this with positive impression. We have to adapt ourselves to this evolution and it is unavoidable.

I am using virtualization with three types of my projects.

  1. The first is a fire alarm system that is using for programming an old DOS type application that is not really compatible with even Windows XP SP3 DOS command prompt. So I use a Windows XP operating system virtual machine, without any service pack that will conflict with the application.
  2. The second type is an HMI application used in the above mentioned fire alarming system that uses bitmap graphics as background, with absolute positioning of the device icons on this background. To have strictly the same environment at office and in the site, I use a very similar virtual system to the computer of that site, so that I may transfer the files from office to site and vice versa, without needing to have the actual system that should be used in site at office, and also to transfer the files from site to office and to work on them later.
  3. I am using Step7 and WinCC on Windows XP, and when I want to transfer the files to site, I use my laptop that has as its host system Windows Vista. This situation can be used in many similar situations, to bypass the compatibility issues.

To summarize to use the virtualization in our industry, automation and control, is very similar to the other virtualization using industries. They are using this method in very intuitive methods, and I used them extensively when I was involved in ISP (Internet Service Provider) industry. It has the following saving and benefit. But I should note that using this technique is only applied to the parts that are PC dependant. I haven’t used PC based control systems, but in this case in am not quite sure if the virtualization may work with real-time specification that is usually embedded in such systems.

  1. Unused CPU power- It may better use idle times of an ordinary PC for doing job of many.
  2. Green environment- Producing less heat and less gases to help us to have a better environment.
  3. Needing less power- This means using less energy and of course less expenses on power bills.
  4. Independence from Platform- This add a new layer of abstraction of using hardware, in situation that changing hardware will impose costs that are not feasible at that time. Also this abstraction is used in software, as we may install different type of OS even on the same PC.
  5. Portability- We may install and configure the system in a peaceful office environment, and then transfer it to the site, and vice versa, in case when we want to investigate into the causes of problems of the systems that were in site.
  6. Re-usability- This virtual system can be used many times in many different situations, without getting into the time consuming process of installation of systems.

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