Using VirtualBox for discrete LabVIEW installations

As a LabVIEW Systems Integrator, we have clients using versions of LabVIEW from 7.1 through 2009, and everything in between. We often need to replicate our clients scenarios for development purposes, without incurring the expense and complication of extra hardware and licensing. We've come to rely on a Product from Oracle (formerly Sun Microsystems) know as VIrtualBox.

What is VirtualBox?

Quoted from the website at

VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). See "About VirtualBox" for an introduction.

Essentially, like other virtualization products such as VMWare or Parallels, the user can create multiple virtual machines, and configure the environment of each of those machines uniquely. I generally create a virtual machine for each customer scenario that I need to replicate. For instance, one client had the same basic LabVIEW code that they were selling to end users, and each installation was custom, with slightly different hardware and software implementations.

Why would I want to use VirtualBox?

In this article, we'll discuss the problem of installing multiple versions of LabVIEW on a single physical machine, and how VirtualBox can help you maintain discrete installations of each version of LabVIEW on separate cloned virtual machines. One of the problems we face as a Systems Integrator is maintaining installations with quarterly updates. When National Instruments ships a new quarterly update, those bug fixes and patches need to get installed on your development system. You could just update the current version and leave the others alone, but we got in the habit of completely uninstalling ALL NI software, including TestStand and any add-on tool kits, and reinstalling all of the versions. If you were installing on a laptop and a desktop (which is an acceptable practice according to NI's EULA), this could take an entire day or two. During busy times, this is an unacceptable amount of downtime.