Post number three of three in a series dealing with Windows operating system compatibility with Rockwell Software products and factory automation software in general. I will post a follow up with links to demos of some of the solutions and a SlideShare overview of the entire discussion.
In the first post of this series, Windows 7 or XP or 98 or whatever with Automation Software we explored what options you have for maintaining automation software that is not tested and supported on the Windows 7 operating system. In the second post we discussed the VirtualBox virtualization software package. In this post we discuss VMWare and automation software.
Summing up what your options are and what the best solution is:
- Option #1 Maintaining old hardware – Risky and in some cases impossible because replacement parts are unavailable
- Option #2 Windows 7 and XP Mode – Hit or miss solution that may or may not work
- Option #3 Virtualization Software – Your best option
- Option #4 Upgrade systems to the latest version – Cost prohibitive and not practical to upgrade working systems
Best solution – Virtualization Software
Based on discussions with a lot of customers and software product managers, virtualization software is really the only good option for dealing with mismatches between your automation software and Windows Operating Systems. Visit the Virtualization for Manufacturing Industries slides presentation from Automation Fair 2010 for a thorough explanation of all of the benefits in using a virtualized environment. I can sum it by saying, I don’t know how you can use a single computer and a single hard drive without using either VirtualBox or VMWare. If you know of a better way please comment below so we all can learn.
The virtualization software allows you to create a virtual machine for each operating system that you need to support your automation systems. The VirtualBox download is free. VMWare has a few components. Some are free and some aren’t. The VMWare Player is the free package that will allow you to run a virtual machine after it is created. VMWare Workstation is the package you need to create and optimize the virtual machines. You have to buy Workstation (<$200).
I gave an example in the previous post about an integrator that uses VirtualBox. RMJ Consulting is an integrator based in Chattanooga that elected to use VMWare in a similar way. RMJ uses the VMWare Workstation package to create virtual machines (images) for each vendor they use Rockwell, Siemens, GE, etc… They also create images for customer installations as needed to support and maintain systems. Ron Hinkle, President of RMJ Consulting said he uses the Windows 7 XP mode in circumstances where it meets his needs but considers the VMWare solution the best way for them to deal with automation software that won’t run reliably on Windows 7 and for older control system software.
Rockwell Automation links and tech notes on Virtualization software
As stated in the previous post, Rockwell Automation does not support VirtualBox installations only VMWare. So if you contact Rockwell for technical assistance on a virtualized machine you have to be using VMWare to get help.
Below are links to tech notes related to VMWare on the Rockwell Automation Knowledgebase. You will have to login to access the answers. If the link doesn’t take you directly to the answer, just search by the answer ID.
- Answer ID 42682 – Rockwell Automation Software Product Compatibility Matrix
(includes Rockwell Automation Support policy for virtualized platforms)
- Answer ID 115299 – How to maximize VMWare images performance
- Answer ID 50966 – How to convert physical machine to VMWare image
In the last three posts we’ve looked at the easiest way to deal with automation software that may not be supported on the most current Windows operating system. We determined that of the solutions that are available the only good long-term solution is to familiarize ourselves as controls engineers with virtualization software. This will allow us to keep our computers working optimally by running the latest or most robust Windows (or even Linux) O.S. while using virtualized machines for running automation software that is not always compatible with the latest or most robust Windows O.S.
Please let me know what you think about using virtualization software or share your experiences with the rest of the readers.