When it comes to the PXI and PXIe platforms, there are a few software options available depending on your requirements. The PXI standard defines the mechanical, electrical, and software interfaces provided by PXI/PXIe compliant products, ensuring that integration and software costs are minimized and allowing trouble-free multi-vendor solutions to be implemented. The PXI standard is also reliant on a standardized software and hardware environment. PXI/PXIe modules have no front panel controls and rely entirely on software control via the PXI backplane. Since PXI modules appear on the PCI bus of the controller, installation of a PXI module is almost identical to that of a PCI card. The same applies to PXIe modules.

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Operating Systems Supported
The PXI standard requires that PXI modules must support 32-bit Windows or 64-bit Windows, commonly both are supported. It can be assumed that versions of Windows supported by Microsoft will be supported in the PXI standard. However, there may be a lag between the release of a new Windows version and the availability of drivers.

As operating systems evolve, some compatibility problems may occur. For example, Windows 8 and later versions require signed drivers, whereas Windows XP did not, so a driver developed for Windows XP may not install on Windows 8 and later versions. Always check with the hardware vendor that the operating system to be used is fully supported. Also, take into account that most 32-bit drivers will work on a 64-bit system, the use of 64-bit Windows does not necessarily dictate the use of 64-bit drivers.

Some PXI vendors may support other operating systems, but this is not a requirement of the PXI standard. If the user is planning to use any other system, checks must be made with the hardware vendors for the availability of software support.

To successfully operate a PXI platform the operating system must connect to the PXI bus, and driver software must be available to support that operating system.

Many customers are increasingly adopting Linux, and Linux extensions were added to the PCI-6 software specification in 2018. However, unlike Windows, it is not possible to provide a single driver that will work on any system as there are many different, and not necessarily compatible, versions of Linux. The driver must be specifically compiled for the Linux kernel in use.Operating Systems

LabVIEW Real-Time
LabVIEW Real-Time requires the use of a VISA driver and therefore most PXI modules should operate correctly using the Windows driver. However, check with the vendor to make sure. Installation to the LabVIEW Real-Time system may involve transferring a number of files to the LabVIEW Real-Time target system using either the FTP tool provided with LabVIEW Real-Time or almost any FTP client application.

Development Environments Supported
The PXI specification also recommends that a number of Development Environments be supported, including:

  • LabVIEW (National Instruments)
  • LabWindows/CVI (National Instruments)
  • ATEasy (Geotest-Marvin Test Systems Inc.)
  • Visual Basic (Microsoft)
  • Visual C/C++ (Microsoft)

However, none of these are mandatory, so check with the vendor. Most vendors also provide support for Visual C# (Microsoft).

Driver Model
On most operating systems, including Windows, the user cannot interact directly with the hardware but must access it through a driver designed for the purpose. First, consider the basic characteristics of each driver type:

  • Direct_IO - Does not require any additional software installation, no additional licenses
  • VISA - Requires a VISA installation, may require a license, not available on Pickering LXI devices
  • IVI - Provides a degree of interchangeability, requires VISA and IVI installations may require licenses
  • SOAP - Platform independent, no driver installation required, only available on Pickering LXI devices
  • .NET - Particularly suitable for .NET programming environments

There is so much more to discuss when it comes to selecting software for your PXI platform. To learn more about your choice of driver, how to install software, and other helpful tips, you can visit our Knowledgebase or download our free PXImate eBook. Want to go back to basics? Check out our other blog article, What is PXI? Your Questions Answered, for a general overview.