Dr. James Truchard, National Instruments president, CEO and cofounder, kicked off the 13th annual NIWeek virtual instrumentation conference yesterday by discussing the role of National Instruments (Nasdaq:NATI) LabVIEW in system design and the ways NI plans to take advantage of next-generation programming. He also introduced NI LabVIEW 8.5, the latest version of the company’s graphical programming environment, which includes the new LabVIEW Statechart Module, improved tools in the LabVIEW FPGA Module and unique advances in multicore and real-time programming. Today Jeff Kodosky, NI technology fellow and cofounder, affectionately known as “the father of LabVIEW,” focused on his vision for the future of LabVIEW as well as the current multicore programming challenge.
Truchard discussed how the LabVIEW platform, naturally well-suited to design multithreaded parallel applications, simplifies multicore as well as FPGA-based application development with its intuitive parallel dataflow language.
“As multicore processors become standard, there is an increased need for parallel programming languages that can take advantage of ever-quickening multiprocessor speeds,” Truchard said in his opening keynote. “LabVIEW, with its inherent multithreaded architecture, fits the bill.”
Truchard highlighted real-world examples of how LabVIEW combined with multicore processors provides high-performance computation and I/O capabilities for test, control and design, such as how researchers at the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik obtained a 20 times processing speed increase on an octal-core processor machine over a single processor.
Kodosky expanded on the company’s vision for graphical system design by describing the history of the LabVIEW block diagram and an evolving LabVIEW vision that takes advantage of modern graphics technology to better represent application components and how they are connected and to improve support for multiple targets. With the LabVIEW System Diagram, currently under development, engineers and scientists would be able to use LabVIEW as an “executable white board” that provides varying degrees of abstraction and offers a configuration and behavioral specification that is both flexible and rigorously defined.
“Modern machines have insanely powerful graphical processing units, and the latest operating systems are raising the bar for user interface experiences,” he said. “We need to provide a higher-level experience in LabVIEW as well.”
Kodosky also discussed how the multicore processing challenge engineers face is “mostly a non-event” for the thousands of LabVIEW users in attendance.
“The world is parallel. We always do things at the same time, like walking and chewing gum. So why do we constrain ourselves to sequential thinking when we write computer programs?” he said. “As the rest of the industry struggles to come to grips with multicore machines, you LabVIEW programmers can just continue to do what you have always done and reap the benefits of multicore.”
Truchard, Kodosky and William Nowlin cofounded National Instruments in 1976 while working at The University of Texas at Austin. Truchard is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a respected veteran of the measurement and automation industry.
Kodosky invented the graphical programming language that defines LabVIEW, spurring the development and widespread adoption of virtual instrumentation and making instrument automation available to all engineers. He is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
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National Instruments is transforming the way engineers and scientists design, prototype and deploy systems for measurement, automation and embedded applications. NI empowers customers with off-the-shelf software such as NI LabVIEW and modular cost-effective hardware, and sells to a broad base of more than 25,000 different companies worldwide, with no one customer representing more than 3 percent of revenue and no one industry representing more than 10 percent of revenue. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 4,300 employees and direct operations in nearly 40 countries. For the past eight years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.
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