1. NI Platform Support for 64-bit Operating Systems
64-bit versions of LabVIEW 2009 and LabVIEW 2009 Vision Module are currently available. SSP customers can download these from the Services Resource Center for free. Other software products, toolkits, and modules are only available with native 32-bit support, but can be installed on a 64-bit operating system with the support of an emulation layer known as Windows On Windows (WOW). Note that this is only compatible with applications and is not available for drivers. To see a full list of NI Drivers that are available for 64-bit, click here.
2. Advantages of 64-bit for Measurement Applications
Measurement applications running on 64-bit hardware can take advantage of a larger amount of physical memory than 32-bit systems, which can increase system performance by eliminating the need to swap processes in and out of page files. The following types of applications could see performance benefits on Windows Vista x64 Edition, provided that both 64-bit application software and drivers are available:
- High-channel count, high-speed data analysis
- Applications for creating digital content in computer-aided design and digital video editing
- Applications that require mathematical precision and floating-point performance
- Applications that involve large, high-performance databases
- Vision acquisition and analysis applications with large amounts of data moving directly into memory at rapid rates
In addition to increased physical memory, additional registers on a 64-bit processor can increase execution speed of applications by as much as 20%, depending upon how the code is written. For our benchmark, we ran an application that computes the gravitational pull of multiple objects on each other. As indicated in the benchmarks, the larger amount of memory required for more objects results in a sharper contrast between 32-bit and 64-bit systems, with a performance gain of over 25%.
3. Background on Computer Address Width and Memory Management
To understand why 64-bit operating systems are a logical step in the evolution of computers, consider this background information. It's common for the maximum size of the physical memory on a computer to be less than the amount needed for all running programs. This is especially true when multiple processes or applications execute simultaneously. As a result, programs are forced to store some of their data on the hard drive and copy it back and forth to physical memory as needed.
This solution is often referred to as “virtual memory,” in which the computer simulates having large amounts of contiguous physical memory. A paging table is responsible for moving segments of virtual memory into physical memory as necessary. If the amount of memory demanded by all running processes exceeds the available physical memory (RAM), the paging table stores low-priority processes on the hard drive in the page file, which is much slower than RAM. When the user needs these processes, the page table re-maps them into physical memory, where the user can access them at high speeds. The total number of addresses available in the virtual memory – the total amount of data the computer can keep in its working area for applications – is determined by the width of the registers on the computer processor.
Processors capable of referencing larger address spaces provide the opportunity to use more physical memory than ever before, potentially reducing the overhead spent moving processes in and out of physical memory. The 64-bit processors are theoretically capable of referencing 2^64 locations in memory, or 16 exabytes, which is more than 4 billion times the number of memory locations 32-bit processors can reference. However, all 64-bit versions of Microsoft operating systems currently impose a 16 TB limit on address space and allow no more than 128 GB of physical memory due to the impracticality of having 16 TB of RAM. Processes created on Windows Vista x64 or Windows 7 x64 are allotted 8 TB in virtual memory for user processes and 8 TB for kernel processes to create a virtual memory of 16 TB.
LabVIEW 2009 (64-bit) gives developers the ability to take advantage of the latest hardware for measurement applications, many of which may benefit from access to larger amounts of physical memory and the additional registers on a 64-bit processor. These advances are made possible by native support for NI Software and Drivers, as well as the latest 64-bit Microsoft Operating Systems, such as Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7.
5. Additional Resources
- Information on Windows 7 for Test and Measurement Applications
- FAQ on LabVIEW 2009 (64-bit)
- See other features of LabVIEW 2009