National Instruments recognizes that engineers and scientists face these data management challenges every day when designing and improving their test systems. Whether your current solution involves spending hours a week tediously searching through directories and files to find just one specific test or redesigning an expensive database and client application to accommodate additional information, both approaches lack the same thing – engineering intelligence from test data. You must spend a lot of time designing and performing tests that allow you to move quickly from test data to test results. All too often today, you are expected to make the crucial transition from test data to test results without proper data management tools; therefore, NI has developed a data management solution to meet these challenges and make it easier and faster for to move from data collection to usable results.
Figure 3. The NI TDM Solution Consists of Three Components
NI has identified three key pieces that complete the data management puzzle: flexible and organized file storage, self-scaling hybrid data index, and an interactive post-processing environment. As a result, the NI technical data management (TDM) solution consists of three components: the TDM data model for storing descriptive information with your test files, NI DataFinder for organizing and managing your test data regardless of file format, and NI DIAdem and LabVIEW DataFinder Toolkit software for searching, analyzing, and reporting. Though many engineers already have components in place for raw data file writing as well as analysis and reporting, with the lowest common denominator being saving ASCII files and performing analysis in Excel, most engineers are lacking the middle component, NI DataFinder, to complete their data management approaches.
The foundation of the NI data management solution involves storing rich meta information with your data, which is then searchable using NI DataFinder. With the NI TDM data model, you can easily store properties and organize your data hierarchically within your test file. TDM and TDM Streaming files, written natively using NI DIAdem, LabVIEW, LabVIEW SignalExpress, or LabWindows™/CVI, or Measurement Studio provide three levels of hierarchy to structure your test data – file, group, and channel levels. The TDM data model removes the burden of designing and maintaining your own custom file format. Designed to scale with your needs, the TDM data model provides the most efficient way to properly document your test and simulation data on the NI platform. A rich and comprehensive set of properties associated with your files, groups, and channels dramatically increases the range of possible search conditions.
Figure 4. The TDM Data Model for Saving Well-Documented Test Data
Once you have properly documented your data with properties, NI DataFinder gives you the out-of-the-box ability to search and mine your test data without the headache and expense of setting up and maintaining a large database. With NI DataFinder, you can perform Internet-like searches across all your data files, regardless of format and location within your company intranet. Simply install NI DataFinder with DIAdem, point it to the location of your data files, and within seconds you can search for your files just as you would search for information on the Internet.
NI DataFinder does this by automatically building and maintaining an index of all files that meet the file type and location criteria in the NI DataFinder configuration. You can use properties that are automatically stored in the NI DataFinder index in query conditions. When a valid data file is created, deleted, or edited, NI DataFinder automatically notices and reindexes the hierarchy and properties of the file. When you save properties not yet in NI DataFinder in a newly created file, these properties are automatically added to the index. NI DataFinder dynamically manages its own data tables and updates them based on file events and the contents of each file. Therefore, unlike many expensive database solutions, you can change and add information as your needs change without redesigning your data management solution.
The final component of the NI TDM solution for moving quickly between raw data and engineering results is NI DIAdem for posttest analysis and reporting and the LabVIEW DataFinder Toolkit for creating custom applications with the NI DataFinder technology. Using DIAdem, you can take advantage of hundreds of built-in engineering analysis functions to extract meaningful results from your raw data, and then share these results with easy-to-build, reusable report templates. DIAdem also provides a built-in interface to both DIAdem DataFinder and NI DataFinder Server Edition. Therefore, you can run interactive searches within DIAdem as well as save and automate your queries. Within one environment, you can mine your data for trends, analyze these trends, and then save these results to reports. Also, using the LabVIEW DataFinder Toolkit, you can create custom applications based on your needs and deploy them out to clients. Based on the size of your test group and the amount of data you are collecting, there is an NI DataFinder solution to meet your needs.