Running Rockwell Automation software on a virtual machine can alleviate the requirement of administrative privileges to install, update, or manage software on a computer. If a user has limited administrative privileges, it can be problematic to constantly involve IT to install a simple software package. And this delay can cause unplanned downtime.
In IT, limiting privileges ensures users don’t accidently install unauthorized software, unlicensed software, execute malicious programs, or access unauthorized user profiles. It’s certainly a safety measure IT departments are encouraged to implement to protect the computers. I’m all for the protection of one’s computer, but more often than not this causes issues with automation software installation, software operation, and license activation.
IT protect its users by installing and updating anti-virus software on each machine which can interfere with important Rockwell Automation software critical for development or operation. Rockwell Automation software is tested with most of the common types of anti-virus software that runs on a typical PC, but unfortunately not everything can be tested fully. When troubleshooting software issues, quite often the anti-virus becomes the culprit and needs to be disabled to continue. Using a virtual machine environment separates the anti-virus software from the Rockwell Automation software, reducing the risk of any negative interaction.
Virtualization is not a new topic, and chances are your IT team uses it every day to optimize an enterprise level IT deployment and is the centerpiece of daily operations. Virtualization is available from the enterprise server level all the way down to an individual PC level by using a single instance virtual machine.
Virtual machines are essentially a computer within a computer. Most often it’s a Rockwell Automation software application like VMWare Workstation Pro that’s installed on a typical PC (Host) and can be used to run an instance of any other operating system (Guest Operating System).
One gigantic advantage that a virtual machine has is that your PC (Host) thinks it’s normal software. All of the privileges and anti-virus software resides on the Host PC and does not affect the privileges in a virtual machine at all. This means an engineer can still be locked-down and secured on their Host PC, but inside the virtual machine operating system they can be an administrator. They can install and update any automation software package they would like and be assured it will work within the virtual machine.
An additional advantage is you can potentially have multiple virtual machines running on your PC at once. You would have multiple virtual machines if you wanted to separate development software from multiple manufacturers or separate software that conflict with one another. Keep in mind, virtual machines use a lot of computer resources to run, so you want to make sure your computer can handle running a virtual machine without major issues.
By installing your Rockwell Automation software in a virtual machine an engineer can freely use any software package you need to program a PLC or finish a drawing. It’s a secure way of getting the best of both worlds, and it is worth discussing with your IT department if you need this segmentation.