No, COVID-19 will not be the end of the globalization of product development and collaboration, but it does bring up some interesting questions about the way we work in today’s connected world and how that may change in the future.

Historically the only way to collaborate rapidly and effectively was to get all the involved parties to fly to the same location, get in the same room and then work on the same problems together face to face, and hands on any equipment involved. Web meetings and remote online access have come to recreate most of this experience, but without the need to travel and be physically in the same room with other people and equipment. Since the advent of these web meeting facilities, how often have you visited another collaborating location or a remote customer site? Sure, you have, but likely a lot less than before. While video conferencing and other remote teamwork systems have improved engineering collaboration markedly and enabled remote offices to be more effective, we still travel to build better working relationships with remote collaborators and to access remote equipment or development hardware.

COVID-19 has opened up some fears and questions that may cause us to challenge our assumptions about the necessity of travel. Do we really need to meet face to face to achieve effective teamwork? While the current scare will likely slow down travel, it will not eliminate the need for travel and face to face meetings, which will remain a key means for relationship building, until perhaps a generation of online natives takes over.

But what about the other need for face to face teamwork and collaboration: joint access to and working together on scarce shared development hardware or equipment? In general, this requires us to be able to collaboratively configure, command and control the operation of the hardware, power it on and off, run, measure and log status and data, share and discuss results and further experiments. Terminal servers, remotely controlled online power supplies and instruments, provide some capabilities for remote access and sharing, but such set ups are difficult to use, temperamental, and finicky. They also do not scale easily or at all.

The solution: Virtualization Based Development. Virtualization Based Development or VBD is the concept that replacing all physical hardware and equipment with software alternatives will allow all development artifacts to be accessed, copied, exchanged, and scaled with the same ease as software artifacts. This all-in-software environment and process for development frees the engineering processes from the limitations of physical hardware has the potential to dramatically accelerate and improve development and teamwork, and, among other benefits, reduce the need for travel, co-location, and face to face teamwork.

VLAB is the premier tool suite bringing the benefits of end to end VBD to your environment. VLAB Express is the easy reach entry into VBD, which upgrades your development board from finicky temperamental preproduction hardware to a fully deterministic and repeatable environment where you can run your software with confidence. VLAB Software Suite takes you further with a rich native tool environment, which leverages the privileged capabilities of virtualization for advanced software debug, analysis, and test automation, including integrations with your favorite software IDE and built in tools that let you do things impossible with hardware. VLAB Suite adds in comprehensive hardware views and tools to instrument, debug, modify and extend your VBD environment, including target hardware, test bench, and system.

With VLAB, you can be anywhere in the world and yet work virtually together. Easily share not only voice and video, but also the entire target hardware and operating environment. This sharable operating environment is comprehensive including software, work bench instruments, test scripts, configuration and automation scripts, failing test scenarios, results, debug and any status information, execution data, and the complete log of user interactions. All of this can be stored, exchanged, and replicated with ease by any VLAB user, anywhere in the world.

With VLAB, there are no delays, no travel, no lost or damaged hardware, no customs, no quarantine, no jet lag, and no time away from home and loved ones.

For more on VLAB and VBD see the rest of this website.