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Why keep using legacy test systems?  What are the benefits?

Why keep using legacy test systems? What are the benefits?

In the world of test and measurement, the decision to continue using legacy systems or to upgrade to a new system is a significant one. While new systems have their advantages, there are compelling reasons to maintain and utilize your existing legacy systems. Here’s why legacy test and measurement systems remain a valuable asset for many businesses.

Cost Efficiency

One of the primary benefits of using legacy systems is the cost efficiency they offer. These systems represent a substantial initial investment. By continuing to use and maintain them, you avoid the high costs associated with purchasing brand new equipment. This approach maximizes the return on your investment and allows you to allocate your budget to other critical areas, such as research and development or operational expansion.

For example, a new PXI system with a controller and chassis can cost around $20,000 USD.  When you add the necessary PXI modules, the total cost may run up to $50,000 USD.  In contrast, repairing or replacing modules in your existing legacy system may only cost between $5,000 - $8,000 USD or less. This added investment can keep your system running efficiently for another 5 to 10 years, maximizing the return on your original investment and freeing up budget for other critical areas.


 New PXI System - an considerable initial investment


Proven Reliability

Legacy systems have a track record of proven reliability. Over time, they have demonstrated their effectiveness and have been seamlessly integrated into your existing workflows. This minimizes the risk of compatibility issues and ensures that your operations run smoothly. The consistent performance of legacy systems can be invaluable, providing peace of mind that your testing processes will not be disrupted by the uncertainties that can accompany newer technologies.

For example, there have been cases where new test and measurement systems performed TOO well. The improved CPU speed and cycle time of the new test system actually contributed to race conditions surfacing in the old test software. This unexpected issue required additional troubleshooting and revalidation, causing disruptions.  Also, if there are new components introduced to the test system, they will need to be re-validated for accuracy and performance as well.

Unique Functionality

Many legacy test and measurement systems offer unique functionalities that newer models may not provide. These specific features can be crucial for certain tests and measurements that are integral to your operations. By maintaining your legacy systems, you can continue to leverage these specialized capabilities, ensuring that all your testing requirements are met without compromise.

Of course, every vendor is free to pursue its own product and portfolio strategy.  However, when vendors alter directions or discontinue unique products, it induces uncertainty and risk to the upkeep of test systems. For example, the NI PXI-8433/4 was a distinctive PXI module with four serial ports that featured 2000V port-to-port isolation. This feature made it perfect for noisy test environments such as avionics and automotive testbeds. However, this module was discontinued in 2022. As of the time this article was written in 2024, the vendor's recommended replacements are the PXIe-8430/8 or PXIe-8430/16. Unfortunately, neither of these modules offers port-to-port isolation like the PXI-8433/4. To maintain isolation functionality, users will need to switch to a different vendor (if available), develop their own board, or continue using the discontinued PXI-8433/4 module.


The PXI-8433/2 and PXI-8433/4 serial modules with port-port isolation, available from Extend Test.

Added Benefit - Sustainability

In today’s world, sustainability is a growing concern for many businesses. Extending the life of your legacy test and measurement systems contributes to sustainability efforts by reducing electronic waste. This environmentally conscious approach aligns with broader corporate social responsibility goals and demonstrates a commitment to sustainable practices.

While environmental concerns might not be a top priority for manufacturing lines and big tech at present, they are expected to have a significant impact in the next 10-20 years. Companies that address these issues may benefit from carbon credits, energy cost savings, and waste reduction.  Not only will these companies comply with future regulations, but they will also attract eco-conscious consumers and investors.  Embracing environmental responsibility can also enhance brand reputation and foster innovation, providing a competitive edge in an increasingly eco-aware market.


At Extend Test, we specialize in global sourcing of NI hardware and provide replacement parts and upgrade services for your legacy systems. Our expertise ensures that your systems continue to perform at their best, minimizing downtime and extending their operational life. Whether you need repair parts, upgrades, or specialized support, we are here to help you maintain the efficiency and reliability of your legacy systems.


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