These last couple of weeks have been problematic for many of us using OpenSim. The OSGrid, in particular, has had more than its share of downtime as a result of ongoing software upgrades, and links between regions break frequently because of incompatible software versions.
So in planning the location of an upcoming event, I started thinking: could SecondLife be an alternative to OpenSim? Sure, I’ve been to Second Life for occasional events, but I’ve never considered it as a serious platform for business.
So this week, I took a second look, and here is my quick feature comparison:
My company grid in OpenSim is for staff meetings, and meetings with interns. Some of my interns are students. If they’re under 18, I can’t bring them to a location in Second Life. And, of course, if I set up a second location on the Second Life teen grid, neither I nor my other staffers would be able to join them there.
So okay, I can’t move my company region over.
How about my two home regions? I currently use them to practice my building skills, and to allow my kids — here in Boston with me — to interact with their dad, who is currently in Shanghai, by building stuff together.
I don’t pay any money for this — these two regions run on a formerly unused old family computer.
If I were to move them to Second Life, it would cost me money. Which I don’t like spending.
Also, my kids wouldn’t be able to play on the same region as their dad and their grandfather, a retired aerospace engineer.
And, finally, they’re playing at building a space ship — and Second Life doesn’t allow prims as big as OpenSim does.
This week, we’re holding a meeting of the Hypergrid Entrepreneur Group. Many of the members run their own grids — either large social worlds, educational communities, or small company grids like mine.
These guys all have avatars already — OpenSim avatars. Normally, we hold meetings someplace accessible by hypergrid teleportation. OSGrid, for example.
We could all meet on ReactionGrid, which has some nice conference facilities. Or at any of our standalone business grids, if one of us wants to host the event one week. Or at EnterpriseHypergrid, where one of our members is building a conference facility.
Some of us have invested quite a bit of time into our avatars. For example, the face on my avatar comes from CyberExtruder, based on a business headshot. It took about an hour to tweak it so it looked okay. And I spent time picking out my clothes.
I don’t want to have to go through all every time I visit another grid. As a result, I tend to stick to grids that are hypergrid-enabled, and I can just teleport in.
Is SecondLife on the hypergrid? Hold on, I’ll check — no, it’s not.
Say I want to hold a really big conference, and I need several regions, but only for a few hours. With OpenSim, I can load up the regions from a backup OAR file to my server — or to an Amazon server (with Sim-OnDemand) — just for the hours that I need it. Then shut it down and save it for when I need it again.
Can I run a Second Life region in the cloud? I didn’t think so.
Behind the firewall
Say I was a school or company and needed a virtual world for internal use only. No hypergridding, nothing fancy, just running it on my own internal servers for my own internal staff and students. No outsiders, no weird sex stuff, no people with animal shapes.
With OpenSim, I can do this now. In fact, I can buy a preconfigured appliance from ReactionGrid with OpenSim already preconfigured, my choice of regions (historic sites? conference centers? school rooms?) loaded up, and with support and upgrades included to boot.
An enterprise version of Second Life isn’t expected to be released publically until later this year, and pricing still hasn’t been announced.
But I’m willing to bet that the OpenSim product — which is based on modular, open-source software, will be more configurable and less expensive.
OpenSim allows grid operators to write code in a variety of languages, and include it into their OpenSim deployments as modules. In-world scripts can run commands from those modules, as well as the standard LSL scripts (over 95% of all LSL functions are already supported) and special OS scripts, such as hypergrid teleport commands.
If I was building a virtual world, I would need the flexibility this offers to build my own in-game functions.
But, of course, if I was building my own virtual world, I would probably be in competition with Second Life. Not using Second Life as a platform.
Some of my colleagues are in the proces of building such virtual worlds, or have already built them. OpenSim allows them to do this in a cost-effective and flexible way.
Moving to Second Life is certainly not an option for them.
For these reasons, and many more, Second Life just isn’t ready for enterprise use. Maybe once they release the enterprise version of their platform, lift the age restrictions, and allow teleportation to other grids, I’ll take another look.