When do cloud-based sims make sense?

With Kitely‘s bill-per-minute, cloud-based OpenSim hosting service now available, non-technically inclined folks now have a real choice in what kind of hosting they’d like to have.

Here is a breakdown of common use cases of virtual environments, and whether Kitely makes sense, or whether you should go with Second Life or with traditional OpenSim hosting. (Full list of OpenSim hosting providers is here.)

Kitely management panel as easy as it gets. Click on "New World" to create brand-new sim and upload an OAR file. Click on the sim name to enter world. Click "Edit" to change access permissions.

Content vendors and event organizers

If you are running a popular store, club, or other venue then today Second Life, with its million active monthly users, is your best bet.

Some store owners are also branching out into closed commercial grids like InWorldz, Avination, 3rd Rock Grid, and SpotOn3D, since those grids keep content locked down.

Region owners who aren’t in the content business — club owners, for example — are also experimenting with the large open public grids, such as OSGrid, NewWorldGrid, FrancoGrid, and GermanGrid.

Kitely doesn’t currently have a large user base, or an in-world economy. And it’s not hypergrid-enabled, so visitors can’t teleport in from other grids.

However, if the primary target audience for our event or products is not existing Second Life or InWorldz residents but Facebook users, then Kitely currently offers the hands-down simplest possible way to get new users into a fully functional virtual world.

High traffic region owners

Both traditional OpenSim hosting companies and Linden Lab charge by land area, not by traffic. So if you’ve got a little land, and a lot of traffic that will work better for you.

Kitely charges based on traffic. By default, visitors pay their own usage costs — around $0.20 per per hour. However, some region owners may choose to cover all the costs for its visitors.

Say, for example, you’re a university using your region for classes, with an average of 20 students in your region for twenty hours a week. That adds up to $320 a month in usage costs.

Second Life is a slightly better option, at $300 a month. And a high-quality, high-traffic OpenSim region retails for around $80 to $100 a month, offering even higher savings.

Content creators

Say you use your regions to build stuff. You’re on there by yourself, creating clothing and accessories, designing buildings, or writing scripts. Then you use the Imprudence viewer to download your creations and move them over to Second Life or InWorldz or Avination for retail sale.

Say you do this part-time, 10 hours a week. The rest of your time you spend inside Second Life or the other grids, promoting and selling your work.

You want as much OpenSim space as possible to work in. You’ve got the work area where you make your creations, plus a large virtual warehouse of all your products, so you can stroll around and easily see what you’ve got.

With Kitely, your usage rate would only cost you $8 a month. And each additional region you put up is just $0.10 cents a month. Ten cents. You can have a hundred regions up, filled with old builds, for just $10 a month — and wander between them at will.

No other commercial hosting company can match that today.

The only cheaper alternative is to run OpenSim on your home computer — or on a USB stick. However, the process isn’t as easy as it is with Kitely, and you have to handle all the upgrades and backups on your own. In addition, other users can’t visit your OpenSim regions unless you are able to set up port forwarding on your router, or you connect your computer directly to your cable or DSL modem.

Plus, with a home Internet connection you won’t be able to get more than a handful of visitors onto your sim at once, should you decide to hold an open house — there’s a lot of information that needs to be sent out to visiting users, and home connections typically don’t offer much upstream bandwidth.

Mixed-use cases

Many users don’t fall into one of these extremes, however. They have a moderate number of regions, and a moderate amount of traffic.

A school, for example, might have four different classroom setups, and use the first world for just a couple of sessions a week.

Here, you can just run the numbers.

If you host locally, it’s free — unless you count your hardware costs and tech support time.

If you use SimHost’s Premium HyperV service, you get four regions for $115 a month, for a total of up to 60 concurrent users at a time.

If you use Kitely, you’ll pay $0.40 a month for the four regions, plus $48 per month for 20 students in-world for three hours a week each. If you have your visitors picking up their own usage costs, then your expenses are the $0.40 for the four regions, plus $0.20 per hour for your teachers and administrators.

Who should wait

Kitely currently supports OAR uploads and exports, up to 100 simultaneous users, full building rights, and in-world text chat.  You can also copy existing regions — say, if you want to continue working on a build while folks are still using an older version of it, so that construction doesn’t interfere with what you’re doing. The copy function can also be used to archive old versions of  build, in case you might want to revert later.

Those using the Imprudence viewer can also upload individual objects, such as avatar clothing and accessories. Once you add items to your Kitely inventory, you’ll be able to access them no matter what Kitely world you’re on, and your avatar will be dressed as it was when you previously logged in. For users logging in for the first time, there are default male and female avatars.

There are three kinds of access permissions — only the creator can enter a world, anyone can enter or a world, or only members of a particular Facebook group can enter a world.

Users have to have a Facebook account to create or visit Kitely worlds.

If you want to sell something inside your Kitely world, you’ll have to accept PayPal — no other payment options are currently available.

These constraints might work for you. If they don’t, you might want to wait for the rollout of the following features:

  • Economy. Kitely plans to enable in-world shopping using its Kitely Credits.
  • Non-Facebook authentication. In the future, Kitely plans to support Twitter logins, LinkedIn, OpenID and corporate and school directories, as well as anonymous logins. It will be up to the region owners to decide which of these would be allowed on their sims.
  • Voice. Kitely has plans to add in-world voice to the platform, which will make it much more usable for business meetings and classes.
  • Teleports. Kitely plans to add both both in-grid and hypergrid teleports to its platform, once authentication and security issues are resolved.
  • Bigger worlds. Today, each Kitely “world” is just one region in size. The company plans to expand on that with megaregions, or by allowing regions to neighbor one another.
  • Exports. Kitely also plans to have IAR imports and exports — this is an archive of an avatar’s entire inventory.
  • Viewer flexibility. Today, Kitely automatically loads whatever viewer you have set as the default viewer. Those who have Second Life viewer 2 set as the default for SLURLs but would prefer to import and export with Imprudence now have to mess around with their registry settings. In the future, Kitely will offer a more flexible switching option.
  • Fixed price plans. Today, Kitely bills for every minute users spend in-world. But the company is open to fixed-price payment plans such as those available from US telephone companies.

Further down the line is potential integration with a Web-based OpenSim viewer, such as the BuiltBuy.me viewer from Tipodean.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

8 Responses

  1. enerhax@yahoo.com' Ener Hax says:

    nice write up and bah! i can't use Kitely because i am not real =(

    seriously, it does look great but certainly for specific uses, ours would not fit the cloud model very well

  2. ilan@kitely.com' Ilan Tochner says:

    Hi Ener,

    As you are you, we'll be happy to manually give you 4000 KC to play with if you find some legal way to login with Facebook 🙂

  3. Kitely provides 100,000 prims, whereas Second Life needs 6 sims with 90,000 prims = US$ 21,240 annually… any questions? http://ht.ly/4oVBC

  4. Some random calculating:

    Second Life average concurrency now down to just 49,000 people

    Link: http://www.metaverse-business….
    That's 35 million avatar-hours a month.

    With Kitely, that adds up to just around $7 million a month in hosting costs.

    SL has about 25,000 private regions — that's just over $7 million in hosting costs for users.

    So, *on average* Kitely costs about exactly the same as Second Life. This means that half of all region owners (the ones that see less traffic) will do better with Kitely, and the ones that see more than average traffic would do worse with Kitely.

  5. Ilan just pointed out that my numbers don't hold up:

    "The average may be true but that doesn't mean that the split is half above average and half below average.

    "For example lets say there are 100 regions with 10 avatar-hours and 1 region with 1000 avatar-hours, the average is (100*10 + 1*1000) / 101 = 19.80 avatar-hours even though there are 100 regions using less than that average (just 10 avatar-hours) and only 1 region using more.

    "In this scenario more than 99% of regions are forced to subsidize the cost of just 1 heavy-use region. The Kitely model makes better financial sense for all but the top few % of regions."

    That's absolutely right. You need to look at the distribution.

    Grid Survey tracks median concurrency as well as average: http://www.gridsurvey.com/economy.php

    But they do it for Second Life as a whole, not broken out by individual regions.

    Metaverse Business tracks concurrency on a region-by-region basis:


    But you'd have to get the data one region at a time.

  6. Sim-OnDemand offers a spreadsheet for pricing use cases http://ht.ly/4tdrE

  7. Sim-OnDemand offers a different kind of business model. You have to get your own Amazon cloud services subscription — which took me about an hour to figure out back when I did this. Then you install an instance of the Sim-OnDemand OpenSim distribution, which is set up to work on Amazon. You can shut it down or bring it back up at anytime by using the Amazon interface — which, frankly, isn't optimized for end users. The regions don't go to sleep automatically when nobody's on them — you have to shut them down manually.

    And the pricing reflects Amazon's base prices, which are extremely convoluted. But, in general, one region of light use will run you around $70 a month to start with. The pricing is very different from Kitely pricing — Kitely reserves Amazon servers (paying by the hour) then uses them as needed for regions, charging by the minute.

    Sim-OnDemand seems to be aimed more at folks with moderate to high technical skills.