Vendors slow to offer on-demand hosting

Sometime soon, Kitely — the low cost, on-demand, cloud-based grid – will turn on hypergrid connectivity.

This may seriously affect the hosting market, as some users will turn to Kitely for low-use residential or educational sims — even while they continue to patronize shops, events, and other facilities elsewhere on the hypergrid.

A typical medium-use OpenSim region retails for between $30 and $60 a month, with an average capacity of 15,000 prims and 20 simultaneous avatars. On open grids like OSGrid prices tend to be on the lower end, because of competition from multiple hosting vendors, and are on the higher end on commercial grids like InWorldz and Avination.

Compare that to Kitely, where $35 a month gets you unlimited use of 20 regions, each capable of holding up to 100,000 prims and 100 simultaneous avatars.

There are two reasons why Kitely is able to offer such a low price. First, the regions are put to sleep when not in use. Most residential regions are empty most of the time, as are educational regions when classes aren’t in session. That’s a lot of savings right there.

The other reason is that Kitely charges visitors for their time, unless the region owner decides to pony up for the traffic, at a rate or around 20 cents per hour per user. Kitely users all get two hours a month free, and if they spend more time than that on Kitely worlds they’ll either have to get a subscription, or buy time a-la-carte — or only visit regions where the owners pick up their costs.

When attempting to teleport to an inactive region, Kitely users get a pop-up message asking them to wait until the region is loaded up.

So if you’re a builder looking for a lot of land to build on, or if  you’re just looking for some residential land, or a place to hold occasional classes, Kitely is a great deal. So far, however, you’d have been pretty lonely there — Kitely reported just 238 active users over the past month, making it the ninth-busiest OpenSim grid — even though its total land area made it the third largest.

Once hypergrid is turned on, loneliness will no longer be an issue — region owners will be able to teleport to over 100 other grids, including OSGrid, Francogrid, Avination, Craft, and many other large and popular grids.

So that’s what’s happening. Now, what are grids going to do about it?

Will they continue to offer $60 regions and hope that their residents will continue to pay out of loyalty? Or will they attempt to match Kitely’s on-demand cloud-based hosting — which is not as simple as it sounds.

On-demand alternative: 3D Hosting

Fortunately for grid owners without the skills needed to switch to an on-demand model, one OpenSim vendor is working on providing a solution.

Melanie Thielker

“In our system setup, that would not be hard to offer at all and we would be able to quickly provide the feature if asked for it,” said Melanie Thielker, CEO of London-based Avination Virtual Ltd. and founder of the Avination grid. Thielker, an OpenSim core developer, also runs 3D Hosting, a hosting company that offers private-label grids and individual regions to customers.

“Pulling an average region from cold storage takes about two to three minutes in our cloud,” she said. “That could be improved by foregoing high compression factors to speed unpacking.”

This is already faster than most other OpenSim hosting companies can load up regions, she said.

“Others use OAR files, which we don’t use,” Thielker said. “We have a significantly faster storage system and we also have an automated request and delivery system for suspended regions.”

The Avination grid is not currently hypergrid-enabled, but Thielker has pledged to turn on hypergrid connectivity once hypergrid security has been overhauled. She and hypergrid inventor Crista Lopes are currently working on Hypergrid 2.0, which will allow individual creators to decide whether their content can travel over the hypergrid, or must stay on its grid of origin.

So far, she said, customers haven’t been asking for on-demand regions.

“At the moment there doesn’t seem to be a large enough market for this yet outside of Kitely,” she told Hypergrid Business.

Looking for a solution

SouthPaw Estates founder Timothy Rogers (also known as Timothy Hoxley in OSGrid) said that he’s interested in finding a way to make on-demand regions work.

“I will be looking on getting my hands on code that would boot up regions on demand through teleport requests,” he told Hypergrid Business. “However, as of right now, there is no way to do this. But does not mean I am not going to keeping my ears to the horn or investing to get some work like that done.”

SoftPaw did announce a different kind of cloud-based hosting today, however — short-term region rentals. A simulator for a big event would run between US$8 to $30 a day, the company said, depending on the requirements.

Other companies also offer short-term rentals.

SpotON3D’s BoostCloud service, for example, rents high-capacity, cloud-based regions by the hour.

And there are companies like Virtual Event Planners International that specialize specifically in short-term events on the OpenSim platform.

Dreamland Metaverse is also considering offering short-term sim rentals.

“But such an offer would be quite different than what Kitely offers at the moment,” a company spokesman told Hypergrid Business. “The process of starting up regions can take quite a while. Especially the kind of power users hosting OpenSim regions from Dreamland Metaverse often use many prims and sometimes even thousands of scripts on their regions. Starting up such a region can take up to 15 or 20 minutes. Only small regions with not many scripts start fast. Users are not willing to wait a long time until they can enter a region.”

Another issue holding back hosting companies is that some are still configuring new regions by hand.

“My region setup is still manually configured,” said Fernando Oliveira of Oliveira Virtual Lands. “Today I set up a new region in 30 minutes.”

Manual setups make it impossible for to have on-demand regions.

“I was working on a automated solution, but had to put on hold for a while because lack of time to implement it,” he told Hypergrid Business. “As soon I get a little time, I can finish the project.”

SouthPaw’s Rogers is also working on an automated system — and he said he will share it with the OpenSim community.

“It is being worked on, and I have got some quotes on getting it beefed up to work even better,” he said. “I might be doing a Kickstarter for it soon, as it will be an open source product, and will allow anyone, grid owners, or kids in their basement to download for free and tinker with it.”

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

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.

  • Hi Maria,

    Manually starting and configuring on-demand regions, or even doing basic setup with scripts, is not too difficult. However, if someone wants to provide a high-quality, low-cost solution there are thousands of different scenarios that need to be automatically handled in order to create a system as high performance and robust as what Kitely provides. The people you quoted mentioned just a handful of the issues we have handled, there are many many more.

    Kitely’s on-demand system has been in development since the end of 2008. It is already around 200,000 lines of professionally architectured code written by Kitely’s very talented VP R&D, Oren Hurvitz.

    It doesn’t take so much code and experience to get a basic system working, but getting a solution that just works without requiring constant system supervision to handle things when they go wrong is very complicated. It isn’t economically viable to provide such a service at Kitely’s prices without Kitely’s automated system doing all the heavy lifting. I’m not saying others can’t create a similar system, but the fact that Kitely is still in beta after so much development effort has been spent building it should tell you how non-trivial it is to do.

  • I’m in the process of moving to Kitely though I do so with some reservations. It suits me well from the perspective of being able to scale up. However, there is little incentive to make any of my builds publicly available given that there is no hypergrid and even if there were I would presumably have to pay visitors KC (I cannot imagine anyone paying to visit my builds at this time). It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

    • Hi graymills,

      There may not be hypergrid support yet but the close to 3800 other registered Kitely users can already access your worlds if you keep them publicly accessible.

      Most of our active users are on a premium plan or have bought Kitely Credits to use Kitely a la carte. This means that they can visit your worlds on their own balance without you having to subsidize the time they spend there. It is very easy to setup a new Kitely account and all new accounts are placed on the Free Plan that provides 2 hours/month inworld (and a free region). New account owners also get an additional 4 hours in their first month so if someone wants to join Kitely just to visit your world they can have up to 6 hours to do so without you or they needing to spend any money or KC.

      As with any OpenSim region on any grid, if you want people to visit your builds then you need to do some marketing to let them know what you are offering. With Kitely you get a world page for each of your worlds where you can add a search engine optimized description, images, etc. Those world pages also include various social media buttons (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn) so people finding your worlds can help you spread the word about them.

  • i don’t see how you can do better than Kitely

    and a huge plus for me that i truly believe is important, they contrinute serious code to OpenSim development

    using Kitely is like donating to OpenSim and getting a great host

    the only exception might be for challenged users like Prok (i’m just sayin’ . . .)

  • hack13

    I decided to create SoftPaw Estates cloud event hosting solution because I noticed a need that wasn’t being met. I have seen that current grids that want to hook up a strong and sturdy region to connect, being setup specifically for their event and their grid. Breaking down pricing, work, and customization is what I felt needed to be done.

    I hope in the future to happily donate regions for OSG6B on the event cloud as well as help out other events. Doing the setup manually for an event is important, making sure everything is done up right, and ready for your event. I feel event sims are the best use for cloud hosting, when dedicated hardware already does amazing jobs for day to day region hosting.

  • There is very little mentioning about COMMUNITY here. Where there is a community people will go to. They will stay no matter what. Good example is Second Life. People pay 1000 dollars for a sim plus 300 per month tier. All this because of a community. So it really does not matter what you how fast you do it with cloud or not. Why would I want to be able to start a sim very fast and then when I get there no one is there, no demand for thins no nothing. A SAND BOX …
    I know some people have use for SAND BOXES….but you cannot forget that PUBLIC GRIDS like Second Life, Avination and InWorldz have their content and communities that have a great value for what they ask for a sim.

    • Alex — Yes, community is key for social grids, but it is a separate issue from price, and I don’t think the two are related. OSGrid has a community, and some fo the lowest prices around. InWorldz has a great community, with tons of mentors, and a premium price compared to OSGrid (but a huge bargain compared to SL, of course). Other commercial grids have high prices but no communities to speak of.

      I guess good profit margins can help with community in that they can give the grid owners some money with which to run promotions, hire community managers, etc…. but in this case, low basic costs would enable them to charge the same prices as everyone else but have better margins which they could put towards community building.

      Meanwhile, many groups have their own communities all set and are just looking for some combination of low prices and good service. For example, companies already have their employees. Schools already have their students and teachers. A role playing guild already has its members.

      Some of these mini-communities may be perfectly self-sufficient on a small grid. Others might prefer to turn on hypergrid so they can interact with other communities, or go shopping, or attend training events or music nights or whatever — thus allowing them to have their cake, and eat it, too.

  • Now I forget to mention this. If Kitely creates a COMMUNITY that currently creates DEMAND for creators and events etc..then yes the value speaks for itself. Otherwise I prefer to host my own region at home with hypergrid and all…FREEBO…nada.. So creating a demand for things is ESSENTIAL! A community that asks for things ESSENTIAL….money making features for the USER….hmm..Also I think it is ESSENTIAL..Money brings development and creation. GROWTH…

  • Hi Maria thats my point!
    Why would I pay anything for a SAND BOX on DEMAND? If OPEN SIM already offers me the opportunity to do that for FREE?
    I can place my own regions in OSGRID from my home. I can have my own little world using NEW WORLD STUDIOS..etc etc/
    Unless you dont know how to do it….which it does happen, some people do not know and will need a service. that I agree also.

    I got a 5 dollars account two days ago in Kitely. Two days later I have 45 minutes left in my account to be used. That is without visitors (kitely will charge you for every visitor you have in that region for the time he or she spent there) Or you can have the visitor be charged.
    From what I gather here; 5 dollars every two or three days…more like two days if you do not spend alot of time in your region. It is a lot to me. Seems to me that paying for a flat price per month which gives you UNLIMITED usage and it is OPEN to anyone that can also stay in your REGION 24/7 is a lot cheaper! And when I tried to teleport from one region to the other I got a message I had to wait for the region where I wanted to go to, be awaken. 🙂

    • Hi Alex,

      Kitely’s $5/month plan includes 30 hours / month (about an hour / day on average). The $20/month plan includes 120 hours / month (about 4 hours / day on average). If you’re spending more than 4 hours / day on average in Kitely than you can get the 35/month plan and have unlimited time.

      People cover their own time unless you change the default and decide you want to cover their time in your worlds yourself. Kitely’s Free Plan includes 2 hours/month (6 hours on the first month). If people are spending more than that amount of time in Kitely then they can buy KC or upgrade their plans. You really don’t have to cover their costs.

      Please note that when you upgrade a plan during the month you are charged a pro-rated amount of money and receive a pro-rated amount of Minutes during that month.

      If you are fine with doing all the backing up and fixing OpenSim problems then that’s great. However there are many people who prefer to not have to waste time doing all those things and are willing to pay a reasonable amount of money to have company’s, such as Kitely, make sure that everything continues working as it should.

    • Alex —

      I have all three kinds of hosting. I have free hosting at home with NWS, which I used to create terrains and objects for exports, etc… — stuff to do alone. I’d love to hypergrid in and out, and occasionally am able to, but apparently my router is cursed and it doesn’t work consistently. When hypergrid does work on my standalone, there is a limit to how many people can visit and how many prims they can see — my outbound bandwidth connection can’t support too much traffic. So I would never use my free home-based NWS for anything mission critical having to do with outside visitors.

      Then I have regular, 24-7 hosting from Dreamland for the Hyperica grid. It’s on all the time, I get plenty of space, I get great support and a nice management panel. It costs a little bit more, but I need something up around the clock, since it’s a hyperport, and I always have weird demands for Snoopy that require custom coding.

      Finally, I just signed up for Kitely’s $35 a month plan. I plan to use this for holding scheduled events. These will be events where the visitors pick up their own costs — so no additional cost to me there. And they will be scheduled events, so no reason for a sim that’s up around the clock. I get 100,000 prims per region, and up to 100 simultaneous visitors. There is no way I could get that for free at home — and I’d be paying a HUGE amount to get that from the other hosting companies.

      I’m not sure why you only have 45 minutes left on your plan. Until yesterday, I had been using Kitely for months on an ad-hoc basis — trying out new features, putting up OAR files for testing, that kind of thing — and I think I only refilled my $5 a-la-carte balance once. Though I do have to say I got a whole bunch of minutes for free because they used to just give them away and I never spent any, and they just piled up.

  • Look I dont want to put Kitely down or any other type of hosting here. I am just putting it on the table here what needs to be discussed.
    If you pay for something that is given FREE …you better get something in return for it.
    If you can do it yourself free….Why pay? And even if you have to pay cause maybe you dont know how to do it; I think a 24/7 hosted region the one that is there ALL the time and users can come in and out and the PRICE is still the same at the end of the month is a lot cheaper and more stable. You dont have to wait for it to load for 3 minutes or even up to 20 minutes if your world is very detailed.
    I may be wrong…correct me here and lets discuss this. If I m wrong let me know….I am not a guru of all knowledge.

  • Now if you do not use it a lot then yes Kitely is a good service. But if you do use it and plan to have visitors left and right….then be prepared to take out your credit card.

    Monthly Plan
    Cost
    Time
    Free Regions

    Free Plan
    Free
    2 hours
    1

    Bronze Plan
    $5
    30 hours
    2

    Silver Plan
    $20
    120 hours
    10

    Gold Plan
    $35
    Unlimited
    20
    As you see above a $5 plan will give you 30 hours. I dont get it…Why I only have 45 minutes left? I got it two days ago…
    ????

    • Hi Alex,

      When you upgrade a plan during the month you are charged a pro-rated
      amount of money and receive a pro-rated amount of Minutes during that
      month.

      If you buy KC to pay for time instead of getting a premium plan then you will be paying more money per minute. I suggest you look at your account’s history page to see how your Minutes and Kitely Credits have been used. Your History page is located here: http://www.kitely.com/#!history

  • One thing I see is the reason Kitely active USERS going down is because of Kitely’s own platform caracteristic. Kitely’s platform charges per minute or per hour and this does limit the amount people want to stay inworld.
    The charge per hour on demand is just that. On demand when people need it. It does differ from an UNLIMITED and free for all to visit world which is not on Demand but it is there always for you to stay as much time as you want and by people KNOWING the FLAT amount they are charged per month makes it a lot easier and it is more attractive and worry free.
    So kitely needs to watch out for this because they are already experiencing this decline which it does not mean people are not getting the service. It means people are SAVING whatever time they have and only really use it when necessary.

  • I wanted to leave a suggestion in kitely’s forum but I dont know how. So here it is. Regarding the teleport from one region to another. It says need to wait for the region to be waken up. Some people may not see the message and others may just give up.
    So why not create a VISTORS BOX. The visitor places a max of 1 region name he or she wants to visit and clicks ok. or submit. The box then will say please wait while we are getting the region up for you. Then it would say. Ready for teleport! Maybe this way it would be a more expected way to know that you need to wait while the system is getting that particular region up. Just an idea….:)

    • Thank you for the suggestion Alex. You can leave suggestions in our support forum by clicking the “share an idea” tab then adding your suggestion in the text box and pressing the Continue button. See: https://getsatisfaction.com/kitely

      When a user initiates a teleport to a world that is currently not active the user immediately gets a message that the world is offline, is currently being started and that the user will be automatically teleported to their desired destination once the world is ready. That short message is presented in a modal dialog in the middle of the user’s viewer window. People can’t continue using the viewer without first pressing the OK button, so there is very little chance that someone who just tried to teleport to another world will not notice that message.

      Most offline worlds start in less than 30 seconds and teleports between active Kitely worlds are very fast so the waiting time is usually not an issue. People can always decide to close their viewer before the teleport process completes but almost no one does.

      Teleports on Kitely work as they do on SL and other OpenSim
      grids. You can teleport via the map, via a landmark, by being offered a TP from another user, etc. Thank you for your suggestion but adding some special user interface to teleport to worlds that are currently offline will, IMO, just complicate the user experience.

    • Ricardo Nascimento

      What you think about pay me the US$ 600 that you need to pay for my jobs with AvWorlds and now wiht this SimLife3D? Or mybe just tell why you simply ban me from all accounts in every palce, don’t paid me any cents for more than 10 hours/day of work?? You are a coward, unfair and very very stupid!!! Your idea is supid too!!!

  • Dan

    Charging visitors for their time in world is a doomed approach, remember I told you so 🙂