Army releases grid management tool

The U.S. Army, with its MOSES grid, is one of the more high-profile users of OpenSim. But the military gives back, as well.

The Army’s Research Laboratory Simulation and Training Technology Center has been expanding Intel’s SimianGridFrontend for OpenSim, and, this month, has made their version — the MOSES Grid Manager, or MGM — available to the public as open source.

MGM front end

MGM home page. (Image courtesy Douglas Maxwell.)

Douglas Maxwell

Douglas Maxwell

“The MGM handles user accounts, simulator functions, reports cluster statistics for CPU and memory usage, and much more,” said Douglas Maxwell, the science and technology manager for virtual world strategic applications at the Simulation & Training Technology Center.

The MGM front end offers a great deal more functionality, however. For example, grid owners can sort regions by name, estate, status, or host server, which is useful for very large grids. Managers can also reassign regions to different virtual machines for real-time load balancing, and start, stop, restart and clear regions of all content. 

“Due to the flexible nature of this architecture, we can have both virtual machines and bare metal hosts attached to the grid,” Maxwell told Hypergrid Business. This is useful for large grids running regions in more than one type of hosting environment.

MGM also offers more functionality for end users, as well.

“MGM is extremely easy to use,” said Gwenette Sinclair, research associate at the  Institute for Simulation and Training at the University of Central Florida. “Michael Heilmann did an incredible job of making the MGM user interface intuitive and responsive. MGM makes saving inventory IAR files and full region OAR files to your hard drive a very simple, fast keystroke task. Uploading IAR and OAR files are just as simple.”

MGM region management panel. (Image courtesy Douglas Maxwell.)

MGM region management panel. (Image courtesy Douglas Maxwell.)

Currently, the most popular front end for OpenSim grids is the Diva WiFi interface, which shows basic statistics, and allows users to create accounts on a grid. It also allows grid owners to create default avatars and delete accounts. The WiFi interface is used on both mini-grids and larger grids as well, such as on the Next Reality grid. It comes packaged up with the Diva Distro, and is available as a separate download for grids that use the Robust grid management system. The Diva WiFi is also the default for Sim-on-a-Stick and for New World Studio.

Other Web front ends for OpenSim include the jOpenSim, which is based on the Joomla content management system, and the PHP-based OpenSim Web Interface.

However, all of these work with the set of central grid services called Robust. At first, MOSES also used the Robust services, which most grids use by default. It switched to SimianGrid, the main alternative, late last summer. According to Maxwell, SimianGrid allows for easier automation of some functions.

SimianGrid is a separate project from OpenSimulator, and is not included with the standard OpenSim distribution.

Today, MGM only works with SimianGrid, and is not available for the grids that run Robust.

Porting MGM to work with Robust could be difficult, said Michael Heilmann, assistant in simulation at the Institute for Simulation and Training at the University of Central Florida.

“Off the top of my head all interactions with SimianGrid are HTTP REST calls, while Robust uses its console for tasks such as user creation and management,” he said in a discussion about the new release. “I believe that is why WiFi was a module that interfaced with Robust’s database directly, instead of having API calls to manipulate.”

More free regions coming

In other news, MOSES will be releasing six more region files under a Creative Commons license, said Maxwell.

Currently, MOSES offers nine free region files in OAR format, which made up the Atropia simulation.

All the content on the regions is licensed so that anybody can use them, adapt them, build on them, even commercially, as long as they provide credit to the original creator and, if redistributing the content, making it available under the same Creative Commons BY-SA license.

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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.' Doug Maxwell says:

    It has taken me since 2011 to get my organization to allow me to release not just data, but also source code to the open public. Now that we’ve figured out a process to do this safely so that everyone is happy (Public Affairs, Operations, Information Assurance, etc…) you will see more and more coming from the MOSES project in the near future. I look forward to your feedback and thank the community for helping us get to where we are today.

  2.' Nick Zwart says:

    Thanks Douglas. This is great…

  3.' Arielle says:

    Simian Grid option still shows as being a part of the Opensimulator code, in opensimulator.ini Architecture section. Does the Grid Management Tool not work with it also or just the Simian Grid available from code google?

    •' Doug Maxwell says:

      We include the baseline of the simian grid that we test MGM against in the MOSES github repository. You’ll notice it is directly forked from the Intel virtual world interface github repository. We worked together on both code projects to get the functionality we needed.

  4.' hack13 says:

    This tool looks like it could be nice to use, as Simian states the built in interface that comes with it is “for learning purposes” that your supposed to make something like this instead of using it.

    Also simian is very nice software, I have tested it and works very smoothly at scale. However the current conversion tool has quite a few issues with it, making it hard for people to convert. Also its lack of development at supporting the new hypergrid protocols of content protection make it a bit less of a good choice for hypergrid enable grids who are concerned with things of that nature.

    Lastly simian is also seems to be lacking in the newer features, as its groups system is still very out dated as well as its profiles compared to current day systems. Simian however is a great option if you have a someone behind you who knows PHP and OpenSim, and want to run a closed or commercial grid to be a good option to START out with.

    •' Doug Maxwell says:

      All valid points and I agree with everything you said. I don’t want to diminish the value of ROBUST nor turn this into a “ROBUST vs Simian” debate. It is very important that we as system engineers for our grids are deliberate in our selection of management systems and ensure it fits our grid goals.

      Late last spring, we realized we needed to have a way to create a large number of default avatars quickly to support our Atropia role playing scenario during the DSG experiments. Under ROBUST, we found the process cumbersome and time consuming (ie. expensive). We also wanted to auto-populate inventories based on character parameters (gender, family or military unit, occupation or military specialty, etc…). As you pointed out, Simian is behind the times in some respects, but we found that we could write code to quickly generate these parameters and manipulate the avatars efficiently.

      After we got some experience using Simian with the DSG experiments, we decided to take the early stage prototype DSG grid code and port it over to the main MOSES grid. This necessitated a migration from ROBUST to Simian. The migration tool was not consistent and resulted in partial user inventories. In the end, we saved out all the OAR files and everyone’s inventory as IAR files. We then had all the MOSES residents re-register new accounts and we restored their inventories manually.

      An upside is we no longer need port 8002 for our loginURI. From a network topology standpoint, this is a very good thing. It reduces the complexity and makes information assurance accreditation easier. This is a huge win for military networks.

      I still consider hypergridding extremely risky (under our information assurance requirements) as it exposes the databases. That said, it is a wonderful achievement and I look forward to watching it mature.

      MGM also lets us monitor non-homogeneous host status. When we were using MONIT services, we were limited to getting CPU and Memory stats for Linux servers only. Now we can have Windows or Linux && virtual machines or bare metal hosts monitored.

      The goal of MOSES is to perform distributed simulator R&D and the open simulator is a radical architectural departure from the existing game engine norms and the constructive simulation norms. That said, none of the participants in the MOSES grid are paying customers. Instead they are instructed to behave as our guests; to behave as if they were visiting the real ARL/STTC lab site. The participation agreement has clear code of conduct and sets expectations for professional behavior. It is a healthy and productive relationship for everyone.

      If you would like assistance with standing up your own test grid using MGM, we would be happy to help.