1000 avatars on a sim

OpenSim worlds will soon be able to have 1,000 avatar visitors to a single location, according to ReactionGrid CEO Kyle Gomboy.

Gomboy, who was speaking Thursday in front of a live Second Life audience on the Train for Success program hosted by the Gronsted Group , said that Intel has already been able to accomplish this feat in the lab using standard hardware.

“They’re releasing that code in the next few months,” he said.

ReactionGrid COO Robin Gomboy (center, black dress) and CEO Kyle Gomboy (brown toaster to her right) speak at Train for Success in Second Life.
ReactionGrid COO Robin Gomboy (center, black dress) and CEO Kyle Gomboy (brown toaster to her right) speak at Train for Success in Second Life.

Today, ReactionGrid can set up a sim to handle 65 concurrent users, he said, users who are able to mingle, terraform, and script.

“We tested it and verified it,” he said.

That doesn’t mean that 65 is the top limit, added ReactionGrid COO Robin Gomboy. “We reached 65 and we ran out of bodies,” she said. “And it really depends on the hardware and the amount of scripting on the sim.”

According to Kyle Gomboy, OpenSim — the open-source alternative to Second Life — is “alpha software” but is already ready for enterprise use for certain applications, such as training, education and collaboration.

“We have heavyweights like IBM, Intel, and now Microsoft actually getting together — working together, which is unusual for this crowd — working to see this become the most successful virtual world option out there,” he said.

All three companies have private virtual world grids running on the OpenSim platform, he said. In addition, Intel is also behind the public ScienceSim virtual world grid, host to science project and research experiments but also to other projects, such as the Fashion Research Institute’s 100,000-prim Shengri La regions.

“But it is an alpha technology, it is not a replacement for Second Life,” he said. “It is a supplement, at this point, for Second Life, a way to try some things you weren’t able to afford, or weren’t able to try before.”

For example, he said,  one of the things that is missing is the Second Life vehicle scripts because OpenSim doesn’t use the Havoc engine, and instead uses an open  source physics engine.

And companies looking for high traffic need to be in Second Life, he said, where they can benefit from Second Life’s large user base.

However, there are some advantage to being in OpenSim compared to Second Life, he added. These include being able to customize the software, run scripts written in C# and VisualBasic instead of just in the Linden Scripting Language (LSL).

For example, the public ReactionGrid world  is PG, Gomboy said. “The American Cancer Society was thrilled when they came over to our platform and were able to include kids in their events.”

In addition, companies and schools running private OpenSim grids don’t have to abide by any outside terms of service, he added.

“You’re not under our terms of service, you’re not under our rules,” he said. “Everything you do to create your virtual world is 100 percent yours.”

This isn’t just limited to content created in the virtual world but also to any modifications to the OpenSim software, he said.

“Though it is nice to share,” he added.

OpenSim also allows for megaregions — which are several times larger than a normal region, with no internal border crossings.

Meanwhile, most functions available in Second Life are already implemented in OpenSim — and the same browsers can be used to access both platforms.

“In 90 percent of ways, you’re going to see a seamless transition over to OpenSim,” he said.

“You can even find extreme reliability with OpenSim, particularly in the private worlds that we offer,” he said. “You know who is going to log in, you have an isolated set of resources, and you can plan for reliability because it’s your own private world and you know what concurrency and scripting you can handle.”

ReactionGrid helps companies set up private, behind-the-firewall, OpenSim-based virtual worlds, as well as their own OpenSim-based grids accessible to the public. In addition, ReactionGrid also has its own public grid — named, coincidentally, ReactionGrid — where companies can rent regions starting at $25 a month.

Gomboy said that the private grid software starts at $250 and the installation process just takes two clicks.

“We have a single file with the operating system, OpenSim, and any embeddled applications — our web admin app, Sloodle, and our user management system,” he said. “And all this comes embedded on one file, which you can download — you click twice and your world is up and running.”

For example, he said, one large school district  had been running OpenSim on their own, getting the free download from the open source distribution site.

“But they liked our options and support,” he said.

The school already had Windows Server 2008 — the ReactionGrid products run on the Windows platform.

“We prepared a template to their specifications,” Gomboy said. “The custom avatar registration form, the extended administration panel. You click import and play — and your virtual world is up and running. You don’t have to install a database. You can have a science world in the morning, a history world in the afternoon.”

Moving content from Second Life

There are currently two options for moving content from Second Life to OpenSim and vice versa.

When it comes to objects created by the user, the free Meerkat Viewer allows the object to be saved to a computer — then upload again.

“We love the Meerkat client, which is pretty darn stable and getting better all the time,” Gomboy said. “But you want to make sure that you built it yourself.”

For objects owned by others, the Second Inventory application can do a similar transfer.

Gomboy warned users to respect copyrights when transferring objects between grids.

“Even if you have full permission, check with the creator,” he said.

Web-based viewers

The next step for ReactionGrid is to create a Web-based access point for casual user.

“We want a browser-based world, a world that’s available on the iPhone and iTouch,” he said. “We are going to get the casual users in to sit down, attend the meeting, get the fun vibe before and after the event — and not worry about all the other features they would have to use [on a full-scale downloadable viewer].”

Gomboy said he and his team are currently working on a front end for OpenSim based on the Unity viewer that would make this possible.

In a couple of years, the OpenSim platform will grow to be like the early Internet, he said.

“This is not a crushing of Second Life,” he said. “This is an extension.”

Gomboy addressed vising Second Life’s Chris Collins,  general manager for the enterprise , who also attended the event, asking that Linden Lab enable direct teleports between Second Life and OpenSim.

“Hint, hint,” he said. “All of a sudden we have something like the Web — a way of freely traveling anywhere, despite the place or platform.”

Intel’s proof of concept

According to Intel, the “1,000 avatars” number is only a proof of concept, with a perfect environment and automated avatars — not real users.

“The OpenSim development community is actively trying to push the number of concurrent users in a region into the hundreds,” said C. Mic Bowman, the Intel engineer who is working on the project. “Intel is an active participant in that effort. In addition, Intel is experimenting with alternative approaches that can scale the number of concurrent users in OpenSim  regions well beyond those numbers.”

Most of the progress for OpenSim advances goes to the OpenSim developer community “first and foremost,” he added.

“They are doing great work and need to get the credit,” Bowman said.

He warned that there is a difference between proof of concept code and OpenSim source code — and that expectations need to be adjusted appropriately.

According to OpenSim core developer Adam Frisby, the current record for simultaneous avatars in a single location is 85. Frisby is also vice president of OSGrid, the largest OpenSim-based grid, and a co-director of OpenSim development company DeepThink.

However that was running on Linux,” he said. “And we ran out of bodies. I’m confident with that particular release we could have gotten higher.”

Maria Korolov