Cloud-Based Virtual World Platforms<br />Eric Hackathorn1, Brandon Lynge11NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, ...
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Cloud-Based Virtual World Platforms


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An examination of the open-source virtual world platform OpenSimulator running in Amazon Web Service using RightScale as a management platform. In the future, this type of infrastructure could potentially provide cheap and secure virtual world technology to a variety of enterprises.

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Cloud-Based Virtual World Platforms

  1. 1. Cloud-Based Virtual World Platforms<br />Eric Hackathorn1, Brandon Lynge11NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado<br /><br />What is “Cloud Computing?”<br />What is “OpenSim?”<br />Why use OpenSim?<br />Cost Comparison<br />OpenSimulator, often referred to as OpenSim, is an open source platform for hosting virtual worlds. While it is most recognized for compatibility with the Second Life client, it is also capable of hosting alternative worlds with differing feature sets with multiple protocols. <br />Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, where shared resources, software, and information are provided to customers on-demand, <br />One key advantage of OpenSimulator over many virtual world platforms is the ability to define organization specific term of services, end-user licensing agreements, and covenant needs. Organizations are not limited to 3rd party terms regarding how they can use the virtual world service since everything about the environment is defined internally.<br />like a public utility. It typically involves the provision of dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources as a service over the Internet. In general, cloud computing customers do not own their own physical infrastructure and avoid capital expenditure by renting usage from a third party. For this project, we leveraged Amazon Web Services, along with “RightScale” as an “infrastructure as a service” cloud offering.<br />OpenSim Cloud Architecture<br />It is designed to be easily expanded through the use of plug-in modules and several modified distributions exist, such as realXtend. Additional plug-ins can be found on the OpenSimulator Forge. In addition, multiple servers can be integrated into a “grid” that allows larger more complex areas to be simulated. In grid mode, responsibilities are divided among six servers: the user server, the grid server, the asset server, the inventory server, the messaging server, and the region server(s).<br />Block Diagram<br />Client Applications<br />What are the pros and cons?<br /><br />The tables above do not include salary for the technical administration on the self-hosted solution. In many projects, salary represents the largest single expenditure. However, the time it takes to successfully manage OpenSimulator shortens significantly once a technician is familiar with the technology. In addition as demonstrated above, there is an economy of scale when running a larger grid.<br />Architecture Diagram<br />Client Login<br />Grid Services<br />Land Servers<br />User<br />Region<br /><br />Inventory<br />Region<br />A Potential Future<br />Asset<br />Region<br />Grid<br />Region<br />For this project we chose to use RightScale an umbrella service for cloud computing that allows clients to develop an application once and deploy it to multiple infrastructures. Even with minimal knowledge of cloud architectures, it was possible to take advantage of pre-packaged solutions for common application scenarios to get up and running quickly. This allowed for more focus on OpenSimulatorrather than the underlying infrastructure.<br />In addition, through the use of Eucalyptus it is possible to extend this solution into a hybrid private-public cloud infrastructure. This strategy alleviates many of the security concerns surrounding cloud infrastructure. <br />In the future, virtual worlds likely will be modeled after the current World Wide Web, with millions of independent administrative domains. A rich community of value added services and the free and open exchange of content will weave the network together, much as the Web 2.0 movement is tying the web together today. Every organization can choose what services they will run themselves, what services will be provided by third parties, and which third parties will provide services. Additionally, the content rights decisions are placed in the hands of the content hosts. With the proper authentication, users are free to move assets to wherever they roam. <br />Data services will become as important as data hosting itself. Just as search engines and content portals have changed how we use the web, services that can plug into a common interface in asset hosting will change how we use virtual worlds. Auditing services can provide an approach to rights management and traffic analytics. Existing caching techniques and services that have been built for today's web content can be leveraged for delivery of rich virtual world content.<br />Messaging<br />Database<br /><br />The barriers to entry for creating and running a virtual world are still high. Even with popular platforms such as OpenSimulator, grid administrators assume the monumental task of overseeing many or all of the above services when only a simple world simulation is needed. <br />This all-or-nothing approach prevents the development of a robust virtual world ecosystem. Today's large stakeholders in content hosting, content delivery acceleration, identity services, and social networking face difficult entrance barriers due to the walled garden nature of current worlds.<br />At this time, demand for a government hosted OpenSimulator solution is minimal. However, thanks to cloud computing the operational cost is close to zero. In the future, this project could quickly respond to increased customer demand.<br />RightScale Management Console<br />Management Console<br />Eucalyptus<br />Customizable Login Screen<br />Mesh-based Content<br /><br />Cheap Land!<br />Public Cloud Services<br />Contact information<br />NOAA’s Virtual Worlds Program<br /><br /><br />Xen<br />KVM<br />VMWare<br /><br />“Virtual Hawaii”<br />