Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Grid Zero: Open Grid Protocol

Earlier today a new page emerged at the Second Life wiki. It's a page many of us have been waiting for: Zero Linden publishes the first draft outline for opening up the Second Life grid in Second Life Grid Open Grid Protocol, SLGOGP for short.

Here's a short extract:


"This protocol is about a three way interaction between viewer, agent and region in order to facilitate a shared experience between people. The viewer is the element that senses and acts on the state of the virtual world. The viewer does so from the vantage point of an agent. An agent is persistent identity and persona that interacts in a virtual world. The agent persists and can be interacted with even when the user controlling it (though a viewer) is off-line.

Regions are persistent locations in the virtual world. Multiple agents may be present in a region at the same time, and when they are they have a shared experience. Groups of regions and agents are managed by domains. A region domain is responsible for a collection of regions. An agent domain manages agent accounts.

This protocol makes few assumptions about how a domain manages its collection of elements. In particular, it does not assume that a region will be entirely managed on a single host, nor that an agent will or won’t be managed by
a single process. It is useful to think of the “stance” that each element takes in the three-way protocol: The viewer is the direct proxy for a human that wants to control an agent. This control can be direct as in the case of an interactive 3D viewer, or indirect as in the case of a web site that the user directs to display their agent’s status.

The agent domain is responsible for the agent itself. The persistent state of the agent is held within the agent
domain, and requests to interact with the agent, even by the viewer, are mediated by the agent domain. The region domain runs the live simulations of regions in the virtual world. The region domain manages the persistent state of these regions."



(Architecture representation by Ugotrade, september 2007)



SL watcher for Massively, Tateru Nino writes:


"While very preliminary and far from complete, the SLGOGP is essentially the beginnings of the technical underpinning that will ultimately allow the cohesive operation of both Linden-operated and non-Linden-operated Second-Life style
simulators and grids."
I can't wait for the grid to open up and I'll be able to hook up my own sim.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

How linden lost its Core

On December 11 there was a glitch in the Metaverse as Linden Lab crashed the core of Second Life: Corey Ondrejka had left the building. Immediately a stream of rumours began to appear in the blogosphere, good for 4.500 + hits on the search "Ondrejka + Fired" at Google within a week.


The official reading is that Corey thinks its time to look for a new challenge after a couple of hectic years at Linden Lab. The word on the street however says that he disagrees with the man upfront on the future of Second Life. This disagreement could lead to a departure on friendly terms, but judging from an email that popped up at Massively the general consencus is that he was fired:



Trying to sum up 7 years of work at Linden is an impossible task. All nighters at the Linden Street office. Gaining 20 pounds but then losing 70. Flying 350,000 miles on Linden travel. Recruiting and hiring many of you. Creating a programming language that now had 2.5 billion lines of code written in it – note to self, next time spend more than one night designing language. Changing the world.


It has been an absolute thrill working with all of you on Second Life. When Philip looked across a rickety card table in November of 2000 and told me that we would do more than build a great product, we needed to build a great company, too, I knew it would be a wild ride. Through the peaks and the valleys, Philip's ideas challenged and inspired me. They often led to solutions I would never have considered and helped to make Second Life what it is today.


I continue to believe in both Second Life and Linden Lab, but Philip and my visions for the future of Linden Lab are divergent enough that he decided to lead in his own way. While I will miss all of you, I have confidence in
engineering - in all of you - to adapt and excel going forward. You are a phenomenal collection of talents and I know that both Linden Lab and Second Life will be hugely successful.


Valleywag, which first reported on the separation on Tuesday, says that Ondrejka was fired over the same differences of opinion that Ondrejka mentions in his email (especially the last paragraph).


Philip Rosedale responded:



"I can confirm that Cory Ondrejka, CTO, will be leaving Linden Lab at the end of this year, in order to pursue new professional challenges outside the company. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank Cory for his tremendous contribution to the company and to Second Life, in terms of its original vision and ongoing progress.


As it grows, the needs of our company are changing, and
the role of CTO, or technical lead, has also evolved. herefore, Cory and I are in agreement that our paths, at this point in time at least, lie in different directions.


During Cory's tenure the engineering team has grown tremendously, and given the breadth and depth of our technical expertise, we do not foresee any impact on our development plans. Together, we've produced great things in the development of Second Life, and I know Cory will go on to achieve excellence in his chosen field."


Which, according to massively is a basic formula of saying "we fired him". This gets fuelled after (again) massively obtains an internal Linden Lab email reading:




8:47pm EST] I have obtained a copy of Philip's email that he sent to his employees, which you can read after the jump


...Cory is going to leave LL. He has been with us for 7 years, and was the fourth person to join. So this is a big deal. Cory has been a huge part of the company, having
designed big parts of SL, hired many people, contributed greatly to the culture, and given a powerful voice to SL and LL. Among other things, he had the original design idea for the love machine, single handedly wrote the scripting language, and got us all doing A&Os back in 2001. Losing him will be hard for the company. I will miss him a lot.


What's worse is that ultimately his leaving is my decision.Cory and I have differences in how we think Linden should be run, differences that in the past few months have become irreconcilable. These are tensions that were more manageable when we were smaller, and there have been times that they have helped us do great work together. But now, as we change and grow as a company, I feel that we need a different set of strengths in engineering leadership.


I strongly believe that this is the right decision, although not without pain, for both LL and Cory. Of course, I'm not going to go into the details of these differences. This is one of those times when, in having me as your leader, you will also have to trust me in my decision. I will hold a brown bag as soon as possible to talk about this with anyone who would like, and will schedule time both in-world and in person here in San Francisco.



Please send any external questions you get about this change to Robin who will make sure they get answered.


Philip


What will be the effect of this sudden departure? The large majority reads it as a bad omen. Tateru Nino writes:


If you asked me this-morning, "Who can Linden Lab least afford to lose" my answer would have been simple: Cory Ondrejka and Robin Harper. At least (sitting on the outside here), every other member of staff seems to be replaceable.

I tend to disagree and go with the other reading, which was clearly voiced at Ambling in Second Life:


As a friend of mine put it, small companies need uber-hackers - they ignite the process, build innovative solutions and get you up and running quickly. I may be doing Cory a disservice, but it seems to me he fits into this category. However, once you have a large (and largely successful) implementation on your hands, your focus shifts from rapid innovation and heads more towards Quality of Service and effective service delivery. The skills for
this sort of role are quite different, and this may be where Rosedale has identified a key weakness. God knows, most of us are aware that this has been a key weakness!

Second Life has exploded over the last year, from 500K registered users in August 2006 to 11 million now. Scalability and Stability of the grid has been an issue and resulted in the Project Open Letter initiative, a call for more stability by hundreds of residents. Linden Lab has done a good job on these issues in the last six months though, as the grid capacity for concurrent logins has been doubled from 30 to 60K and with Havok 4 to be implemented on the main grid soon, the issue of stability will be largely addressed as well.


If this would do the trick for Second Life, it would put Corey into the driving seat. But when you put it into the perspective of Mark Lentczner's (Zero Linden) vision for Second Life, it falls short massively:


(Headlines from Zero Linden's office hours, posted by Dizzy Banjo on Soundtracking Virtual Worlds)



  • Linden are not just talking about the sim limits we have now - they are talking truly epic scale: "to evolve the SL architecture into something that is internet wide."

  • Transition to "SL2.0" is being designed to be as seamless as possible.

  • Now for the numbers: 60Million regions; 2Billion avatar accounts; maybe 50M to 100M on-line... though admittedly hypothetical

  • And "on-line might mean something more lightweight in the future"

To achieve this, it seems pretty obvious that coding Second Life needs a different approach. With Linden Lab slowly turning away from that cowboy TAO approach and slowly implementing a more structured approach to avoid the issues that have angered the crowd in the past there would be no room for a rogue-programming approach to Second Life.


Now the speculative part. Would Mark Lentcner be LL's new CTO? I think he would be a good choice, as he is actively communicating with the Second Life community he has credit there. The only problem is, what is it with Second Life and Eastern European names? (Ondrejka out, but Zdanowski and Letcner and whathaveyougot...)

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