Zetamex Network has always been about community and giving back to it. As such we love to give up and coming developers looking to practice and hone their skills an opportunity to get real world experience with working on the projects we develop. Putting the learned skills to the test and working on actual production systems, working with an experienced team and creating things that have a true impact. We have opened a new positions for internships for those looking to do just that; more information here
We hope you all have had some nice holidays and survived the new-years parties without any major hangovers. We have used the last couple months of 2017 quite productively and moved to a more efficient setup, new people joined the team and new technology was deployed. As with most things the holidays have slowed things down a bit, but we expect things to start picking up again in the coming weeks.
As new-years resolution we have decided to provide our customers and to-be-customers with some insights into running a grid and what responsibilities that includes. If you are interested in opening your own grid or just curious as to what goes on behind the scenes keep reading.
The best comparison that can be made in terms of workload and responsibility, running a grid is like being the mayor of a small town. You, as the grid owner, bear the responsibility of the well-being of your residents along with all the trouble they cause each other, yourself or others. This usually goes further than most imagine however, still, it can be broken down into a few key points that are of importance.
At the moment of writing this there are over 200 grids out there that are openly accepting registrations and sit open on the hypergrid. This means that there are 200 different concepts, ideas and visions for what “the perfect grid” may look like. It is, for lack of a better word, a saturated market. This is likely not going to change either and so the competition for users, content and activity is fierce and often not all that fair either. This often leads to feuds and drama between grid owners, creators and users; everyone trying to claim a piece of the cake for themselves any means necessary. As dark of a picture this may seem to be, there is an equal opposite of genuine sharing and caring with the aim to collaborate and build a better experience for users, no matter what grid they belong to. Though, as with most things, the bad side of this is often more publicized as dirty laundry makes for greater headlines.
As mentioned previously, the responsibility for everything on a grid lies squarely with the grid owner. This means that writing up proper Terms of Service is a must. Dealing with liabilities, international laws, local laws and claims can quickly consume all your time. Lawsuits can and have happened and especially when it comes to commerce and actual money things can quickly go to court. It is important to have good knowledge over international and local laws pertaining virtual worlds, e-commerce and consumer protections. It also does not hurt to have a good understanding about content policies and copyright. These are areas often overlooked and very few grids actually have proper Terms of Service or End User Licenses covering these areas. Going into further detail or attempting to cover all bases would likely take up hundreds of pages at this point. The best option is to either seek the assistance of a lawyer or, if you like reading, read up on local laws and the laws of the countries you do business in.
OpenSim is, by definition of the project, alpha software. This means that it may not be stable, crash at any time and eat all the work you just did. While we have made some changes to it to increase stability even we cannot guarantee its stability. Making regular backups and understanding the risks is a big part, along with understanding the limitations OpenSim has. If you throw enough at it no hardware will be able to compensate and performance will suffer. Managing load and keeping users from overloading their regions is a big part of running a grid. OpenSim can handle a lot of things if done properly, but one rogue script or item can easily bring everything to a halt. Knowing these things and how to debug and solve these issues is a big part of running a grid and is of vital importance if you want to make the all so important good first impression.
Running a grid, first and foremost, is about handling money. Paying for hardware and service, collecting payments for regions and dealing with commerce. Just paying bills and making sure others pay you, however, is only a small part of it. As soon as money starts changing hands various laws, regulations and requirements come into play. From filing taxes to issuing refunds, all that needs consideration and lots of reading. While it is not directly necessary to register as business when running a grid, when things start picking up and more and more money is involved eventually it will raise some eyebrows and you might find yourself having to pay extra tax or even fines. As with the legal stuff, specific examples depend on so many things that listing them all would take up pages and we simply can’t put this much on the blog.
It can be easy to forget that each and every user is a human being and as such they have their own free will, as much as that may be annoying at times it can also be the greatest asset. Dealing with that asset is another big effort and requires constant attention. One has to realize that as grid owner, in some ways, you also represent the entire community around OpenSim. Further, since not ever user comes from SecondLife or has a Computer-Science background dealing with questions, concerns and issues in a manner from “Explain like I’m Five” to technical-moon-speak is part of running a grid. The end-user support, as it is called, is a big part of the daily tasks and can make or break a grid. As with most good deeds it is rarely recognized so beyond the work itself the commitment can be difficult to keep up. That is the other human factor in the equation. You, as grid owner, have to keep yourself invested just as much, if not more, as the users on the grid.
While having a degree is not required, having a good understanding of hardware, its capabilities and limitations does help quite a bit. OpenSim has very specific requirements in terms of hardware and it can have a massive impact on performance, stability and ultimately the money in your pocket. Beyond the physical machinery you run OpenSim on a big part of the performance comes from the network. Adequate bandwidth and connections are vital, especially if you plan to attract a worldwide audience. We generally advice on those things for our Managed plans, which have us manage OpenSim on hardware that you provide. In all that it is important to keep a watchful eye on scale and scale-ability. When a grid starts growing choosing what upgrades to make and what areas need additional hardware to handle the extra load depend not only on OpenSim itself, but also on its dependencies for Databases, filesystem and more. In all that it is important to keep an eye on what users do and if a performance impasse may not be the hardware’s fault after all.
If all this seems like a lot to consider then that is because it is. As mentioned before, running a grid is like running your own little town or a busy restaurant. It is not something to take lightly and while we generally encourage anyone looking to open a grid, we would not do anyone a good service if we did not educate about these concerns and stipulations. We hope that this has provided at least some insight into what goes into running a grid. There is plenty more that goes into all this and it is in many ways a never-ending story. Dynamic as life itself if you want to be philosophical. In the future we may touch on specific subjects with some actual examples, but for the moment this will have to do.
The term has become more than what it originally described. Nowadays a whole culture and mindset is attached to it. At its core all it describes is that the source-code of a piece of software is available for anyone to easily view and use themselves, without having to reverse-engineer anything. Open-source and the whole FOSS philosophy is about sharing, contributing and furthering software. Many projects rely on volunteers to make additions, fix bugs or maintain compatibilities, but they are not solely bound by that either. Many projects receive help from companies using the software or even develop it in the first place. These companies usually make profit on selling the support for the software or additional pieces or versions not available in the open-source version.
OpenSim is open-source as well. It has historically been developed by volunteers aiming to create a virtual world platform similar to SecondLife. At the time of its creation it truly had the philosophy of an open-source project. Over time the people working on the project left and new ones came in. With new people came new directions and those directions now somewhat differ from what they were initially. These days OpenSim is being developed by people who have a commercial interest in the software and may want to sell any fixes or additions to it. This, as described above, does not break the nature of the open-source idea or philosophy for that matter. At the same time it does mean that the project has somewhat deviated in its course for making the software better to, well, making money. Again, no issues with that in itself, but it must be said that this does create the possibility of additions or fixes being rejected based on the commercial aspect the software is used for by its development team. This has lead to a feeling of stagnation and rejection from the development team towards the community surround OpenSim.
We have always supported the decisions of the development team and have made efforts to support them financially and with additions to code, however the response we have gotten has been rather negative. We no longer see a future for the development of OpenSim with its current development team. As a result we have decided to create our own flavor of OpenSim in order to make sure development continues under the pretense of making the software better. In technical terms it’s called a fork, a divergence from the original. We will start to implement and change OpenSim based on the needs of our customers and to an extend the feedback from the community as a whole. We will continue to support those who want to better the original OpenSim, but the internal politics and money involved for the current development team has lead to unsatisfactory state for us and our customers and we would be mad not to attempt to correct it. This does mean that beside the original OpenSim we will be offering our own ZetaSim for our customers. Additionally we will make efforts to support other forks with the same intend of furthering the development of OpenSim and contribute some of the changes and fixes we have developed for ZetaSim. We feel that is the most liberal decision we could make given the current state of development and the need to support our customers as well.
With the metaverse steadily growing, more grids pooping up almost every week, we realized many do not wish to concern themselves with a detailed breakdown of costs and rather pay a “flatrate” for everything. While we continue to offer our highly customize-able options for grid and simulator hosting, we also want to make it easier for those who just wish to have a single solution, out of the box, running with a set of options already pre-configured. The new packages are available in north America and central Europe and include the basics needed to start your own grid and build a world all of your own.
A little overview of the packages for those interested.
Grid Complete Pack
-Includes all necessary grid services
-Money Server(Podex) or/and Gloebit
-PHP Asset Server with 100GB of asset storage
-Single Simulator for your welcome or failover region
-Integration to Zetamex Website packages and future embedded control panel
Price (excl. Fees): €95.00*
-As many regions as the hardware can handle
-From stable to bleeding-edge all OpenSim-Core versions available upon request
-Access to all future module additions
-Integration to Zetamex Website packages and future embedded control panel
Price (excl. Fees): €85.00*
-Full DDoS protection
-Global caching to reduce loading times
-Daily backups and coldstore for months
-Full realtime monitoring
Price (excl. Fees): €69.00*
*As usual these prices have some flexibility. Name us your budget and we will see how we can accommodate to fit your needs while keeping cost down.
We hope these new packages will make it easier to get your ideas and dreams off the ground. If this sounds like the package you have been looking for feel free to drop us a message!
Zetamex Network continues to grow and that means our network of servers and systems is growing and becoming more complex. Naturally, if nothing is done, it quickly becomes too much to manage. Proper monitoring of systems and automation of common tasks is key. We have made numerous advances in automation already, but monitoring continued to not be touched. This was partly due to the stability of the systems we have made and relatively low amount of incidents we have encountered the last couple months. Still, we don’t like to leave things to chance and it is simply common sense to monitor software like OpenSim, which is still considered somewhat alpha or beta software at this point.
We have spent some time this last week working on just that and introduced a centralized monitoring system for our entire network. Some of you, who may be more familiar with the IT world, might have heard about this system before. It’s the widely used Nagios Monitoring System. A fairly easy decision for us as Nagios is widely used and thus offers a great deal of resources to properly configure the monitoring of our servers and systems. Further have there been numerous drop-in replacements for it, should there ever be a feature we might not find in the standard Nagios system.
Historically the sale of regions has been the biggest market associated with OpenSim with the sale of inworld items, scripts, clothing and infrastructure being a close second place. Commerce have had to deal with currencies coming and going and subsequent customer relations suffering from it all. For the shop owners maintaining a constant income through local residents meant heavy advertising and a reliance on the stability of the grids community. Expansion across the metaverse often meant dealing with different currencies or direct-to-paypal vendor systems to accommodate for total lack of currency. The continuous growth of marketplaces like the Kitely-Market have shown that, first and foremost, ease of use and reliability are what keeps people invested in the creations of the OpenSim community.
To the rescue comes Gloebit, a new currency specifically designed for the hypergrid. Gloebit offers stability, usability and a level of integration that has not been seen in OpenSim thus far. We are happy to announce that with the production launch on ZanGrid, Zetamex Network will be offering Gloebit integration for grid customers.