Predictions for OpenSim in 2010 January 15, 2010Posted by justincc in opensim, opinion, secondlife, virtual-environments, virtual-worlds.
Hello folks. Having assessed my 2009 predictions at the end of last year, I meant to get this post out very shortly afterwards but, as so often, life intervened :). Still better a couple of weeks late than never, so here are my predictions for OpenSim in 2010. Just to conform with everyone else, I thought that I’d use the grand word ‘predictions’ this year instead of ‘guesses’. This doesn’t ensure greater accuracy, though :).
- OpenSim will remain in alpha for 2010. OpenSim has progressed pretty well over the past year. There have been many new features and a large number of bugs have been cleared up, including some really difficult race-condition related failures. However, OpenSim is a beast of a project and many, many issues remain. Moreover, early on in the year we’ll see some significant refactoring in OpenSim – the simulator service architecture will see its final transition to the ROBUST framework and the central scene object classes will be redesigned. These changes are essential but in the short term they will introduce bugs of their own and force anybody already interfacing with those parts of OpenSim to adapt.
For these reasons, I don’t think that OpenSim will emerge from alpha in 2010. However, I do think that stability will continue to improve in the second half of 2010, leading to significant pressure to label ourselves as beta early on in 2011.
- There will be a lot more experimentation with OpenSim in education and business contexts. Earlier in the year, I was very interested to read just how well known OpenSim was within the UK’s higher education system. And I know that other countries are not too far behind and some (such as Australia) are probably a little bit ahead. So I believe that education-related use of OpenSim will grow strongly in 2010, particularly in the second half as OpenSim’s stability and usability improve. Business and innovators will also continue to experiment with OpenSim, but from what I’ve seen they require a level of platform stability that I don’t think that OpenSim will have in 2010.
- Both general-purpose and specific use grids will grow. Specific use grids such as ReactionGrid, a grid oriented towards educators and collaborators, grew significantly in 2009. I don’t see why this shouldn’t continue in 2010. Sciencesim, another research and education oriented OpenSim installation, is also making some very interesting moves, particularly with their recent Settlement Land collaboration with the Fashion Research Institute. This program will award educators, scientists, and researchers with a free 1/4 region of land in ScienceSim for 6 months. Naturally, this will encourage expansion of the ScienceSim grid.
When I assessed my 2009 guesses I wasn’t too sure whether we had seen any growth in general-purpose grids. There hadn’t been any obvious upswing in related blogging and no data was available. However, Maria Korolov has recently come out with some December 2009 region numbers. Comparing these to the numbers she had back in September 2009, the largest social grids appear to show significant growth (OSGrid up by 812 regions / 30%, The New World Grid up by 106 regions / 40%), though others have shrunk or folded. So I’m going to make the prediction that these will continue to grow in 2009, though I don’t see network effects kicking in to make that growth exponential – the platform and environment isn’t suitable for that this year.
- Some form of OpenSim foundation will appear, maybe more than one. Various factors (slowly increasing popularity, historically high level of churn in the OpenSim code, development unpredictability) are beginning to produce calls for the establishment of formal organizations connected with OpenSim. These don’t necessarily need to be directly connected with core code development – ScienceSim, for instance, is working on a proposal for a foundation to support a downstream distribution using OpenSim, among other services. It’s quite possible for organizations like this to co-exist with an Apache-like organization that surrounds OpenSim itself.
I think that at least one such foundation will come about this year.
- There will be a few more OpenSim distributions. An OpenSim distribution is a project that uses OpenSim as it’s base virtual environment/virtual world platform. At one extreme a distribution could stick closely to what is in the OpenSim core project. At the other end of the range it could significantly alter OpenSim features and swap in its own communication protocols.
The OSGrid distribution, for instance, is close to the core OpenSim extreme while modrex (which enables the Realxtend environment) is closer towards the other end.
I think that we will see a few more distributions in 2010, though I predict that they will tend towards bundling code, tools or modules surrounding OpenSim rather than significantly changing OpenSim’s base functionality. I think that the economic and virtual environment sector isn’t at the right stage for the level of investment required to significantly adapt OpenSim, notwithstanding the existing Realxtend effort.
- The vast majority of OpenSim access will continue to be through the Linden Lab viewer and its direct descendents. I said this last year but I still think that it holds true. In fact, as I noted in my 2009 assessment, a lot of the non-Linden derived viewer projects have fallen inactive. There are some promising new ones but a year is not long enough, in my opinion, to get them seriously underway.
- Cross grid experimentation will continue but not go mainstream. Again, a prediction that carries over from last year. Work is still being done on projects such as Hypergrid and Grider, but I don’t think that the environment is mature enough yet to bring these to more general notice. Fundamental security issues remain with the current version of Hypergrid that, in my view, greatly hamper serious experimentation. However, I continue to think that in the long term, Hypergrid 2.0/Grider is a very promising architectural approach for a properly distributed network of virtual environments, one that overcomes the current security issues.
- OpenSim will start to support mesh objects. There’s significant interest in mesh objects and with the upcoming scene object refactor it will be significantly easier to support these as a native object within OpenSim. Of course, one has to have a suitable viewer to make use of this – Realxtend’s Naali and 3di’s Rei have support for meshes and the new ‘2.0’ Second Life viewer was reported to include them too, though apparantly this is an unfounded rumour. Nonetheless, I expect that the OpenSim server will natively support the storage of meshes in some form before 2010 is out.