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Next Generation Of Software Design:
3D Command/Service Centers in Second Life

Fri, Aug 3, 2007

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Yesterday, in Second Life, I met Illuminous Beltran, a.k.a Michael J. Osias, Chief 3D Architect for the IBM IT Optimization Business Unit. Illuminous is leading a team of researchers building 3D Command Centers for customers. And, during my tour of the Virtual Network Operation Center Division of Scripts in the Sky Research Labs, Dreamland Industries, in Second Life, he introduced me to potential role of Second Life in the next generation of software design.

Illuminous’ group is a partnership between the IT Optimization Unit and IBM Research. The key developers are IBM Researchers from Hawthorne NY. Illuminous’ background is in telecommunications, treasury and finance operations, and defense industry. He has experience in large e-Business infrastructures including portals, B2B, e-Commerce, and legacy integration and transformation.

Illuminous’s Virtual Network Operations Center in Second life, and his Holographic Enterprise Interface “that integrates with enterprise systems and provides communications and event management with the 3D environment” was originally his own “skunk-works project.” But, after his VNOC drew attention as a popular way to demonstrate some of IBM’s virtualization and enterprise management tools, IBM decided to invest in the project. They are in the process of making it available to customers. Illuminous’ Second Life project has not only resulted in a number of patents, it is beginning to be leveraged by IBM in a number of ways from saleable products to service offerings.

“Visual Programs or 3D machines are the next level of software design”

Illuminous talked enthusiastically about the uniqueness of Second Life as a 3D platform that offers a new freedom to sculpt and paint code, and create visual programs or 3D machines that are the next level of software design.

In these 3D machines, code and 3D are inseparable and human mind and machine integrate as never before. They will transform industry, business and government through the creation of Virtual Services Operation Centers, Security Operations Centers, and Global Command and Control Systems and much more. 3D data processing will no longer be a simulator but the real deal.

Notably Illuminous said that if Second Life’s servers were open sourced tomorrow his recommendation would be to develop the next generation of 3D Command Centers wholly on the Linden platform. Illuminous has just spent some time porting the VNOC into Torque, an operation requiring a deep level of C code reconaissance necessary “to make Torque dance.” This step, he said, would be unnecessary were the LL servers already open sourced.

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Interestingly, echoing the debate on Arch, Illuminous does not like the term visualization for the work he does in Second Life. He says we are in need of new terms but concepts like visual programs and 3D machines come closer to describing this new generation of 3D code/architecture. And, such 3D information machines have the potential to become increasingly helpful to humanity. They can become, in a global collaborative 3D environment, both beautiful and wise – 3D Wisdom machines.

“The extraordinary potential of an open source 3D platform with the Linden characteristics”

Many may be surprised to hear that for this exciting adventure on the frontiers of software design, Illuminous’ platform of choice is not some high end legacy system but the popular consumer platform of Second Life. Take note if you still see Second Life as a game, or have been convinced by a recent spate of negative reporting that Second Life is just a 3D chat room portrayed as good for nothing but sex, lies, and scandalous videotape.

Illuminous pointed out the extraordinary potential of an open source 3D platform with the Linden characteristics to give software designers the freedom to paint and sculpt, and work together in code as never before.

An open source 3D platform with Linden characteristics would give me a common, interoperable platform that can be used to quickly develop innovative 3D business applications. Some of the desirable characteristics include the grid architecture, the in-world communications infrastructure, and the rich programming and state models.

Illuminous also mentioned that while he has come across critiques of the Linden Script Language at conferences, he does not find these criticisms validated in his own experience.

The Linden script language has been able to fulfill all of the programming requirements I have needed. Instead of forcing tons of function into individual large scripts, I program several interacting objects that collectively are combined to form new types of machines or programs.

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“The 2D Web is, in many ways, an after thought.”

When Illuminous was talking to me about some of the special possibilites Second Life offers to next level software design, I thought of Keystone’s ideas about virtual architecture. And, how the Second Life collaborative environment, and the freedoms and possibilities created by the building and scripting tools have led Keystone to think about reflexive and responsive architecture – “data architecture.”

Illuminous described that 2D web is, in many ways, an “after thought.” In 2D “computers are bored waiting for us,” no chance to burn out a card and get “the blue screen of death” on a Google. And, he explained, to aggregate and integrate information on web pages is very clumsy. The relationship between mind and computer is much more intimate and integrated in 3D. Not only are there the special relations with the structure of objects in play but there is the fourth dimension of time and change.

For a more complete explanation of the VNOC and The Holographic Enterprise Interface you can pick up a prim book (see page below) at Dreamland Industries in Second Life. And, for more pictures of the VNOC see here.

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The rack of XMLRPC Channel banks and the central communications hub does decryption and packet parsing for the Holographic Protocol Architecture.

The Holographic Protocol Architecture (HPA) provides a common and consistent communications framework that allows communications between the virtual and non virtual worlds, and also is used within purely in-world networks.

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Illuminous’ integration server to manage the enterprise API integration and mediate communications has also be used in other virtual worlds.

It has been leveraged for use in other virtual worlds, without modifications by using the back end enterprise plugins and the standard interfaces. This allows us to use multiple 3D engines, with minimal changes to the 3D engine, and nearly none of the integration logic, since the job of the 3D engine to maintain world state and sessions, not process large volumes of data and integration logic.

VNOC and the mitigation of energy issues

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On Ugotrade I have been blogging about the potential for VOCs to revolutionize energy management. The energy management potential of VNOCs may stay neck and neck with increasing demands for power for CPUs for a while until all the tools for energy management can be tied together in cohesive picture. But, Illuminous explained their potential to reduce energy consumption in a number of ways is considerable. For example, Virtual Operation Centers are better able to consolidate the footprint of large numbers of machines only being used at say 10% capacity, to get rid of extraneous machines, and to monitor power and cooling, distribute workload between data centers, and even move processing to cooler site when weather conditions are unfavorable.

This kind of level of virtual energy management has an important role to play in the energy management goals of the EOLUS initiative.

Christopher Linden Visits EOLUS One -”Where Creative Minds Come Together.”

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Last week a steady stream of Metarati visited the EOLUS One iniative that includes in its multifaceted approach a Virtual Operations Center where EOLUS is prototyping and modeling uses cases that have the potential to transform the real estate industry, architecture, and the future of retail. I can only give a taste in this post of the momentum this projects seems to be gathering. I was fortunate to be there last week for a few important meetings, including when Christopher Mahoney, Business Development Manager at Linden Lab, took a tour.

Reinventing the Real Estate Industry in Second Life

Chris has be focusing on SL/RL integrations and is particularly interested in they way the real estate industry could work in new ways in Second Life. But, Chris was clearly blown away when he saw how committed Eolus Mcmillan (a.k.a Oliver Goh of Implenia) is to creating a new model for the Real Estate Industry that puts Second Life at the heart of a new approach to managing the complete life cycle of property.

The life cycle of property can be revolutionized in many ways in a virtual environment and each moment of the cycle, in Eolus Mcmillan’s view, offers different points of engagement, from collaboration on planning and virtual modeling, to the use of Virtual Operation Centers for building management and more. The cycle begins with a birth – a piece of land where decisions are yet to be made about what to do with it, and ends with a maintenance mode – where different responsiblities are on different parties e.g. owners, tenants and even the property itself. For example, at the end, a property may be enlisted through building automation to such tasks as taking care of its elderly occupant who has a pace maker, or needs their blood sugar or heart problems monitored.

Tab Scott (a.k.a Terry Beaubois in Real Life), Keystone Bouchard, Virtual Architect for Clear Ink, and Kiwini Oe a.k.a Steve Nelson of Clear Ink have been putting their heads together on this reinvention of the Real Estate life cycle (more on this in another post).

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I caught two other metarati stopping by EOLUS One also. Fizik Baskerville (a.k.a Justin Bovington of Rivers Run Red) who is working on a number of very interesting SL/RL integration projects that I hope will be the topic of a future post. And, Pathfinder Linden who flew in and connected the EOLUS One Initiative with his friends at MIT Media Lab, Responsive Environments Group.

Open Sourcing the Second Life Servers

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During the tour, which I will discuss later in this post, Christopher Linden made clear statements on the goals re open sourcing server side (the client is, of course, already open source).

The first tough step for LL Chris explained is figuring out a way that Second Life assets can be distributed onto other servers without degrading the property rights of all the current residents who have so much invested in all the many, many assets they have created on Second Life. And, while this is a thorny problem involving many issues from file encryption to permission structures, Chris indicated that the ability to back up assets on other servers could be available by the end of the year. Rumor has it that full open sourcing is on something like an 18 month schedule. But LL, as far as I know, have not mentioned dates as yet, although they have been very clear about their intentions to completely open source, and that they are moving as fast as they possibly can. Chris concurred saying that Linden Lab are preparing to open the platform completely and transform themselves into an application provider of services like search, Voice Over IP, user interfaces etc.

And, if open sourcing of the server side is accomplished in 15 to 18 months, Eolus Mcmillan said this would be timely for the EOLUS initiative which he hopes will be ready to gear up for large scale integration projects in about the same period.

William Gibson in Second Life

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William Gibson’s appeared live on Aug 2nd in Second Life, doing his first ever reading from Spook Country (to be released in stores next week) and followed by Q&A. The cinema on Rivers Run Red (Avalon) was packed and the excitement was tangible.

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categories: Augmented Reality, crossing digital divides, Metarati, Metaverse, Mixed Reality, open source, Second Life, social media, Virtual Citizenship, Web 2.0, Web 3D, Web3.D, World 2.0
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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Douglass Turner Says:

    Careful,

    It is important to understand that this 3D software development environment is highly domain specific and by no means a general purpose approach to software development.

    In fact I am extremely dubious of the fuzzy claims made by Illuminous Beltran about this “environment” for software development.

    Cheers,
    SL: Douglas Douglas

  2. Douglass Turner Says:

    Actually a better characterization of this environment is a graphica toolkit for connecting user facing frontends to pre-built backend services. For context readers might want to take a look at SAP’s Netweaver which is a 2D graphical environment for building enterprise services.

    These are tools that claim to enable application building with little or no hand coding.
    The key word to focus on here is frontend or client (your web browser for example). These tools are not used to build the backend services.

    This is why a language as limited as LLScript can be used. I doubt Illuminous Beltran actually thinks LLScript is in the same league as Ruby, Python, Perl, or C#.

    The motivation is that as more and more applications become network attached services exposed via a client (browser) this graphical approach to application building will become more common.

    Bottom line, calling this blog post “Next Generation Of Software Design …” is highly misleading.

    Cheers,
    SL: Douglas Douglas

  3. ottoL Says:

    NOTE: by “this 3D S.D.E.” he is referring to S.L. which is heavily<br />
    “domain specific” but only where location is concerned. I.E. each<br />
    location has a server and domain which controls certain features of it’s<br />
    reality. </p>
    <p>However this actually does not interfere with most of what<br />
    Illuminous was saying. What it does affect is the cooperative or<br />
    collaborative coding, since any members that need to cooperate or<br />
    collaborate must be in the same domain i.e. island or server. But this<br />
    seems rather obvious and not really a problem.</p>
    <p> When the commenter refers to a “general purpose approach to S.D.” he<br />
    means the old fashioned way of development, which is not what<br />
    Illuminous is talking about at all.</p>

  4. ottoL Says:

    1. The concept of doing software development using plug and play
    objects is nothing new.
    2. A VNOC is not much more than monitoring and control, and thus ideal
    for the LL scripting and 3D building.
    3. The general process of building small objects capable of
    interacting, and then using them to construct larger more complex
    entities is exactly what object oriented programming is all about.
    4. Yes LL scripting might (emphasis on might) need some add ons to make
    it more of a general software development toolkit (personally I don’t
    really know where it stands on this score).
    5. Again collaboration is the keyword here. Being able to work with
    several to many developers around the world is a goal DEFINITELY worth
    pursuing!
    CONCLUSION:
    I see nothing misleading about the title or content of the post.
    Regards -
    OttoL

  5. Radomir Says:

    Great post, thanks for the info

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