LL confirms Second Life regions now all on AWS

Logos ©, ™ and ®Linden Lab and Amazon Inc

On Thursday, November 19th, and after several months of very hard work in order to manage things in an orderly and as non-disruptive manner as possible, the last remaining regions on the Agni (the Second Life main grid) were successfully transitioned over to running on Amazon Web Services (AWS), thus placing the entire grid “in the cloud”.

The announcement can first via Twitter, and from April Linden, the Lab’s Systems Engineering Manager, Operations, who announced:

April Linden’s announcement

The Lab actually started transitioning regions several weeks ago, and without fanfare, first moving a number of regions only accessible to Linden personnel, and they carefully widening things to include selected public regions on the Mainland, and  – subject to the estate owners initially keeping quiet as well – private regions that experience assorted loads.

These initial transitions were more about testing certain aspects of simulator operations, rather than marking the outright start of any region migration process; the Lab wanted to gather data on simulator / region performance on AWS and investigate how simulators with a wide mix of avatar  / content loads behaved.

However, these initial moves quickly gave April and her team, the QA team under Mazidox Linden  and the simulator development team, the confidence to start broadening the “uplift” process further, extending things first to the simulator release candidate deployment channels (RC channels) and then, in the last couple of weeks, the bulk of the regions as they sit on the SLS “Main” channel.

While there have been hiccups along the way – most notably with teleport problems and group chat / IM failures,together with some performance degradation in other areas – on the whole, the entire transition of the grid has been remarkably smooth and problem-free.

However, this does not mean all of the work is over: as LL would only be quick to point out themselves, there are still a number of back-end systems to transition to AWS, and after that, there will inevitably be a period of “bedding in” everything to get things running, before work can start on the “fine tuning” of all the various services. (there are also some regions still running in the Lab’s co-location facility in Arizona to help  people with workarounds for specific issues, but these are perhaps just a handful, including a couple of  public regions – Debug1 and Debug2.)

Soft Linden on the AWS transition

Nevertheless, this is a huge achievement, and marks a hugely significant milestone in what has thus far been around a 3-year project to get all of Second Life safely transitioned over to AWS, so congratulations to all of those at the Lab who have been working very hard to make this happen, and without causing widespread upset or issues.

Lab introduces Second Life public events calendar

Earlier in November, a little discussion round robin kicked-off on the subject of helping to keep SL users informed of events. It was kicked off by John Westra, after I posted an article  concerning the (then upcoming) Lab Gab session with Oz and Mazidox Linden discussing the Cloud Uplift project, who tweeted:

His voice was amplified by J.M. Hardin, who in turned tweeted a request for some form  of calendar functionality users could turn to to help stay abreast of what’s going on within Second Life:

J.M. Hardin’s response

I thought this was an excellent idea, so thought I’d add my voice to the call – which someone at Linden Lab (/me waves to Strawberry / Tara) – appeared to like:

My own thoughts on the calendar idea, as “liked” by the official Second Life Twitter account

Roll forward a couple of weeks, and it is revealed that not only was the discussion read and liked, it prompted so action as well, as on Thursday, November 19th, Linden Lab announced the launch of the Second Life public calendar  – not that no log-in is required to view the calendar, just click the link and then bookmark the page.

The calendar is already packed within a range of events  – including things like the weekly / monthly user group meetings – with each item neatly annotated with further information: just click on an item to expand it (see below). In addition, the blog post includes an ICAL feed link you can use to add the SL calendar to you personal calendar, and you can of course select individual events and add them individually to your own calendar, marked this as a very flexible response to the requests.

The SL public calendar provides a list of all official SL events that are occurring in-world, complete with details and the ability to add events to your own calendar (arrowed in red), or you can use an ICAL feed link to add the entire calendar to your own.

So, thanks to John and J.M. for the idea – and thank you, Linden Lab (particularly the folks on the Marketing team) for following-up on the idea and implementing it.

 

Second Life COVID-19: a Digital Cultures survey

Tom Boellstorff and his digital alter ego, Tom Bukowski (image: Steve Zylius / UCI): launching a new study in Second Life

In July of this year, I wrote about Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in Second Life), a Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) who has a long history of engagement with, and the study of, virtual worlds and environments, who was then launching a new study, The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission (see: Second Life & COVID-19: a Digital Cultures study – call for participants).

This work, supported by National Science Foundation, in part grew out of a broader study Tom and his students had been conducting into the role of virtual environments and applications and their impact on those using them (see: Studying digital cultures in Second Life, June 2020), and which itself had suffered disruption during the pandemic, forcing Tom and his students to turn to digital tools.

The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission has involved to platforms: Animal Crossing and Second Life – with the latter being used for a series of open discussions among Tom and his students and Second Life residents interested in attending.

As we know, this pandemic has been reshaping on-line interaction; as many have noted, what we call “social distancing” is really physical distancing, and because of it, an unprecedented number of people have been socialising on-line, in new ways and for new purposes. A better understanding of these new digital cultures will have consequences for COVID prevention: successful physical distancing will rely on new forms of social closeness on-line. It will also have consequences for everything from work and education to climate change.

– Professor Tom Boellstorf, discussing The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures
in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission
, July 2020

Those meetings are still on-going at the UCI Irvine’s Anteater Island every Thursday at 10:00 SLT, however, on November 14th, Tom dropped me a line asking me to help in encouraging Second Life users to also participate in an on-line survey that also forms a part of the study. Unfortunately, an on-going family situation in the physical world prevented me for actually noting Tom’s request – so my apologies to him and his team for my tardiness in only writing about it at this point in time.

The survey should take around 10-15 minutes to complete, and is given the following purpose / description:

We are studying what people are doing in Second Life in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic [to gain a] better understanding this might provide innovative strategies for preventing viral transmission by forging new forms of social closeness in the context of physical distancing. It might also help us better respond to the transformed social lives we are all destined to encounter. We would love to learn about your experiences!

From The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission survey

It is not an anonymous survey – you will be asked to give your avatar name and an e-mail address – but none of the questions are deeply intrusive, and focus on activities and interactions through Second Life.

Anteater Island  (landing point) – the location for the weekly discussions

Second Life residents who would like to complete the survey can do so here.

You can also learn more about the study to the website.

Links to Tom Boellstorff in this Blog

SLurl Details

Don’t forget: Lab Gab, November 6th: cloud update

via Linden Lab

Lab Gab returns on Friday, November 6th, 2020, with a cloud migration update.

As most are aware, the work to transition Second Life to operating via Amazon Web Services (AWS) has now progressed to a point where regions on the main grid (called Agni) are starting to be transitioned. In fact, by the time the Lab Gab show live streams, approximately one-third of all Agni regions will be operating via AWS services.

At the same time, as as per my November 2020 Web User Group summary, the Web teams are hopeful that all web properties will be running via AWS by early December, placing the Lab on course to achieve its target of completing the migration (referred to as Project Uplift) by the end of 2020 (although there will likely be more work related to it to follow in early 2021).

This being the case, the Lab Gab segment will feature Oz Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Engineering (and the man pretty much in overall charge of the engineering / technical aspect of the work) and Mazidox Linden, the Lab’s senior QA Engineer who has been particularly involved in the migration work, testing the simulator code in reference to the migration work, and who describes the project as “the largest change to the simulator [software] ever.”

“The Bugspray” Mazidox Linden (l) and Oz Linden will be joining Strawberry Linden on the Friday, November 6th segment of Lab Gab to discuss the cloud migration work

As usual, the programme will be streamed via YouTube, Facebook, or Periscope, at 10:00 SLT, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll have a summary of the video (and the video itself) available soon after the the broadcast, for those unable to watch live.

For those who may have questions on the migration work, there is still time to submit them via the Lab Gab Google form, in addition, and if there is time, questions may also be taken from the chat feeds associated with the live stream channels.

Lab resumes offering private regions in Second Life

via Linden Lab

In May, as the Lab started gearing-up to move Second Life regions to being hosted on AWS cloud services, an announcement was made that private regions would be subject to limited availability (see Limited Availability of New Second Life Region), prior to further sales of private regions being effectively frozen. 

However, the work in migrating regions from the Lab’s co-lo facility to AWS services progressing well (up to approximately 30% of all main grid regions should be migrated by the end of week #45), so much so that on Tuesday, November 3rd, the Lab announced that private regions are to be made available once more, initially on a limited quantity (per order) basis.

The blog post making the announcement reads in part:

As Oz recently discussed in a post, we are hard at work on uplifting Second Life to the cloud. It’s an incredibly exciting time, and we’re already seeing some significant improvements to Second Life as a service from this process. 
Additionally, many regions on the grid are now running on AWS simulators, with more being added every day!
In light of more regions being moved to the cloud, we are pleased to announce that we are ready to begin offering new private region purchases in limited quantities. As we continue to uplift more of the grid, more regions will become available over time, eventually leading to the Land Store being reopened. 
If you wish to purchase a private region, please submit a support ticket through our Support Portal. The ticket can be submitted under the Land & Region > Order Private Region category. Please include the region name, which must conform to region naming guidelines. Following your ticket submission, we will either process the region purchase, or add your request to a wait list, which will be handled in the order the submission is received. In the event that your request is put on the waiting list, we will not charge your account until the point when the region is delivered.

– Linden lab blog post

Current pricing and requirements for obtaining private regions can be found here, with further information on private regions is available via available here.

Second Life Cloud Uplift: April Linden updates

Logos ©, ™ and ®Linden Lab and Amazon Inc

Things are moving apace with the project to transition all of the Second Life services and simulators to running on Amazon AWS cloud services.

  • On Friday, October 16th, Oz Linden offered a blog update (which I also blogged about) – when there were 100 regions on the main grid running via AWS.
  • On  Tuesday October 20th, I then blogged about the move to expand the number of regions running on AWS.
  • On the same day, I was able to give an update with news that the number of regions on AWS had increased to around 300.

On Wednesday, October 21st, April Linden gave a further update on the project’s status – A Light in the Cloud: A Migration Updatenoting that around 1,000 regions are now based on AWS. However, her blog post also comes with a request:

The favour I’ve come to ask you for is your patience.
We’re doing our very best to fix things that come up as we go. This means that we might need to restart regions more often than you’re used to, and things may break just a little more often than we’ve all been accustomed to.
In order to get this project done as fast as possible and minimize the time (and resulting bugs) we have to spend with one foot in our datacenter and the other in the cloud, we don’t want to limit ourselves to restarting regions just once a week. We’re ready to get this project done! We’ve seen how much better Second Life runs in the cloud, and we’re ready to have everyone on the grid experience it.
I’m sorry that things might be a little rough over the next few weeks. It’s our goal to finish the cloud migration by the holidays, so that everyone, Resident and Linden alike, can have a nice quiet holiday with our friends and families.
We can’t promise we’ll make it by then, but we’re sure giving it all we’ve got. The mood around the Lab is really positive right now, and we’re all working hard together to make it happen. I’m really proud to be a part of the team that’s transforming Second Life as we know it.

April Linden

There’s obviously a good way to go before everything is settled, 1,000 regions is a small number compared to the the total on the grid, and there are still various back-end systems to be migrated.

But when you consider the sheer volume of work involved in migrating all of the Lab’s systems and properties related to Second Life, the entire project has, from a user perspective, been remarkably smooth thus far – and hopefully things will continue to be so.

Read all of April’s post here.