Bright Canopy now a part of Frame

Bright CanopyBright Canopy, the streaming service which allows users on low-end computers to access both Second Life and OpenSim, has announced it is effectively being absorbed by Frame, the cloud service provider which has been a technology partner with Bright Canopy from almost the beginning.

Bright Canopy came into existence after the demise of the SL Go service provided by the former Onlive games streaming company, after that company opted to offer itself for sale, only to have Sony Computer Entertainment buy out its IP and patents, ending the company as a going concern.

However, the going has been a little rough at times for Bright Canopy, particularly as no-one has attempted to provide access to Second Life and OpenSim in quite this way before (OnLive utilised their own dedicated servers and data centres), so it has been a journey into uncharted territory.

The most important things to note is that under the new arrangement, Bright Canopy will continue uninterrupted as a service for both Second Life and OpenSim, and the company’s founder, Bill Glover, will be joining Frame as Product Manager for Virtual Worlds.

Bill and Jeri Glover: creators of the Bright Canopy service
Bill and Jerri Glover: creators of the Bright Canopy service

Bright Canopy largely came into existence as a result of a partnership between Bill and Frame. At the time of SL Go’s demise, I ruminated on the potential of a streamed service for accessing Second Life being provided through Amazon Appstream. This time was enough to get Bill seriously thinking on the idea and looking into ways of achieving it. A follow-up article  prompted an invitation from Frame’s founder, Nikola Bozinovic, to try his service as a means to deliver a streamed viewer solution, and so the partnership was born.

Already with the technical expertise to manage and deliver high-end applications on a streaming basis through Amazon’s cloud services, and with the potential to leverage Microsoft’s Azure services in the future, Frame were an ideal partner for Bright Canopy. The synergy between the two companies allowed Bill to quickly establish a proof of concept for streaming the Second Life viewer. This rapidly developed into a closed alpha, which in turn rolled into a pre-lunch test beta. Thus, in just four months, Bright Canopy went from nascent idea to a service ready for launch.

Nikola Bozinovic, founder of Frame, has remained convinced of Bright Canopy's viability since extending his initial invitation to use Frame's infrastructure in April 2015.
Nikola Bozinovic, founder of Frame, has remained convinced of Bright Canopy’s viability since extending his initial invitation to use Frame’s infrastructure in April 2015.

Unfortunately, and as I reported at the time, a combination of very positive response to Bright Canopy’s launch and some drastic and unexpected fluctuations in Amazon’s Spot Instance pricing, meant that the original pricing model planned for the service could not be maintained, and Bill and Jerri had to reluctantly had to suspend Bright Canopy operations while alternatives were considered.

Although the service was relaunched in September 2015 with an alternative pricing model, both Bright Canopy and Frame have been seeking ways and means to make the service more appealing to users, particularly in the area of cost.

It is these explorations which have late to this latest situation, as Bill notes in the press release:

After brainstorming about some of the many things we could do together, I have accepted an offer to join Frame as Product Manager for Virtual Worlds.  The Bright Canopy service will continue uninterrupted as it already runs on the Frame platform, and we will be looking to expand and improve it with new options and flexibility.  Jerri will also continue supporting Bright Canopy as a community volunteer.

The news will not see any immediate change in Bright Canopy pricing – those avenues are still being explored.

However, one immediate benefit is that Bright Canopy’s support activities will be folded into those provided by Frame, streamlining issue management. What’s more, the move should also allow the Bright Canopy service to extend its reach into mobile devices: Frame already has a native iOS client, and can provide services to a number of Android devices through Chrome. Finally, the move might also allow further viewer options to be added to Bright Canopy’s stable alongside the Second Life viewer and Firestorm.

Running Bright Canopy on my Asus PCEE 1201N notebook with the graphics turned up to Ultra and everything enabled. The FPS was admittedly hovering just under 20, but given the Asus normally only manages low single-digit FPs nowadays with everything turned-off in the viewer - this is impressive
Running Bright Canopy on my Asus PCEE 1201N notebook with the graphics turned up to Ultra and everything enabled. The FPS was admittedly hovering just under 20, but given the Asus normally only manages low single-digit FPs nowadays with everything turned-off in the viewer – this is impressive

As well as announcing Frame’s direct involvement in Bright Canopy, which will see Jerri Glover continue her involvement in the project as a community volunteer, the press release also confirmed that there will be a special celebratory party at the company’s in-world location in Second Life to both celebrate the re-launch of the service back in September, and this latest news:

To celebrate, we will finally have that big relaunch party we’ve been promising with awesome gifts created just for the event. Come join us to celebrate.  Where: Bright Canopy Island. Time: December 12 at noon SLT (That’s 12/12 at 12:00).

For my own part, and having been privileged to have played a small role in Bright Canopy’s initial start-up and development, I’d like to offer my congratulations to Jerri and Bill, and also to Nikola.

You can read more about Bright Canopy, as I’ve covered developments in this blog, by following this link.

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Bright Canopy: relaunching Wednesday, Sept 23rd

Bright CanopyAfter experiencing a stormy official launch period at the end of August 2015, which resulted in the service having to be suspended, Bright Canopy have indicated that their streaming service for Second Life and OpenSim users will be re-opening to users on Wednesday, September 23rd.

The official announcement is due to be made at 23:59 GMT (15:59 SLT) on Tuesday, September 22nd via the Bright Canopy website. However, the text of the announcement has been released ahead of this to a number of bloggers including myself, with permission for us to help circulate the news in advance.

The announcement reads in full:

Launch Reboot

Bright Canopy is back!

Bright Canopy has been down now for almost one month. We have done our best to be transparent and communicative during the downtime. Please be sure to read the community meeting transcript for all of the details.

We have been working with Frame on a new pricing plan that will allow us to offer the service immediately. We will continue working on options that will improve our costs on the back-end and allow more  flexibility in the future.

For now, this is what we have:

  • $17 per month includes 20 hours of service.
  • Additional time $0.02 per minute
  • 30 minute minimum for sessions
  • If you use 10 hours or more of additional minutes, that will be charged immediately, otherwise additional minutes are charged at the beginning of the next month.

So if you sign up for Bright Canopy, you will be charged $17. You will receive 20 hours of server time. Once you have used that time, if you continue to use the service, you will build-up overage time at $0.02 per minute with a minimum purchase of 30 minutes ($0.60). If you use less than 10 more hours, your card will be charged for those additional minutes (plus the $17 for the new month’s subscription) at the beginning of the next month. If you use 10 or more hours of additional minutes before the end of the month, those minutes will be charged immediately.

  • So if you use 5 additional hours during the month, you would spend $6 more . This would mean your credit card would be charged $21 at the beginning of the next month.
  • If you use 10 additional hours, you would be charged $12 now and $17 for your monthly subscription at the beginning of the next month.

It is our sincere hope that our community will find value in what we offer and are able to use the service to enhance their time in their virtual worlds. We look forward to being of service to you.

It is important to note that this is an entirely new payment model which supersedes all previous models, and requires users to sign-up to it anew in order to be able to use the service.

The Bright Canopy service allows the viewer and all Second Life content to be streamed directly to a user’s browser. In order to do this, the service relies on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud for the actual service hosting and delivery, and Frame, a company with considerable experience in provisioning optimised Windows applications to users via the cloud, to facilitate that delivery.

As I explained in a recent blog post, unexpected and sustained fluctuations in the Amazon Spot Instance pricing mechanism during August adversely affected Bright Canopy’s ability to offer the service in a financially sustainable manner, forcing the company to suspend the service.

The hope is that will this new pricing plan, the company will be able to re-launch the service in a way that will meet the immediate needs of users whilst also, as the official announcement notes, allowing the company to work with Frame to possibly improve pricing for users in the future.

Bright Canopy: in-world meeting and service resumption

Bright CanopyBright Canopy have announced they’ll be holding an in-world meeting at their home island in Second Life on Saturday, September 5th at 11:00 SLT.

The meeting will feature an update on the current status of the Bright Canopy streaming service, together with the decisions the company is facing to move forward.

“I’d like to invite those interested in an update on the status of Bright Canopy and its future to attend,” Bright Canopy founder Bill Glover (Chaos Priestman in SL) said.

“The goal is to share what we have learned with the launch and this past week of down time and to have a discussion with the community about what is needed to make this service sustainable and what our options are going forward.”

Those who have been using Bright Canopy will be able to catch up on events following the official launch of the service, and which forced the company to re-evaluate its pricing mechanism, prior to technical issues combining with pricing concerns and forcing the company to suspend subscriptions while matters were worked on.

Bill Glover: meeting to discuss matters and update Bright Canopy on Saturday, September 5th at 11:00 SLT at Bright Canopy Island
Bill Glover: meeting to discuss matters and update Bright Canopy on Saturday, September 5th at 11:00 SLT at Bright Canopy Island

The technical issues have now been resolved, and Bright Canopy have indicated that in theory, the service could be back up and available on Monday, September 7th.

However, they are emphasising this is the earliest point at which the service might be up. The company has also indicated whether this in fact happens may depend in some degree on the decisions reached during the meeting.

As I recently explained, part of the issue Bright Canopy has faced is with the Amazon Spot instance pricing model. Generally the most cost-effective means of supplying services through Amazon’s infrastructure, this has been incredibly volatile over the past several weeks.

In the last few days, Amazon’s US Spot Instance prices have come down somewhat and are showing a little more stability, although the prices for Ireland remain volatile and unpredictable.

Given this, one possible option for Bright Canopy might be for them to split their service between the US West and East coast POPs they are using, and drop Ireland for the time being. However, this is also not without potential issues. There is no guarantee, for example, that the US pricing will remain stable – as Bright Canopy are only too aware; for another it could be months before Ireland has reached a point where operating through the Dublin POP is a viable option once more.

Thus there is a lot to be discussed, and so all those with an interest in the service are being encouraged to attend Saturday’s meeting. There will be plenty of scope for questions to be asked, and a transcript will be provided through the Bright Canopy blog for anyone unable to attend.

For those who would like to submit a question in advance, either because they cannot attend the meeting in person, or to guard against being unable to access the Bright Canopy region if there is a large turn-out, they can do so by e-mailing  Jerri Glover (jerri-at-brightcanopy.com/).

Bright Canopy: positive response forces change of direction

BC logoUpdate, September 4th: Please note there will be a Bright Canopy community meeting in-world in Second Life at 11:00 SLT on Saturday, September 5th, at the Bright Canopy island. All those wishing to catch-up on the latest situation for the service are invited to attend.

Saturday, August 29th saw Bright Canopy, the new cloud streaming service delivering Second life (and the viewer) directly to your web browser, officially launch.

Already extensively previewed by SL bloggers – you can catch my overview of the service here –  the launch was given a further boost when the Lab also blogged about it. announcement of the formal launch led to a huge amount of interest being shown in the service.

While there were the inevitable hiccups which tend to accompany such launches, it was the overall demand which perhaps caused the fledgling company the most problems. So much so, that Bright Canopy have been forced to revise their subscription model, and suspend the service while they do so.

The news of the change to the subscription model came via an e-mail to existing subscribers which was also posted to the Bright Canopy blog. Currently the plan is that:

  • From Sunday, September 6th, those signing-up to the service will be charged $17.00 a month for up to 20 hours of use. Additional time will be charged at $0.013 per minute
  • From now until 12:00 am on Sunday, September 6th, those who signed up for the service will be charged $7.00 for 20 hours, then at the $0.013 per minute
  • All existing subscriptions have been cancelled, and all existing users will need to subscribe to the new plan once the door is open to subscriptions once more.

Bright Canopy are the first to admit this is hardly an ideal situation, and the hope is that it will be an interim measure, until more favourable terms can be introduced in the future, once a few more things have been put in place.

Discussing the situation with me, Bill Glover, Bright Canopy’s founder said, “It’s been a whiplash weekend. We had more than 1000 sign-ups in just a few hours and that actually worked really well.”

However, there were some niggling issues as the launch progressed into the weekend. Transitioning those users who had been on the beta / pre-launch service raised a few problems, as did the migration for those users best served by it to Bright Canopy’s US East coast POP, which also came on-stream as a part of the launch. It was while working on these issues the alarms started ringing around unconstrained cost risks due to the volume of use, forcing  Bright Canopy to take action.

Bill Glover: remarkable response to Bright Canopy forced a re-think in approach
Bill Glover: remarkable response to Bright Canopy forced a re-think in approach

“The alarms required us to throttle down use,” Bill told me. “When the experience suffered long wait times, I pulled the plug [on accepting subscribers]. We’re not going to charge people unless we can be sure this is going to be there for them and they will get value for the money.”

The throttling also meant that over the launch weekend, users were limited to one hour’s in-world time before they were disconnected and had to re-log. To compensate people for this, Bright Canopy have indicated they’ll not be charging anyone for their time over the weekend of 29th / 30th of August.

To understand why the pricing structure change was required despite the good response, it is necessary to understand how Bright Canopy is provisioned. Currently, when logging-in to the service, users are hosted on individual servers, supplied by Amazon’s Spot Instance bidding system. The problems here are twofold.

On the one hand, using an entire server to host just one user isn’t terribly efficient; Frame, as Bright Canopy’s infrastructure partner, are already working to offer more efficient means of hosting without impacting individual user’s experiences with Bright Canopy. On the other, and as I’ve previously reported, Amazon’s Spot Instance mechanism, so long the most cost-effective means of obtaining server space, has become subject of bidding wars which have caused sudden and unpredictable spikes in service pricing.

Spot Instance pricing with Amazon is making it difficult for Bright Canopy to firmly pin-down their monthly subscription price – click for full size
Volatility with Amazon’s Spot Instance pricing has caused huge fluctuations in pricing, making it had to predict how realistic fees charged by small start-ups like Bright Canopy are in meeting costs – click for full size

While Bright Canopy were aware of this, and developed contingencies they hoped would be sufficient to handle pricing fluctuations, etc., until such time as better hosting options were ready to roll, the sheer volume of demand for the service meant that these contingencies were burnt through in the course of the first weekend, thus prompting the current situation.

As noted earlier in this article, Bright Canopy hope the new plan will be an interim measure.  The problem here of course is that 20 hours + $0.013 a minute isn’t going to be that attractive an offering to users – something Bright Canopy is all too aware of. With many users spending tens of hours a week in-world, the additional costs could easily mount up, and so people are understandably going to be more focused on the potential for additional costs than on the potential for improved pricing down the road.

As a result of the overall situation, Bright Canopy have opted to keep the service suspended while discussions on the situation continue.

The announcement that Bright Canopy will remain down as they continue to try to work through the price / cost issues, as Tweeted and delivered via in-world message
The announcement that Bright Canopy will remain down as they continue to try to work through the price / cost issues, as Tweeted and delivered via in-world message

“We are verifying and double verifying so that when we come up, we stay up,” Bill said to me as the announcement was sent out.

I’ll have more updates on this as further information becomes available / announcements are made.