Sunday, October 10, 2010

45 of 52 - Linden Lab and Moore: Do they keep up?

In 1965, Intel Co-funder Gordon E. Moore formulated what has later been known as Moore's Law:  The number of transistors we manage to squeeze into an integrated circuit doubles each year.  In 1975 he amended it a bit, reducing the growth rate to a doubling in two years.  A colleague of his factored in the performance gain made from this, and predicted that the performance of computer components doubles every 18 months.

In practical terms, it means that if you buy a new computer every 3rd year, you would expect a 4-times increase in performance if you run the same programs.  Often enough, you don't, because the new computer comes with a new version of Windows that consumes even more of the machines resources, but that's another story LOL.

I've been in SL for 3 years now.  And I wonder: Has Linden Lab kept up with Moore's Law?  Have Second Life performance doubled twice the last 3 years?

It's easy to forget how bad things where in "the good old days".  I could never expect to be able to be online for more than an hour at a time without crashing.  Several times a month, the whole grid would be down because of unexpected or (sometimes) planned maintenance.   Remember the pictures of the monkeys:  Clearly inspired by the novel 2001 by Arthur C. Clarke, it was clear to all that Linden Lab was run by cool people who also knew their sci-fi literature.  It kind of made us all happy to feel that we lived in a world where our creators was still busy shaping it.

I have not seen this picture for ages.  One reason might be that the grid is almost never down anymore; clearly a performance increase we all love, even if it is seldom prised.  And when we talk about performance: It's now generally possible to walk around a dense club with 40 other avatars with no problems.  In short, a SIM mostly just works.  I remember my first beach party; we where about 15-20 people, and everyone was happy about how smooth things worked:  Somehow, 20 people in a sim was a great feat!  Sure, nowadays we complain when 80 people tries to get all their attachment in at the same time, and long for the day when technology will allow 40.000 people in one place, but the hard fact is that NO VIRTUAL WORLD IN EXISTENCE TODAY OUTPERFORMS SL.  So yes, actual capacity has at least doubled.

When I joined SL, median concurrency was around 30.000.  During the next 18 month, that figure doubled to more than 60.000.  So, at least during that time, Moore's law held true.

Since then, concurrency have flattened, to say it nicely, but somehow I feel that technology is not to blame for that.

A more important reason for the absence of the monkeys, however, is that the Lab has somehow "grown up", no longer profiling themselves with these kinds of images.  And it seems to me that this is what the long-term residents and bloggers miss the most: The feeling of being "pioneers", of being loved by the kings and the queens and the demigods that used to be around.

Now, we have a world with a few well-defined options for server space rentals; options that has mostly remained stable during the three years I've been in SL.  As we are used to when we order a web hotel or a virtual server on the net, we use automated systems that fixes everything, and have no rational need for a spike-haired arch-angel to show us around or care deeply about what we do.

Is that the simple reason while SL is not growing anymore?  Because we just miss the monkeys and the punkhead CEO and the magic bean plants growing outside Gov' Lindens mansion?

Whatever, in 3 years I expect to be able to invite at least 160 people to my 6-years day!

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