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              Virtual World
              Architectures




 Interactive Television
 Routing in the Cloud
 Emerging Collectives




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S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 011, V O L U M E 15 , N U M B E R 5

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE                                                                                                        View from the Cloud
Access Control                                                                                                            72 Routers for the Cloud: Can the Internet
62 A User-Activity-Centric Framework                                                                                         Achieve 5-Nines Availability?
                                                                                                                          Andrei Agapi, Ken Birman, Robert Broberg, Chase Cotton,
   for Access Control in Online                                                                                           Thilo Kielmann, Martin Millnert, Rick Payne, Robert Surton,
   Social Networks                                                                                                        and Robbert van Renesse
Jaehong Park, Ravi Sandhu, and Yuan Cheng
                                                                                                                          Standards
                                                                                                                          78 Inside the Identity Management Game
DEPARTMENTS                                                                                                               Lucy Lynch
News & Trends                                                                                                             Beyond Wires
7 Wi-Fi Making Big New Waves: “In-Room”                                                                                   83 When the Shift Hits the (Television)
  High-Speed Uses to Get Big Boost from                                                                                      Fan: A Growing Opportunity
  Wireless Mainstay                                                                                                          for Companion Devices
Greg Goth
                                                                                                                          Nitya Narasimhan
Web-Scale Workflow
66 Principles of Elastic Processes                                                                                        COLUMNS
Schahram Dustdar, Yike Guo, Benjamin Satzger,
and Hong-Linh Truong
                                                                                                                          From the Editors
                                                                                                                          4 Adversarial Machine Learning
                                                                                                                          J.D. Tygar

                                                                                                                          The Functional Web
                                                                                                                          87 Scala Web Frameworks: Looking Beyond Lift
            www.computer.org/internet/                                                                                    Dean Wampler
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                                                                                                                          95 Not Reinventing PKI until We Have
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        E N G I N E E R I N G A N D A P P LY I N G T H E I N T E R N E T
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                                                                                       Three-dimensional
                                                                                       About This Issue:
                                                                                       virtual worlds promise to
                                                                                       complement the Web with
                                                                                       3D models of virtual places
                                                                                       Asynchronous middleware
                                                                                       that are fanciful or that
                                                                                       is playing an increasingly
                                                                                       model and mirror the real
                                                                                       important role in distributed
                                                                                       world. To see how this will
                                                                                       and Web-based systems. This
                                                                                       come about, we must address
                                                                                       issue’s theme articles identify
                                                                                       current limitations engineering
                                                                                       some research and of virtual
                                                                                       worlds, deconstruct and
                                                                                       challenges that remain before
                                                                                       study their architectures,
                                                                                       this technology can fully and
                                                                                       consider how to evolve them
                                                                                       make good on its promises.
                                                                                       to realize their promises.




                                                                                       Cover by Randy Lyhus, www.randylyhus.com




                     VIRTUAL WORLD ARCHITECTURES
11 Guest Editor’s Introduction                            46 Virtual and Real-World Ontology Services
Craig W. Thompson                                         Joshua D. Eno and Craig W. Thompson


15 Extending Web Browsers with a Unity                    53 Accuracy in 3D Virtual Worlds
    3D-Based Virtual Worlds Viewer                             Applications: Interactive 3D Modeling
Neil Katz, Thomas Cook, and Robert Smart                       of the Refractory Linings of Copper
                                                               Smelters
22 Hypergrid: Architecture and Protocol                   Anthony J. Rigby, Kenneth Rigby, and Mark Melaney
    for Virtual World Interoperability
Cristina Videira Lopes                                    56 I-Room: Augmenting Virtual Worlds
                                                               with Intelligent Systems
30 An Entity-Component Model                              Austin Tate
    for Extensible Virtual Worlds
Toni Alatalo


38 Open Wonderland: An Extensible
    Virtual World Architecture                            For more information on these or any other computing
                                                          topics, please visit the IEEE Computer Society Digital
Jonathan Kaplan and Nicole Yankelovich                    Library at www.computer.org/publications/dlib.




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    From the Editors


                                Adversarial Machine Learning

                                                University of California, Berkeley




       M
              achine learning would seem to be a powerful                   apparent tricky spam email messages that my
              technology for Internet computer secu-                        colleagues and I have collected (complete with
              rity. If machines can learn when a system                     original spelling and punctuation):
       is functioning normally and when it is under
       attack, then we can build mechanisms that                                “what, is he coming home, and without poor
       automatically and rapidly respond to emerging                            lydia?” she cried. “sure he will not leave
       attacks. Such a system might be able to auto-                            London
       matically screen out a wide variety of spam,                             “i am quite sorry, lizzy, that you should be
       phishing, net work intr usions, malware, and                             forced to have that disagreeable man all to
       other nasty Internet behavior. But the actual                            yourself.
       deployment of machine learning in computer                               calvert dawson blockage card. coercion cho-
       security has been less successful than we might                          reograph asparagine bonnet contrast bloop.
       hope. What accounts for the difference?                                  coextensive bodybuild bastion chalkboard
                                                                                denominate clare churchgo compote act.
       Tricking Machine Learning Systems                                        childhood ardent brethren commercial com-
       To understand the issues, let’s look more closely                        plain concerto depressor.
       at what happens when we use machine learn-                               brocade crown bethought chimney. angelo
       ing. In one popular model, supervised learn-                             asphyxiate brad abase decompression code-
       ing, we train a system using labeled data — for                          break. crankcase big conjuncture chit conten-
       example, in a spam email detector, we would                              tion acorn cpa bladderwort chick. cinematic
       label a set of training email messages as spam                           agleam chemisorb brothel choir conformance
       or ham (although it doesn’t sound very kosher,                           airfield.
       “ham” is a term used to denote non-spam email).
       The machine learning algorithm then produces                             What is going on here? The first two frag-
       a classifier, which takes unlabeled email mes-                       ments are quotes from Jane Austen’s Pride and
       sages as input, then classifies them as likely                       Prejudice. The second two messages are lists of
       spam or ham. During training, a classifier is                        less-common words in English. These tricky
       likely to learn that terms such as “Viagra” or                       spam messages poison the training set. When
       “V1@gr@,” for example, are a strong indicator                        they’re labeled as spam and fed to a machine
       of likely spam.                                                      learning algorithm, they dilute the quality
           Good mach i ne lea r n i ng a lgor it h m s a re                 of spam detection. The algorithm could infer
       designed to perform well even if they get some                       a rule that a benign term (such as “Lydia,”
       random badly labeled input (such as a spam                           “London,” “brethren,” or “chimney”) is actually
       message that’s accidentally mislabeled as ham).                      a marker for spam. When the classifier begins to
       However, in the context of computer security,                        label its inputs, it will generate false positives:
       this does not go far enough. Adversaries (in this                    ham that is incorrectly marked as spam. Large
       case, spammers) might play dirty by creating                         numbers of false positives undermine users’
       an adversarial training set: instead of sending                      confidence in the learning algorithm. In prac-
       “normal” spam, they might send (Byzantine)                           tice, users find that their spam detectors seem
       “tricky” spam designed to make the classifier                        tone-deaf and often misclassify email, requir-
       misbehave. Here are some fragments from some                         ing them to constantly check their “likely spam”

4      Published by the IEEE Computer Society             1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                 IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                       Adversarial Machine Learning



mailboxes to manually retrieve mis-         Hardening Machine Learning                  the adversar y to control a much
classified ham.                             These examples highlight the fail-          larger fraction of the input to mis-
    Other types of attacks are also         ings of classical machine learning.         train the classifier.
possible. For example, in systems           The good news is that a new science             The search for adversarial machine
that continually retrain, an adver-         of adversarial machine learning is          learning algorithms is thrilling: it
sar y might tr y a “boiling-frog”           emerging — the development of algo-         combines the best work in robust
attack. (Legend has it that if you drop     rithms that are effective even when         statistics, machine lear ning, and
a frog in a boiling pot of water, it        adversaries play dirty.                     computer security. One significant
will quickly jump out; but if you put           My colleagues and I at UC               tool security researchers use is the
a frog in lukewarm water and then           Berkeley — as well as other research        ability to look at attack scenarios
slowly raise the heat, the frog can-        teams around the world — have               from the adversary’s perspective (the
not detect the slow change and will         been looking at these problems and          black hat approach), and in that way,
ultimately be boiled.) Consider using       developing new machine learning             show the limits of computer security
machine learning to detect abnormal         algorithms that are robust against          techniques. In the field of adversar-
network traffic. In a boiling-frog          adversarial input. One technique            ial machine learning, this approach
attack, an adversary slowly intro-          that we’ve used with great success is       yields fundamental insights. Even
duces aberrant input, and the system        Reject On Negative Impact (RONI).           though a growing number of adver-
learns to tolerate it. Ultimately, the      In RONI, we screen training input to        sa r ia l mac h i ne lea r n i ng a lgo -
classifier learns to tolerate more and      make sure that no single input sub-         rithms are available, the black hat
more aberrant input, until the adver-       stantially changes our classifier’s         approach shows us that there are
sary can launch a full-scale attack         behavior. This has a cost (we need a        some t heoret ica l lim it s to t heir
without detection.                          larger training set), but it also forces    effectiveness.



                                                         ___________                    Technical cosponsor:
                                                          ________
                                              EIC emeritus

                                             CS Magazine Operations Committee
 Editor in Chief
                      __________
                                                                                        IEEE Internet Computing
 Associate Editors in Chief
                   ________
                    ____________
                      _______                CS Publications Board

 Editorial Board
                _________
              _____________
                _______                                                                                                        IEEE
                ________                                                                Internet Computing
               ___________
                                             Staff
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                 ____________                                        __________
                  ___________
               __________                      ___________
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               _________                                  ___________
                                                                                                   IEEE Internet Computing
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                 ___________
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                _________                                                                       _______________
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                  __________                                                            ____________
                ______________                                                                                               ___
              ___________                      ____________
                                                                                        ______
                    ________                                                                                           __________
                   ___________                                                          __
              _______
                    _______                                                                               _______
              __________                                                                ____________________




SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                            5




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From the Editors



     One powerful family of results               target message “positive” because          hat attack? It turns out that for an
t h at c ome f r om t he blac k h at              the classifier will give it a positive     important type of classifier, known
approach is called near-optimal eva-              classification as spam. At the other       as convex classifiers, we cannot stop
sion. We start by “thinking like a                end, we find some message that’s           it. A spammer’s binary search strat-
spammer.” Suppose we want to sell                 completely benign and that avoids          egy is simply too strong. This shows
Viagra via unsolicited email. If we               detection as spam. We call this our        the boundaries of the underlying
try a direct approach, we’re certain              “negat ive” instance (because t he         theoretical limits of what is possible
to have our email automatically clas-             classifier returns a negative result: it   in adversarial machine learning. To
sified as spam. So, we’ll try to avoid            is not spam). So now we have two           get beyond them, we will either need
this by modifying our message. For                extremes. We can perform a type of         to make our systems more compli-
example, instead of using an email                binary search — finding intermedi-         cated (going beyond convex classi-
subject line such as “Cheap Online                ate messages bet ween t hese t wo          fiers) or use a fundamentally new
Pharmacy,” we can try a subject                   extremes. When we get two messages         strategy that no longer depends as
line that promises instead a “Moder-              that are close to each other — one         much on machine learning.
ate Online Apothecary.” We assume                 classified as spam, the other classi-
that we have sufficient access to a
spam detector that we can pre-test
our messages to see whether they’re
                                                  fied as ham — we know we are near
                                                  the classifier’s boundary. We can
                                                  send the message that is classified
                                                                                             A    lthough some of the questions
                                                                                                  in this field have a theoretical
                                                                                             flavor, at the end of the day, this is
classified as spam. First, we identify            as ham, and we say that it is “nearly      not a theoretical field. We need real-
our positive target spam message                  optimal” but evades detection.             world machine learning algorithms
hawking Viagra. We cannot send                        Now, we turn the tables again          that perform well even in adver-
this message because it is certain to             and resume the role of defender. We        sar ial env ironments. A nd while
be identified as spam. We call our                naturally ask: Can we stop this black      various research groups around the
                                                                                             world are hard at work developing
                                                                                             powerful adversarial machine learn-
                                                                                             ing algorithms, more work is needed
                                                                                             before machine learning can fulfill
                                                                                             its full promise in improving our
    Advertising Personnel                                                                    cybersecurity algorithms. To find
    Marian Anderson: Sr. Advertising Coordinator                                             out more about the field and the
    Email: manderson@computer.org
           _______________                                                                   examples I mention, visit http://radlab.
    Phone: +1 714 816 2139 | Fax: +1 714 821 4010
                                                                                             cs.berkeley.edu/wiki/SecML.
                                                                                             ____________________

    Sandy Brown: Sr. Business Development Mgr.
    Email: sbrown@computer.org
           _____________                                                                     Acknowledgments
    Phone: +1 714 816 2144 | Fax: +1 714 821 4010                                            The work I mention is joint research with a
                                                                                             number of researchers listed at http://radlab.
    IEEE Computer Society
    10662 Los Vaqueros Circle                                                                cs.berkeley.edu/wiki/SecML. I would espe-
                                                                                             ________________
    Los Alamitos, CA 90720 USA                                                               cially like to acknowledge my collabora-
    www.computer.org                                                                         tors Marco Barreno, Anthony Joseph, Ling
                                                                                             Huang, Blaine Nelson, Benjamin Rubinstein,
    Advertising Sales Representatives (Display)
                                                                                             and Satish Rao.
    Western US/Pacific/Far East: Eric Kincaid
           e.kincaid@computer.org
    Email: ______________
    Phone: +1 214 673 3742; Fax: +1 888 886 8599                                             J.D. Tygar is a professor at the University
                                                                                                 of California, Berkeley, in the Electri-
    Eastern US/Europe/Middle East: Ann & David Schissler                                         cal Engineering and Computer Sciences
           a.schissler@computer.org, d.schissler@computer.org
    Email: ______________ _______________                                                        Department and the School of Infor-
    Phone: +1 508 394 4026; Fax: +1 508 394 4926
                                                                                                 mation. His research focuses on com-
                                                                                                 puter security. Contact him at tygar@
                                                                                                                                 ____
    Advertising Sales Representatives (Classified Line/Jobs Board)
                                                                                                 cs.berkeley.edu.
                                                                                                 _________
    Greg Barbash
    Email: g.barbash@computer.org
           ______________
    Phone: +1 914 944 0940                                                                        Selected CS articles and columns
                                                                                                  are also available for free at http://
                                                                                                                                 ____
                                                                                             ComputingNow.computer.org.
                                                                                             __________________


6                    www.computer.org/internet/                                                                   IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                    News & Trends


Wi-Fi Making Big
New Waves
“In-Room” High-Speed Uses to Get
Big Boost from Wireless Mainstay
Greg Goth




T
     echnology industry veterans might remember          he’s pleased with the progress the TG has made
     the contentious speculation that abounded at        since its January 2009 inception.
     the end of the 1990s over which short-range             “I’m happy with the IEEE timeline,” Perahia
wireless technology would emerge supreme to              says. “Perhaps for the first time in .11 history,
carry data over radio. Two of the most heavily           a TG will actually finish on time. We’re saying
touted wireless technologies were Bluetooth and          we’ll be ready for the sponsor ballot in Decem-
HomeRF.                                                  ber, and we’re right on track for that, and there’s
    Eventually, of course, IEEE 802.11 technol-          been no controversy or anything. And no sur-
ogy convincingly eclipsed both the presumed              prises are lurking, hopefully. This has been the
frontrunners, to the point that “free Wi-Fi” is          schedule from day one of the TG and has not
a selling point in locales as varied as coffee           been modified.”
houses, hostelries, and even barber shops world-             What might be most surprising, and hearten-
wide. 802.11 technology, whether it’s in the             ing, to those involved in the work on 802.11ad
2.4-GHz b and g bands or the 2.4- and 5-GHz n            is that it has proceeded in parallel with another
technology, is the de facto and assumed technol-         60-GHz 802.11 proposal from a consortium
ogy for wireless data networks everywhere.               called the Wireless Gigabit Alliance (http://____
    Several new updates to the Wi-Fi family are          wirelessgigabitalliance.org). The two groups’
                                                         ____________________
about to emerge, introducing extremely high              proposals were similar, but not identical, upon
throughput rates and direct node-to-node data            inception, bringing back memories of the most
transfer. From the wireless router sitting in the        recent Wi-Fi imbroglio that surrounded 802.11n
living room to the flat-screen TV in the home            standardization. 11n was the version of Wi-Fi
theater, Wi-Fi stands poised to become the pre-          intended to convincingly supplant the data
ferred end-to-end technology for the uncabled            rates supported by the older b and g bands (and
environment. In addition, the latest introduc-           to some extent, the a band, which never gar-
tions might also serve as an object lesson to            nered the market popularity of the other two).
other standards groups in bringing a technology          Originally proposed in 2002, 802.11n didn’t
to market quickly and efficiently.                       receive final ratification until September 2009,
                                                         although the Wi-Fi Alliance began certify-
“We’re on Track”                                         ing “pre-n” products based on the final pre-
Very high throughput Wi-Fi, capable of data              ratification stable draft of the technology in June
transfer rates of up to 7 gigabits per second —          2007. Veterans of the 11n battle didn’t want to
or 10 times the rate currently available on the          go through another such delay with the 60-GHz
fastest 802.11n networks — is emerging from              standard.
the standards process, and products should be                “I think what we learned from n is not to split
arriving by mid-2012, according to those work-           up the chip vendors into two different proposal
ing on the technology.                                   teams,” Perahia says. “When the chip vendors
    Eldad Perahia, chairman of the IEEE 802.11ad         split camps it gets really hard — it fundamen-
Task Group, charged with writing the standard            tally fractures the silicon vendors, which frac-
for very high throughput Wi-Fi at 60 GHz, says           tures the market.”

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                  1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE          Published by the IEEE Computer Society                7




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News & Trends

             News in Brief
    Even as concern and outcry from all               Perahia was active in the 802.11n         to act as a mediator between the
    sides mounted, the US House Judi-              work as well as ongoing work in              WiGig and IEEE groups.
    ciary Committee voted in July to               802.11ac, a 5-GHz technology that                “Things came into line more or
    recommend passage of H.R. 1981,                improves on 802.11n. The 5-GHz and           less organically,” she says. “We had
    which includes a mandatory data-               60-GHz groups took different routes          a liaison agreement with the WiGig
    retention provision that requires              to avoid fracturing the silicon ven-         Alliance, and of course we’ve had
    ISPs to stockpile customer infor-              dors but arrived at the same spot — a        a longstanding relationship with the
    mation — including website visits              more or less consensus approach.             IEEE, and our position always was
    and online postings — for a full year.            “802.11ad used the WiGig Alli-            [that] we’re going to certify the
    The bill, which aims to combat child           ance to facilitate the standard,” he         60-GHz tech that makes sense. So
    pornography, has generated intense             says. “There were two proposals,             now here we are, and it’s a moot
    opposition among organizations com-            the WiGig Alliance’s and another,            question. It seems like things are on
    mitted to free speech and privacy              but all the chip vendors were in the         the same track now.”
    rights. The Electronic Frontier                WiGig proposal. In 802.11ac, we                  Grodzinsky says both the WiGig
    Foundation (EFF) and 29 other civil            went the route of specifying frame-          A lliance, which published ver-
    liberty and privacy groups sent a letter       work development, then developing            sion 1.1 of its 60-GHz specification
    to the committee, condemning the bill          the spec based on that; there were no        in June, and the Wi-Fi Alliance plan
    as a “direct assault” on Internet users’       proposals. In both ways, we avoided          to begin certifying 60-GHz products
    privacy. In a recent blog, the Ameri-          what I thought was the crux of the           by the middle of 2012, and products
    can Civil Liberties Union noted                matter in 11n — two camps in which           should be available about the same
    that if the bill becomes law, “Respect         the chip vendors were split.”                time.
    for your anonymity online would be a                                                            “Usually, you see products avail-
    thing of the past.”                            “A Hundred Groups”                           able when the programs are ready to
        The bill’s text and current status         Of course, as the Wi-Fi technology           launch,” he says, “because they won’t
    is at www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.           and brand advances with a prolifera-         launch if there’s no product.”
    xpd?bill=h112-1981.
    ___________                                    tion of letter suffixes, and vendors
        The EFF’s information page is at           form adjunct consortia to augment            What 60-GHz Wi-Fi Does
    www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/07/house            standards creation and marketing             According to Perahia, the IEEE and
    -committee-approves-bill-mandating
    ________________________                       efforts, the possibility for widespread      WiGig 60-GHz specifications are
    -internet.
    ______                                         confusion about which Wi-Fi tech-            nearly identical, except for a few
                                                   nology does what presents itself.            optional features in the IEEE tech-
    The Open Cloud Initiative —                         “Between what’s going on at the         nology; the most prominent of these
    originally scheduled for a 2010 take-          IEEE, the WiGig Alliance, and the            is a device-to-device relay mecha-
    off — was officially launched at July’s        Wi-Fi Alliance, you’d think there are        nism, which he terms a “minimalist
    2011 Open Source Convention in                 a hundred groups going in different          mesh.”
    Portland, Oregon. The organization’s           directions,” says Mark Grodzinsky,               Grodzinsky says the addition of
    goal is to create a legal framework            marketing work group chairman for            the optional features in the IEEE
    for cloud computing providers and              the WiGig Alliance, “but when you            specif ication is unlikely to delay
    users based on open cloud require-             dig in and start looking at names,           widespread market adoption because
    ments as spelled out in the Open               you’ll see a common set of people            “the common denominator is when
    Cloud Principles. The OCP man-                 and companies — in a lot of cases,           you look at what the Wi-Fi Alliance
    dates interoperability, open formats           the exact same people.”                      is going to certif y, 802.11ad and
    and interfaces, and free user move-                 Grodzinsky, for instance, has been      WiGig are exactly identical, because
    ment among systems.                            working on Wi-Fi specs since 2000,           these other features that are differ-
        More information is available at           was chair of the 802.11n marketing           ent are optional and not likely to be
    www.opencloudinitiative.org.                   group at the Wi-Fi Alliance, and             tested by the Wi-Fi Alliance.”
                                                   says “the editor of the WiGig spec               The new Wi-Fi technology, because
    To obtain help in cataloging a vast and        happens to be the editor of the 11ad         it operates at 60 GHz, is short-range.
    important collection, Oxford Uni-              spec, so there are a lot of us doing         As envisioned, it will enable applica-
    versity has launched a website that lets       the same thing.”                             tions such as wireless docking and
    armchair archeologists translate                    Kelly Davis-Felner, marketing direc-    connection to displays, as well as
                               cont. on p. 9       tor for the Wi-Fi Alliance, says there was   wireless backups, synchronization,
                                                   no need for the industry consortium          and file transfers between computers

8                     www.computer.org/internet/                                                                 IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                    Wi-Fi Making Big New Waves

                                                                                                News in Brief
and handheld devices. According to        you’re looking for whole-home cov-          cont. from p. 8
an introductor y white paper pub-         erage, but if you have everybody            and measure ancient Greek texts.
lished by the WiGig Alliance, the         on the same band in a conference            The Ancient Lives collection con-
technology features                       room, you’re going to get lower per-        tains photographs of hundreds of
                                          formance because there’s a lot more         thousands of papyri containing lit-
   support for data transmission rates    noise. In 60 GHz, the beam is very          erature and letters recovered in the
   up to 7 gigabits per second; all       narrow, and because we are able to          early 20th Century from the Egyptian
   devices based on the WiGig spec-       do this beamsteering, you can have          city of Oxyrhynchus — the “City of
   ification will be capable of gigabit   a bunch of people talking to each           the Sharp-Nosed Fish.” Among the
   data transfer rates;                   other, even in the same channel, and        documents already translated from
   support for low-power handheld         you won’t have interference.                this collection are masterpieces by
   devices such as cell phones, as           “If you wanted to replicate that         the ancient Greek poet Sappho
   well as high-performance devices       in 2.4 and 5 GHz, you could, but            a nd d r a m at i s t s M e n a n d e r a nd
   such as computers; it includes         you’d need 10 centimeters between           Sophocles.
   advanced power management;             the antennas, so you run into size              More information on the Ancient
   native Wi-Fi support, and support      limitations.”                               Lives project is at http://ancientlives.
   for devices to transparently switch       Perahia says testing the beam-           org.
                                                                                      __
   between 802.11 networks operat-        forming technology will be paramount,
   ing in any frequency band includ-      “because without beamforming, you’re        A new survey from the Pew Internet
   ing 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, and 60 GHz;        talking about a foot of range. That’s       & American Life Project shows
   support for beamforming, maxi-         where I’m hoping we got everything          that one-third of US adults now
   mizing signal strength, and enabling   right; we’ll find that out in the test-     own smart phones — and two-
   robust communication at distances      ing. It’s not just that you have a          thirds of those owners sleep with the
   beyond 10 meters;                      transmitter and receiver like in g          phones next to their beds. Among the
   advanced security using the Galois/    or n. This is beyond that, a whole          demographic groups with the highest
   Counter Mode of the Advanced           handshaking that has to go on, and          adoption levels are financially well-
   Encryption Standard (AES) algo-        exchange of information beyond the          off and well-educated adults, non-
   rithm; and                             normal testing of Layer 1 waveform.”        whites, and people under 45 years
   support for high-performance                                                       of age. The majority (87 percent)
   wireless implementations of HDMI,      Node-to-Node Wi-Fi                          access the Internet on the device, with
   DisplayPort, USB, and PCIe.            Two other Wi-Fi initiatives, Wi-Fi          68 percent of those surveyed doing
                                          Direct (www.wi-fi.org/Wi-Fi_Direct.         so daily.
    The new technology’s keystone         php) and 802.11s, which are intended
                                          __                                              More information is available at
enabling feature is called beamform-      to enable more node-to-node mesh-           http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/
ing or beamsteering. Because radio        like behavior, are also expected to         Smartphones.aspx.
                                                                                      ___________
signals at 60 GHz are extremely sen-      hit the market soon. Davis-Felner
sitive to propagation loss, designers     says the Wi-Fi Alliance, which intro-       ISOC and the Internet Research
had to figure out a method by which       duced the Wi-Fi Direct initiative, has      Task Force (IRTF) have announced
signals could persist in instances        already certified 219 products to           the inaugur al winners of their
such as when someone walked between       comply with the specification, but          Applied Networking Research
two devices in the middle of a com-       the market uptake has been slowed           Prizes (ANRP) for work that
munications session.                      by a lack of native operating system        directly improves products and ser-
    Grodzinsky says that, in the same     support in Windows, Android, a nd           vices and advances Internet stan-
space that a 2.4- or 5-GHz device         iOS and the commensurate dearth of          dards. The ANRP winners were
can place two antennas, the 60-GHz        applications running on them.               Mattia Rossi, of the Swinburne
design allows an offset 16-antenna           “I think the application support is      University of Technology’s Centre
array.                                    kind of relying on the OS support,          for Advanced Internet Architectures,
    “The more antennas you have,          and I believe that will come,” she          and Beichuan Zhang, of the Uni-
and when you can offset them by           says. “It’s taking time because oper-       versity of Arizona’s Computer Sci-
phase, you can start directing the        ating systems don’t get updated every       ence Department. The researchers
beams in specific locations,” he          day. In the meantime, I think indi-         presented their findings at the IRTF’s
say s. “2.4 - a nd 5-GH z Wi-Fi a r e     vidual vendors are kind of stitching                                 cont. on p. 10
omnidirectional. That’s great when        together the apps, and the silicon

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News & Trends

              News in Brief
     cont. from p. 9                               providers have an SDK or upgrade            avis-Felner admits that the job
     open meeting, held in July as part of
     the IETF meeting in Quebec City.
                                                   that will bridge the gap: so Wi-Fi
                                                   Direct is going into products now,
                                                                                            D  of promoting the ever-increasing
                                                                                            Wi-Fi technologies is becoming more
     Rossi’s work focuses on reducing              but its use in the market is nascent.”   complex, but is also proud of the
     Border Gateway Protocol traffic,                  She doesn’t think the 802.11s        ubiquity it’s demonstrated.
     while Zhang’s focuses on green traf-          mesh standard — which garnered              “I think the thing that has been
     fic engineering. The awards will be           97 percent approval in sponsor bal-      such a pleasant surprise is the way
     given three times each year in con-           loting in May — and Wi-Fi Direct         the technology has continued to
     junction with the IETF’s three annual         will be vying for the same node-         grow and expand. Smart energy is a
     meetings.                                     to-node uses. She predicts that the      perfect example. It never occurred to
         Information on the honored                802.11s mesh technology will emerge      me that we would be putting Wi-Fi
     researchers and the ANRP nomi-                in applications such as smart energy     on thermostats, but that’s exactly
     nation process is available at http://
                                    ____           monitoring networks, and that Wi-Fi      what we’re doing.”
     InternetSociety.org/anrp.
     _______________                               Direct will be favored in intermittent
                                                   uses such as people sharing photos       Greg Goth is a freelance technology writer
                                                   between Wi-Fi-enabled smart phones.         based in Connecticut.




                                                                            ________________

                                                                            ___________________




10                    www.computer.org/internet/                                                               IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                                                           Guest Editor’s Introduction
Virtual World Architectures
E
      arlier this year, in “Next-Generation   of space, with fixed-size regions and a           Craig W. Thompson
      Virtual Worlds: Architecture, Sta-      single physics model; others can accom-           University of Arkansas
      tus, and Directions,”1 I described      modate portals that take a user from
the promise of 3D virtual worlds to           one world through a door into another.
complement the Web with 3D models             Some focus on cartoonish models and
of virtual places that are fanciful or        support social interaction of small groups;
that model and mirror the real world.         others are used for training or simula-
Marketplace evolution is one way to           tions and can accommodate hundreds
wait and see if and how this will come        of avatars per region.
about. Another approach is to identify            As I noted in my previous article,
current limitations of virtual worlds,        the real world is 3D, ver y high def,
deconstruct and study their architec-         scalable, and diverse. If we wanted to
tures, and consider how to evolve them        model it, we’d have to ask what kind of
to realize their promises. Here, I discuss    database schema or object model could
nine articles that explore architectural      be used to represent the world. With-
issues related to virtual world evolu-        out going into detail, we could take
tion. Although there isn’t room in this       the schema of a 3D virtual world as
special issue to run all the articles,        a starting point. The kinds of entities
they all warrant introduction as inter-       we’d need to model include locations at
esting examples of the state of the art       a variety of scales, land use and struc-
in this field.                                tures, avatars, primitive and composite
                                              objects, inventory items, assets, access
Virtual Worlds 101                            authorizations for places and things,
Dozens of 3D virtual world implemen-          and scripts.
tations currently exist. Most contain             If we deconstruct the most widely
notions such as regions (land); avatars       used virtual world, Second Life, we
that represent users who can walk, fly,       would find that it’s architected as a cli-
chat, or speak; and objects that ava-         ent viewer with servers that contain
tars can build, own, trade, or store in       content or provide other services such
their inventor y. Some virtual worlds         as avatar authentication. We might
are closed, in the sense that importing       notice that virtual worlds are built on
or exporting content is difficult; oth-       a suite of lower-level standards — for
ers are open. Some have a fixed notion        instance, IRC for instant messaging and

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                    1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE       Published by the IEEE Computer Society                           11




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                                                                                                                    THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Guest Editor’s Introduction



            Collada (Collaborative Design Activity; www.
                                                      ____      Cristina Lopes explores these issues in “Hypergrid:
            collada.org) or Second Life primitives (prims)      Architecture and Protocol for Virtual World
            for graphical content.                              Interoperability.”
                It wouldn’t take long to notice that virtual        At a high architectural level, we can dis-
            worlds have various limitations. As similar as      tinguish a virtual world platform from appli-
            virtual worlds are to gaming platforms, they        cations that are built on top of virtual worlds.
            don’t meet all the requirements for building        Architectural questions arise: What kinds of
            certain kinds of games, especially fast-paced,      applications can be built on virtual worlds?
            first person shooter games. Today’s virtual         Where is the dividing line between the virtual
            world implementations don’t scale to a stadium      world platform and the application? One way to
            of avatars or the entire earth. Virtual world       answer the question of what capabilities a vir-
            implementations are heterogeneous, and most         tual world platform should support is to view
            don’t interoperate. Rapidly populating virtual      this question as a red herring. Instead of a fixed
            worlds by importing content from geographic         virtual world platform, we’d like extensibil-
            information systems or the CAD community            ity mechanisms for augmenting virtual worlds
            is still uncommon, and there isn’t yet a widely     with additional capabilities. We can imagine
            used way to mirror state change in the real         virtual worlds with or without avatars, with
            world directly into virtual worlds or to model      different physics engines, with high- and low-
            past, present, and possible futures in virtual      fidelity sound, and so on. Toni Alatalo in “An
            worlds.                                             Entity-Component Model for Extensible Vir-
                                                                tual Worlds” and Jonathan Kaplan and Nicole
            In this Issue                                       Yankelovich in “Open Wonderland: An Exten-
            So, what problems must we solve to make vir-        sible Virtual World Architecture,” working in
            tual world technology widely useful?                two different virtual worlds (OpenSimulator
                First, we’d need to make it as seamless for     and Open Wonderland), have developed similar
            any user anywhere to visit and leave one vir-       component capability extension mechanisms
            tual world for another as it is for us to come      to accommodate the range of variation that we
            and go to websites. Virtual worlds typically        can predict will be needed in different virtual
            use a client-side viewer that renders content       worlds built for different purposes.
            stored remotely on servers. It makes sense to           Capabilities we’d want in a virtual world
            integrate virtual world viewers into Web brows-     could include search engines and ways to add
            ers. Already, virtual world URLs can access a       semantics to create “semantic worlds.” In “Vir-
            virtual world location (for instance, the Second    tual and Real-World Ontology Services,” Joshua
            Life URL http://slurl.com/secondlife/University     Eno and I explore how we can use virtual
            of Arkansas/123/81/32/ accesses an x-y-z loca-      world search engines to collect objects (and
            tion on the University of Arkansas island).         their labels) and then use those labels to build
            In “Extending Web Browsers with a Unity             taxonomies that match some large-scale ontol-
            3D-Based Virtual Worlds Viewer,” Neil Katz,         ogies, like WordNet and DBpedia. We observe
            Thomas Cook, and Robert Smart describe an           that virtual worlds don’t generally contain
            architecture for plugging the Unity 3D viewer       a semantic layer, that such a layer might be
            into Web browsers. Their aim is to remove           equally important in modeling the real world,
            the roadblock of hav ing separate applica-          and that a smart semantic world (analogous
            tions for Web browsing and v ir t ual world         to the Semantic Web) might result if we could
            interaction.                                        extend virtual worlds (that can mirror the real
                Just as anyone can create a website, it makes   world) with corresponding semantic types and
            sense for anyone to create a virtual world. But     rules. If virtual world architectures become exten-
            it also makes sense that an end user’s avatar be    sible (as in the Alatalo and Kaplan/Yankelovich
            able to leave one virtual world and enter oth-      articles), then an ontology service can store
            ers. Thus, we need a solution to avatar inter-      and retrieve semantics about avatars, objects,
            operabilit y, so that an avatar can move            and places for virtual or real-world applica-
            between virtual worlds, and we need vari-           tions that need that capability.
            ous ways to federate virtual worlds so indi-            Some virtual worlds such as Second Life
            vidual worlds can come and go like websites do.     make trade-offs in their modeling capabilities.

12          www.computer.org/internet/                                                        IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                  Virtual World Architectures



In Second Life, it is difficult to model very       focuses on avatar interoperability; the Web 3D
large objects or very small ones, or to simulate    Consortium (www.web3d.org) is developing 3D
small motor skills in workflows or object inte-     standards; and the IEEE Metaverse Standards
riors. Second Life isn’t the platform to use for    working group (www.metaversestandards.org)
performing remote surgery and doesn’t make          is developing a glossary and a reference archi-
it easy to model stresses in bridges, heat flow,    tecture for virtual worlds. Common APIs might
building plumbing and wiring diagrams, or           make sense. In “Toward a Semantic Approach
similar simulation requirements. In “Accuracy       to Virtual World Standards” (also to appear in
in 3D Virtual Worlds Applications: Interactive      a future issue), David Burden considers virtual
3D Modeling of the Refractory Linings of Cop-       world markup languages as another area that
per Smelters,” authors Anthony J. Rigby, Ken-       could be standardized.
neth Rigby, and Mark Melaney identify and
discuss the requirement for accurate model-         Future Directions
ing in some 3D world applications, like engi-       Where is virtual world technology going, and
neering and CAD applications and military           will virtual worlds fulfill their promise lead-
simulations.                                        ing to pervasive use? Virtual world technol-
    Two articles focus on applications built on     ogy is no longer in its infancy, but it’s still
top of virtual world platforms. In “Connect-        immature. A Gartner hype cycle graph shows
ing Virtual Worlds with the Real World for          virtual world technology with inflated expec-
Learning a Foreign Language” (to appear in a        tations in 2006, a disillusionment trough in
future issue of IEEE Internet Computing), María     2009, and the virtual world community cur-
Ibáñez, Carlos Kloos, Derick Leony, José García     rently slowly climbing an enlightenment slope
Rueda, and David Maroto build an educational        toward a productivity plateau. While Second
application on top of Open Wonderland that          Life is still the dominant virtual world plat-
involves a mirror world where students inter-       form, the open source OpenSimulator platform
act in the real world and also in a correspond-     is solidly functional, as are several other vir-
ing model world, both representing an avenue        tual world platforms such as Unity and Open
in Madrid. In “I-Room: Augmenting Virtual           Wonderland. But there is not yet a clear front-
Worlds with Intelligent Systems,” Austin Tate       runner architecture or implementation that
describes a suite of collaboration tools devel-     meets the needs of the many potential virtual
oped at the University of Edinburgh that can        worlds applications.
be used in civilian or military command cen-            Early adopters in the broad education com-
ters to gather information, understand an           munit y use vir tual worlds for classes and
evolving situation, and make decisions. Sev-        meetings. There are workshops, conferences,
eral of the tools (to-do lists, planners, and so    and journals that publish the occasional vir-
on) can be used independently of a virtual          tual world paper — and a few venues directly
world. Interestingly, they can be tied into a       focus on virtual worlds. But the academic-
virtual world (Second Life or OpenSimulator)        industrial virtual world research community
so that, though geographically distant, the         is splintered, heterogeneous, and distrib-
planners (that is, their avatars) can meet          uted. The IEEE Metaverse Standards working
together, chat or talk, and see in-world rep-       group provides one of the best current forums
resentations of shared collaborative content.       for architects to meet to discuss virtual world
This virtual presence helps synchronize the         directions.
team.
    Although many areas of virtual world tech-
nology need further exploration, virtual worlds        t seems clear that virtual worlds can go well
are evolving toward standardization. Rather
than a monolithic standard, the area is moving
                                                    I  beyond being venues for social interaction to
                                                    also support serious applications involving
toward a suite of loosely coupled standards that    teaching, training, and simulation. Especially,
help insure interoperability: Collada is recog-     it seems likely that we’ll eventually have 3D
nized as the gold standard for graphical content;   models of the real world and be able to use tech-
the IETF Virtual World Region Agent Protocol        nologies such as RFID, Kinect, and smart phones
effort (VWRAP; _____________________ 2
                 http://tools.ietf.org/wg/vwrap)    to constantly gather and update the models.

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Guest Editor’s Introduction



                    It’s not yet clear what route we’ll take toward                 2. J. Bell, M. Dinova, and D. Levine, “VWRAP for Vir-
                    a 3D Web or whether we’ll get there via the                        tual Worlds Interoperability,” IEEE Internet Computing,
                    efforts of a dominant player or virtual world                      vol. 14, no. 1, 2010, pp. 73–77.
                    platform or some other route coming out of
                    left field. However we get there, it seems that a              Craig W. Thompson is the Charles Morgan chair in the
                    good understanding of virtual worlds’ software                     Department of Computer Science and Computer Engi-
                    architecture will help ensure that eventual                        neering at the University of Arkansas. His research
                    solutions will meet a broad array of community                     interests include artificial intelligence, databases, mid-
                    requirements.                                                      dleware architectures, virtual worlds, RFID, and per-
                                                                                       vasive computing. Thompson has a PhD in computer
                                                                                       science from the University of Texas at Austin. He’s an
                    References                                                         IEEE fellow. Contact him at cwt@uark.edu.
                                                                                                                      ________
                     1. C. Thompson, “Next-Generation Virtual Worlds: Archi-
                        tecture, Status, and Directions,” IEEE Internet Comput-            Selected CS articles and columns are also available
                        ing, vol. 15, no. 1, 2011, pp. 60–65.                              for free at http://ComputingNow.computer.org.




         IEEE Internet Computing: Call for Papers
         Submit a manuscript on ScholarOne at https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com:443/ic-cs

 Programmatic Interfaces                                               emerging technologies and best development practices that un-
                                                                       derpin any modern programmatic Web interface. Sample topics
 for Web Applications (July/August 2012)                               include
 Final submissions due 1 November 2011                                   ■ best practices, patterns, and anti-patterns of a programmatic
                                                                           Web interface design;
   Please email the guest editors a brief description of the             ■ benchmarking and evaluation of programmatic Web interface
 article you plan to submit by 15 October 2011                             scalability and performance in large-scale Web applications;
   Guest Editors: Tomas Vitvar, Cesare Pautasso, and Steve               ■ comparisons and empirical evaluation of various styles, pro-
 Vinoski (ic4-2012@computer.org)
           _______________                                                 tocols, and descriptions for programmatic Web interfaces;
                                                                         ■ reports and lessons learned from developing programmatic



 T
      he rapid growth of programmatic Web service interfaces for           Web interfaces for various application domains and sectors
      Web applications (open Web APIs) has revolutionized online           (such as social, e-commerce, video, geospatial, and so on); and
      content integration and development practices. The increas-        ■ end-to-end engineering of programmatic Web interfaces and
 ing popularity of such Web interfaces raises questions of how             their integration with existing back-end applications requir-
 developers should design services and how they should maintain            ing the development of novel dependable and scalable tech-
 services’ good performance and scalability. Programmatic Web              nology frameworks.
 interfaces typically use REST style for communication, or REST-
 ful services implemented with HTTP, while moving away from                   All submissions must be original manuscripts of fewer than
 more traditional SOAP Web services. Although they can take                5,000 words, focused on Internet technologies and implementa-
 advantage of already existing Web architecture, many APIs that            tions. All manuscripts are subject to peer review on both technical
 claim to be RESTful actually fail to do so. They overload the             merit and relevance to IC’s international readership — primarily
 meaning of HTTP methods, ignore standard response codes, or               system and software design engineers. We do not accept white
 do not well support hypermedia to represent relationships among           papers, and we discourage strictly theoretical or mathemati-
 application states. Moreover, developing a programmatic Web               cal papers. To submit a manuscript, please log on to ScholarOne
 interface requires a tight integration with already existing back-        (https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com:443/ic-cs) to create or access
 end applications and infrastructures, and sometimes requires a            an account, which you can use to log on to IC’s Author Center and
 new, highly dependable back-end technology.                               upload your submission.
    This special issue seeks original articles on topics related to

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14                  www.computer.org/internet/                                                                           IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                                                     THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




                                                                                                                       Virtual World Architectures
Extending Web Browsers
with a Unity 3D-Based
Virtual Worlds Viewer
Many virtual worlds are accessed via a rich client interface that must be
downloaded and installed into the user’s environment. For many users,
especially enterprise users, this large download and install represents a
significant obstacle to virtual world acceptance. The authors describe a
technical implementation that uses the Unity 3D browser plug-in as a way
to access a virtual world from within a Web browser. Using this familiar tool,
users can interact with the rich virtual environments provided by Second Life
and OpenSimulator.




T
     hree-dimensional virtual worlds,       need to communicate in real time. Vir-          Neil Katz, Thomas Cook,
     exemplified by Linden Labs’ Second     tual worlds fill this gap.                      and Robert Smart
     Life and the open source Open-             Architecturally, virtual worlds are         IBM
Simulator (OpenSim; www.opensimulator.      often structured similarly to the World
org), let people collaborate and com-
__                                          Wide Web. Servers hold content (called
municate in ways not possible with          regions or islands), and client applica-
today’s phone and videoconferenc-           tions (viewers) let users browse (render)
ing systems.1 In these virtual worlds,      the scenes. As on the Web, users can
users are represented by avatars, which     follow a link (like a URL but containing
can walk, talk, and even fly, giving        a region name and coordinates) at any
users a spatially familiar view that        time to teleport to another region or
isn’t possible in other collaboration       location. Unlike the Web, the protocol
systems. For example, users in vir-         between the viewer and region servers
tual worlds can see and interact with       is typically proprietary and not based
objects and other users, communicate        on an open standard such as HTTP/
by voice or chat, and mimic real-world      HTML. Also, unlike the Web, the proto-
interactions. Virtual worlds are useful     col between the viewer and the server
for training and learning, as well as       is stateful; the server must keep track
meetings and events.2,3 In today’s envi-    of logged-in users and retain informa-
ronment, where travel is expensive and      tion about the avatar’s position in the
involves high overhead, there is still a    virtual world.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                  1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE     Published by the IEEE Computer Society                          15




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                                                                                                                    THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Virtual World Architectures



                Recreational users, including the game-playing   their own virtual world and make it either pri-
            community, have no problem downloading new           vate or open to the public. These virtual worlds
            applications. These users often have high-end        can be linked together to create a grid of virtual
            machines that can handle advanced graphics.          worlds. They can sit behind corporate, school, or
            But other classes of users, such as enterprise       government firewalls in private grids, or they
            users, might not have the same capabilities.         can be connected to public grids. OpenSim
            For example, in many enterprises, the aver-          can use the Second Life client solution because
            age machine is several years old, with a low-        Linden Labs published the interface between the
            end support for graphics rendering. The same is      client and server. The open source community
            true for many home users who might not have          developed a server-side library to implement the
            upgraded to machines with advanced graphics          interface. Originally called libsecondlife, it was
            that let them render virtual worlds with good        renamed libopenmetaverse, or libomv for short.
            performance and reliability. Also, users in both     Today, OpenSim represents tens of thousands
            environments might not install new applications      of lines of open source code and can support a
            such as a virtual world viewer: home users           large grid structure. In addition, the Second Life
            might find downloading, installing, and set-         client can interoperably connect to OpenSim or
            ting up new applications too complex, and            Second Life grids. Finally, OpenSim has been
            enterprise users might not be permitted to add       moving toward a 3D application server model
            software to their machines. Generally, both          in which virtual world scripts process external
            casual and enterprise users might want to use        data from sources such as weather sensors, real-
            virtual worlds for meetings and events, but          world motion sensors, and vehicle positions,
            they need to quickly connect and disconnect.         which are ref lected in the vir tual world. At
            Thus, for many virtual world scenarios, a full       the same time, because the interface was well
            client install is unnecessarily cumbersome — a       defined, other open source efforts developed cli-
            simpler solution is needed.                          ent viewers — for example, the Hippo viewer.
                To address this problem, we extended a Web           For expert users, a rich desktop client such
            browser to seamlessly support not only Web           as the Second Life client or the Hippo virtual
            browsing but also connecting to virtual worlds       world client are excellent solutions. The advent
            such as Second Life and OpenSim. This exten-         of OpenSim has helped improve libomv, which
            sion lets a much broader class of users access       has opened the door to client-side developers.
            virtual worlds without requiring high-end            Although the programming interface to imple-
            machines or special viewers. Removing this           ment such a client solution is available, in real-
            roadblock to widespread adoption could remove        ity no solutions have emerged as good-enough
            a chicken-and-egg problem — as long as most          for enterprise or casual users. Although some
            users can’t access virtual worlds with just a        researchers have attempted to use Linden Labs
            browser, virtual worlds won’t become commer-         protocols with the libomv open source code,
            cially interesting.                                  those efforts have been hampered by the need
                                                                 for a low-impact game engine, which could run
            Virtual World Viewer Issues                          inside a Web browser and effectively render 3D
            One reason the Web was successful so quickly         virtual world content.
            was that anyone could create content on a
            server accessible to the Internet that anyone        Toward a Low-Impact Viewer
            else could access, from anywhere in the world.       Because IBM had a large user set that we needed
            Only part of this equation was true for Second       to connect to virtual worlds, we needed a light-
            Life — any user anywhere could access it, but        weight browser-based viewer. Over the course of
            Linden Labs controlled all content on its grid of    several years, we surveyed and experimented with
            servers. OpenSim removed this constraint.            a number of virtual world platforms. We studied
                OpenSim is an open source server-based           meetings in Second Life and also held large events
            software project — anyone can download and           with hundreds of participants both within IBM
            install OpenSim and a companion viewer (for          and at public events, such as the X10 Workshop
            example, the Second Life viewer desktop client or    on Extensible Virtual Worlds (http://vw.ddns.
            the Hippo open source viewer [http://mjm-labs.       uark.edu/X10/index.php?page=overview). As we
                                                                 ____________________________
            com/viewer]). They can then (for free) create        began to bring more corporate users into the

16          www.computer.org/internet/                                                        IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                                               THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




                          Extending Web Browsers with a Unity 3D-Based Virtual Worlds Viewer



virtual world, we received feedback requesting       compatibility problems. Unity has rock-solid support
a lightweight zero-install method of accessing       for almost all hardware/software combinations, in
virtual worlds.                                      both DirectX and OpenGL.
    Overall, we found the Second Life and
OpenSim models of in-world content creation and      In contrast, the Second Life website contains
scripting to be important in delivering a high-      a lengthy list of graphics cards that aren’t
quality experience at an acceptable content-         compatible (http://secondlife.com/support/system
creation cost point. We determined that our          -requirements).
                                                     __________
solution for low-impact users needed to be              Security within the enterprise is a big con-
either an extremely lightweight installable          cern, with var ying levels of desktop lock-
game engine that could be compatible with            down and firewall port constraints. IBM has
delivery of Second Life or OpenSim content, or       progressive rules for employees, so we didn’t
it had to be browser-based. Web browsers sup-        directly address these concerns when creating
port dynamic add-ons to add functionality.           the viewer. In addition, both the Second Life
Users should be able to show up shortly before       and OpenSim environments are accessed from
a meeting, perform a one-click browser install,      within the IBM firewall.
and be in a conference or meeting quickly.
    When we decided to create a low-impact           Architectural Overview
viewer, the Unity 3D game engine was gaining         The project team consisted of two core develop-
momentum in the marketplace. We combined a           ment members and a handful of others drafted
Unity-based client with the rich virtual world       for short periods to work on specific tasks such
content delivered by Second Life and OpenSim         as graphic design. This is typical of projects
servers, leveraging the libomv APIs. It would        conducted in IBM’s Chief Information Officer
take some experimentation and performance            (CIO) Lab.
evaluation to ensure that the browser-based              Us i n g s m a l l te a m s h ad t he fol low i n g
Unity 3D engine could deliver a good enough          benefits:
experience for the casual user. Additionally,
we would have to determine a separate bidirec-          clear lines of communication,
tional voice solution.                                  reduction in process overhead,
    The existing Second Life client, weighing           easier division of tasks between members,
in at 25 Mbytes for Windows and 46 Mbytes               and
for Mac, was a significant barrier to entry for         production of a coherent design and code-
some users, particularly those on slower Inter-         base without having to spend a lot of time
net connections. The time taken to download             producing the architecture documentation
and run through the install process varies, but         necessary for a large development team.
for users on a slow connection and old machine
the process can easily take 10 minutes or more.          Throughout development the team produced
In contrast, the install size of the Unity plug-     rapid iterations of the viewer, with new features
in is around 3 Mbytes and usually can install        discussed, designed, and added in days or even
without a browser restart. So, although not a        hours. This approach allowed the team to gain
zero install, it is as small as possible without     immediate feedback from a group of hands on
resorting to using WebGL, which isn’t widely         test users.
supported.                                               Figure 1 shows the system’s overall archi-
    Another problem area for enterprise users        tecture. The main component is the virtual
where Unity fares well is support for old hard-      spaces viewer, which runs on top of the Unity
ware and graphics drivers, as the Unity web-         Web browser plug-i n; t he v iewer is com-
site notes (http://unity3D.com/unity/features/       patible with Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft
deployment):
________                                             Internet Explorer. The container webpage is
                                                     loaded from an application server that hosts the
Many potential players are using outdated graphics   page’s dynamic HTML (DHTML) content and
hardware and drivers. Even many common computer      the Unity 3D content archive. When the page
configurations are much less than ideal for games.   finishes loading, the Unity 3D browser plug-
Unity has built-in fallbacks and workarounds for     in requests the content archive and initializes it.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                    17




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                                                                                                                                                        THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Virtual World Architectures



                Server                                                                               OpenSim/SecondLife Enterprise grid
                                                                                    LDAP
                          Virtual spaces                        IBM
                                              Texture                  authentication
                           application                          user                             Authentication         Grid
                                              service                                                                                Regions
                              server                         directory                              service            services


                                   HTTP                           Image conversion
                                  page load                        jpeg2000 to png

                Client                                                                                                   UDP packets
                              Virtual spaces viewer webpage
                                                                                                 XMLRPC-based          containing world
                               DHTML page elements                                               authentication         state updates
                                         Dojo toolkit                                                Unity 3D browser plug-in
                                                                                                                  libopenmetaverse
                               Chat and IM
                                 widget
                                                                   JavaScript
                                                                    callouts

                                                                                Browser                                                    Object
                                                                                            HTTP
                                                                                message                                                    manager
                                                         Dojo                              manager    Texture     Terrain   Avatar
                                                                                 bridge
                                Map widget              pub/sub                                       manager     manager   manager
                                                         layer
                                                                                                                                          PrimMesher

                                 Contacts
                                                                                                        Unity 3D engine
                                  widget




            Figure 1. Primary system components and how they communicate with existing virtual world server
            components. The virtual spaces viewer is a Web browser add-on that’s compatible with Mozilla
            Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

            Once initialized, the plug-in invokes a Java-                                   region is informed of the connecting user, the
            Script method contained in the page, which dis-                                 session is initiated, and a response returned
            plays the login dialogue box to the user.                                       containing avatar details and session informa-
                This method of plug-in-to-browser two-way                                   tion. The HTTP manager passes this information
            communication handles most of the GUI I/O                                       to the libomv DLL, which sets up the session on
            traffic. Message commands are sent from the                                     the client side and connects using UDP trans-
            browser to the plug-in. A message bridge in the                                 port to the region server.
            plug-in routes the command to the correct com-                                      After the client connects, the OpenSimulator
            ponent. The components in the Unity 3D archive                                  server sends the region state, including terrain,
            are written in C# and executed by the plug-                                     avatars, objects, and textures contained within,
            ins built using the Mono virtual machine. The                                   to the viewer for rendering.
            inclusion of this virtual machine in the Unity
            3D plug-in lets us use existing C# dynamic link                                 Networking
            libraries (DLLs). This ability, along with Unity                                One of the key design decisions was which vir-
            3D’s other APIs and capabilities, provides a                                    tual world server platforms the viewer would
            major benefit over using something like WebGL                                   support. The easy choice would have been to
            as a rendering engine.                                                          support only the OpenSim platform; however,
                When the user enters login details in the                                   the Second Life Enterprise (SLE) platform and
            browser, the details are passed via a JavaScript                                public Second Life are widely used inside IBM.
            method to the plug-in. The message bridge then                                     Supporting only OpenSim as a server plat-
            routes the command to the HT TP manager,                                        form would have been much more straightfor-
            which makes an XML Remote Procedure Call                                        ward because the team could modify and adapt
            (XMLRPC) login request to the OpenSim (or                                       the open source code to use any communica-
            Second Life) authentication service. This ser-                                  tions protocol. Because we chose to support
            vice in turn contacts our internal user directory                               OpenSim, Second Life, and SLE, our only option
            to authenticate. On the server side, an OpenSim                                 was to use libomv, which left no possibility of

18          www.computer.org/internet/                                                                                            IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                          Extending Web Browsers with a Unity 3D-Based Virtual Worlds Viewer



changing the protocol dictated by the closed
source SLE server.
   Using libomv introduced an additional chal-
lenge: The library written in C# could be used
with Unity 3D, which includes the open source
Mono. However, Unity 3D applications deployed
as Web browser plug-ins run in a security sand-
box, which understandably prevents them from
accessing certain core classes of C# that allow        Figure 2. Objects used in Second Life. In Second
access to the local machines’ storage.                 Life, primitive shapes such as cubes, cylinders,
   This sandbox meant that components of the           and spheres are modified and combined to make
chosen network library had to be rewritten to          more complex shapes such as a chair.
use Unity 3D’s API so the rules of the security
sandbox could be adhered to.                           to understand these formulas so it could display
                                                       a scene it received from an OpenSim or Second
Describing 3D Objects                                  Life server. To do this, we used the PrimMesher
A major challenge in developing a viewer for           open source librar y. PrimMesher takes the
Second Life is recreating how it describes 3D          description of each primitive shape sent over
objects. The Unity 3D engine, like most game           the network and outputs structures containing
engines, uses a standard mesh description con-         vertices, triangles, and UV maps describing how
taining the location of all points (vertexes)          a texture should be positioned on the object.
that make up the object’s shape. Second Life,          Using the Unity 3D API, PrimMesher can cre-
instead, uses the concept of primitives — basic        ate a mesh object for each primitive shape and
shapes that can be modified and joined together        place it in the scene.
to form more complex shapes.                               Textures are displayed on these primitive
    Second Life was designed around the concept        shapes, and pointers to the textures are included
of an entirely user-created 3D world, an ambi-         in the data sent from the server. Each surface of
tious goal from the outset. In many games, such        an object can display a different texture.
as World of Warcraft, taking part in a multi-
player 3D experience online requires installing a      Graphical Performance
large game client that includes all the graphical      Modern graphics cards are optimized to handle
content. These game clients can require several        numerous polygons; however, a cost is associ-
gigabytes and take a long time to install. Linden      ated with submitting each mesh to the graph-
Labs set out to create an expandable world with-       ics card for processing. Submitting a few large
out limits; packaging all the content in the cli-      polygonal mesh objects incurs less overhead
ent was never a viable option. To quickly load         than submitting many small objects.
content from a server to a client, Linden Labs             Unfortunately, OpenSim and Second Life
developed an efficient graphical representation        scenes usually consist of thousands of small
called a prim (short for primitive object) with a      primitive shapes. Even worse, each of these
fixed selection of primitive types such as cubes,      primitives consists of several individual meshes,
spheres, and cones. The primitive shape could          and a separate image texture can be displayed
then be modified in several ways, from simple          on each surface.
scaling to complex twists and cuts. Each of                To ensure a high frame rate, we optimized
these primitives could then be stored as a tex-        the virtual spaces viewer in several ways.
tual object that included the base primitive type          The first optimization, which might sound
and associated transformation modifiers. Using         counterproductive, was to create two versions of
this representation, when a client connects to         every object in the scene. The first version of each
the Second Life server, the server transmits a         object was a fully detailed primitive assembled
compressed description of every object in the 3D       from a separately textured mesh surface. The
scene, and the local Second Life client then uses      second version was a single, less-detailed mesh
the prim description and the modifiers associ-         combining all of the surface meshes with only
ated with it to recreate a 3D object (see Figure 2).   one texture applied to the entire mesh. Unity
    The virtual spaces viewer needed to be able        3D has a feature called layers, and objects can

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                   19




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Virtual World Architectures



                                                                           Second Life, like many other online games,
                                                                       uses the Vivox voice technology. The voice-over-
                                                                       IP (VoIP) servers Vivox uses are fully Session
                                                                       Initiation Protocol (SIP) compliant. The Second
                                                                       Life client uses an embedded Vivox SIP client to
                                                                       connect users to a shared voice channel using a
                                                                       high-quality voice codec. Control messages con-
                                                                       taining data such as an avatar’s world position
                                                                       vary the volume of other speakers as well as ste-
                                                                       reo information. Vivox produces a browser plug-
                                                                       in that can be used to connect to the same servers
Figure 3. The number of objects displayed at any one time greatly      and channels where other Second Life avatars
impacts the viewer’s performance. To increase performance, the         are speaking. Connection instructions, volume,
viewer displays small objects only when the camera is near them.       and positional information can be passed to the
Because checking each object’s size and distance for every frame       plug-in using a JavaScript API.
rendered would be computationally expensive, we placed objects
onto logical layers ordered by size. Each layer displays objects up    A Hybrid GUI Solution
to a fixed distance from the camera.                                   The idea of running a Second Life or OpenSim
                                                                       viewer client in a Web browser isn’t new and
                  be placed on one or more layers. Each scene in       has been attempted using ActiveX wrappers
                  Unity 3D can contain one or more cameras that        around the full Second Life client. This
                  can be dynamically positioned within the scene,      approach at unifying virtual worlds and Web
                  and each of these cameras can be configured to       browsers has drawn criticism because nothing
                  display zero or more layers.                         has been added to or removed from the original
                     Our second optimization was to use two            experience, and these might as well have been
                  cameras in each scene displayed in the viewer.       standalone desktop applications.
                  We configured the first to show the layer con-           By their nature, 3D applications don’t handle
                  taining the high-resolution multisurfaced            and display textual data well. Often in 3D deve-
                  meshes. We further configured this camera            lopment, custom GUI elements are built to handle
                  to only show objects from zero to 40 meters          the display of 2D information. Developing these
                  away. The second camera displayed a layer            can be time consuming and ultimately redundant
                  containing only the low-resolution combined          when displaying a 3D application in a browser.
                  mesh objects; it showed objects at a distance            To exploit the browser’s strengths, we del-
                  of 40 meters or greater. Figure 3 illustrates this   egated almost all text-handling capability to
                  technique.                                           DHTML. This approach let us quickly develop
                     A similar optimization was to only put            DHTML-based widgets to handle functions such
                  objects over a certain size in the layer contain-    as text chat, contacts lists, and other 2D infor-
                  ing low-resolution objects. This reduced the         mation displays.
                  number of meshes that had to be passed to the            The Unity 3D plug-in provides scripting
                  graphics card for rendering.                         methods that let JavaScript functions be called
                     The optimization steps took a scene that          in the host webpage and pass them informa-
                  previously ran at 20 frames per second and           tion. In the same way, functions in the web-
                  increased that to around 100 fps.                    page can call script functions of the Unity 3D
                                                                       plug-in. Figure 4 shows the resulting interface,
                  Adding Voice                                         with DHTML-based widgets surrounding the 3D
                  Second Life’s introduction of voice to the 3D        viewport.
                  environment was received with mixed reac-                The viewer page’s portal-style layout also
                  tions. For business users, it was an essential       allows for customization and expansion in the
                  tool and unquestionably a big addition to the        form of new widgets or different arrangements.
                  platform. For some recreational users, however,      A Web developer can easily edit the HTML to
                  it was an unwelcome interruption to the text-        define a custom look and feel for particular
                  only conversational world and a step away from       events or scenarios rather than needing a pro-
                  the fantasy world they liked to inhabit.             grammer to change the 3D plug-in.

20                www.computer.org/internet/                                                        IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                             Extending Web Browsers with a Unity 3D-Based Virtual Worlds Viewer



    ne major constraint imposed on the view-
O   er’s development was the need to support
both Second Life and OpenSim platforms. One
way to extend the architecture extension is to
abandon Second Life compatibility and tie the
viewer strictly to the OpenSim platform. This
step would open up several possibilities because
we could then change the server component and
protocol to specifically support the Unity view-
er’s needs. For example, one simple change is
to enable OpenSim to provide textures directly
in a PNG image format, which would remove
the need for the standalone texture conversion
service.
    We field-tested our browser-based viewer
as the main interaction interface used by more                Figure 4. A screenshot of a meeting taking place using the virtual
than 140 individuals from around the globe                    spaces viewer. The 3D view in the center contains the world
during an IBM Academy of Technology meet-                     view and movement controls, while the surrounding webpage
ing held in a virtual world in October 2010.                  components handle the display of contacts, map navigation, chat,
Compared to previous years when the Sec-                      IM, and voice features.
ond Life viewer was used, meeting attendees
reported fewer technical issues entering the
vir tual world meeting. As expected due to                    Neil Katz is an IBM distinguished engineer in the Chief
busy schedules, many users joined the meeting                     Information Officer’s Lab within the IBM CIO Office.
without prior testing of their ability to use the                 He’s responsible for the strategy and deployment of
low-impact viewer. Users were able to navi-                       emerging applications and technology to assist the
gate intuitively without prior training. None of                  IBM enterprise with better tools for enhanced collabo-
the attendees reverted to the high-resolution,                    ration. Katz has a BS in electrical engineering from the
standalone rich client virtual world viewer; all                  University of Florida and an MBA from Nova South-
continued to use the low-impact browser-based                     eastern University. He’s a member of IEEE. Contact him
solution.                                                            nkatz@us.ibm.com.
                                                                  at ___________
    A place still remains for the rich client
viewer as content builders and deep virtual                   Thomas Cook is a senior technical staff member at IBM
world users rely on the build functions and                      responsible for leading a team of designers and devel-
graphics depth for key 3D applications for vir-                  opers to create innovative solutions that help people
tual world collaboration and modeling.                           collaborate, connect, and share ideas. His work at
                                                                 IBM has included mobile solutions, embedded sys-
References                                                       tems, game systems, virtual worlds, and operating
1. K. Bessière, J.B. Ellis, and W.A. Kellogg, “Acquiring a       systems. Cook has a BS in computer science from
   Professional ‘Second Life’: Problems and Prospects for        Clarkson University. Contact him at tomcook@us.
                                                                                                         ________
   the Use of Virtual Worlds in Business,” Proc. 27th Int’l      ibm.com.
   Conf. Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Comput-
   ing Systems (CHI 09), ACM Press, pp. 2883–2898.            Robert Smart is an emerging technologies specialist at
2. R. Alther et al., “Virtual Spaces: Enabling Immer-            IBM Hursley in the UK. As a member of the IBM CIO
   sive Collaborative Enterprise, Part 2: Implementation         Office Lab team, he’s responsible for architecting and
   and Lessons Learned,” IBM developerWorks, 2009;               developing technologies that allow IBM employees to
   www.ibm.com/developer works/webser vices/librar y/            collaborate effectively. Smart has a BSc in computer
   ws-virtualspaces2/index.html.
   _________________                                             science from the University of Nottingham. Contact
3. R. Brunner et al., “Virtual Spaces: Enabling Immersive        him at smartrob@uk.ibm.com.
                                                                        _____________
   Collaborative Enterprise, Part 1: Introduction to the
   Opportunities and Technologies,” IBM developerWorks,
   www.ibm.com/developer works/webser vices/librar y/                Selected CS articles and columns are also available
   ws-virtualspaces/index.html.
   _________________                                                 for free at http://ComputingNow.computer.org.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                  21




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                                                                                                                                                      THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®


Virtual World Architectures




                              Hypergrid: Architecture and
                              Protocol for Virtual World
                              Interoperability
                                                       Massive multiuser online (MMO) environments that simulate large virtual
                                                       spaces for many users have prompted the desire to create an even larger,
                                                       highly scalable environment in a federated manner. In a federation of virtual
                                                       environments, users should be able to visit different environments belonging
                                                       to different authorities while preserving their identity; they should also be able
                                                       to join a global, federated social network. The Hypergrid is an architecture
                                                       and protocol for securely decentralizing multiuser virtual environments.
                                                       It establishes an open federation of multiuser applications that can exchange
                                                       user agents and assets and can generally interoperate on several basic services.




                                                       M
Cristina Videira Lopes                                         assive multiuser online (MMO)               group) or jointly operating one single
University of California, Irvine                               games such as Linden Lab’s Sec-             virtual world for the group (thereby
                                                               ond Life provide shared virtual             losing control of their own share in
                                                       spaces, in which thousands of users                 that virtual world).
                                                       can interact with one another, with                     In this article, we present the Hyper-
                                                       virtual objects, and with artificial                grid, an architecture and protocol for
                                                       intelligence (AI) agents. These environ-            securely decentralizing multiuser vir-
                                                       ments require considerable server-side              tual environments at all scales. The
                                                       infrastructure, controlled in each case             Hypergrid establishes an open federa-
                                                       by a single organization. Centralized               tion of multiuser applications that can
                                                       control of virtual worlds enables the               exchange user agents and assets, and
                                                       development of walled-garden envi-                  can generally interoperate on several
                                                       ronments with high internal consis-                 basic services. It supports the teleport-
                                                       tency. However, several problems arise              ing of user agents between worlds in
                                                       from centralization of authority. First,            different administrative domains while
                                                       groups of individuals and organiza-                 preserving user identity, as well as the
                                                       tions wanting their own virtual worlds              user’s 3D visual representation and con-
                                                       face the binary choice of either operat-            nections to certain home-world ser-
                                                       ing separate walled gardens (thus mak-              vices. We designed and implemented
                                                       ing them difficult to share across the              the Hypergrid in the OpenSimulator

22                            Published by the IEEE Computer Society         1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                    IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                           Hypergrid: Architecture and Protocol for Virtual World Interoperability


                             Multiuser 3D Simulation and Gaming Environments

  T    he field of multiuser 3D simulation and gaming environ-
       ments is divided into two architectural camps: peer-to-
  peer (P2P) and client–server.
                                                                       OpenWonderland).
                                                                       ___________           Open Wonderland is a virtual world cli-
                                                                       ent implemented in Java that connects to Darkstar-based vir-
                                                                       tual world servers, 8 also written in Java. Like the Hypergrid,
      In P2P systems, the program that the user drives is both the     Open Wonderland supports a federation of virtual worlds.
  simulator and the user interface. An additional network layer        However, that federation has the following architectural differ-
  lets several peers join in one logical simulation, and physical      ences. First, the client itself keeps the user agent information;
  simulation of different parts of the scene occurs in the different   the client is its own authority and keeps that state through-
  peers. Examples of P2P multiuser virtual environments include        out the session. Second, Open Wonderland relies entirely on
  MiMaze,1 High-Level Architecture standards, 2 TeCo3D, 3 Cro-         the Java programming language for dynamically loading code
  quet,4,5 Miramar,6 and Unity 3D Basic (http://unity3d.com). P2P      as the user moves from one world to another. These are
  virtual environments are naturally federated, in the sense that      interesting variations that simplify the interoperability archi-
  each user-driven peer represents exactly one user and has full       tecture at the expense of narrowing down the implementa-
  authority over the user agent’s state and over parts of that vir-    tion technologies and tightly coupling the servers with the
  tual world.                                                          clients.
      Massive multiuser virtual worlds follow a client–server
  architecture. Their internal architectures vary considerably,        References
  but they all share one authoritative server side, to which           1. L. Gautier and C. Diot, “Design and Evaluation of MiMaze, A Multiplayer
  interactive rendering clients connect. Besides the well-known           Game on the Internet,” Proc. IEEE Int’l Conf. Multimedia Computing and
  commercial massive multiuser online (MMO) games such as                 Systems (ICMCS 98), IEEE CS Press, 1998, pp. 233–236.
  Second Life, Eve Online, and World of Warcraft, examples             2. F. Kuhl, R. Weatherly, and J. Dahmann, Creating Computer Simulation Systems:
  of publicly documented server-side systems and prototypes               An Introduction to the High-Level Architecture, Prentice Hall, 1999.
  include RING,7 Project Darkstar (now RedDwarf), 8 Meru,9 and         3. M. Mauve, “TeCo3D — A 3D Telecooperation Application Based on VRML
  OpenSimulator.                                                          and Java,” Proc. Multimedia Computing and Networking (MMCN 99), SPIE
      In many ways, client–server architectures do well where             3654, Int’l Soc. for Optics and Photonics, 1999, pp. 240–251.
  P2P architectures do poorly. First, client–server architectures      4. D.A. Smith et al., Croquet User Manual, tech. report, Open Croquet, 2005;
  naturally support persistent, sharable virtual environments             www.opencroquet.org.
  that exist beyond the user agents that visit them. Second, they      5. D.P. Reed, “Designing Croquet’s TeaTime: A Real-Time, Temporal Environ-
  provide many more options for scalability because the server            ment for Active Object Cooperation,” Proc. 20th Ann. ACM SIGPLAN Conf.
  side can be fueled with many high-end servers and appropriate           Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA 05),
  bandwidth for acceptable quality of service.                            ACM Press, 2005, p. 7.
      In other ways, client–server architectures do poorly where       6. J.D. Miller and C. Pickering, “From One to Many: Transforming Miramar
  P2P architectures do well: client–server systems, such as the           into a Collaboration Space,” Proc. 5th Int’l Conf. Creating, Connecting and Col-
  Web, promote walled-garden environments, some of which                  laborating through Computing, IEEE CS Press, 2007, pp. 109–116.
  end up dominating specific application areas. As people and          7. T.A. Funkhouser, “RING: A Client-Server System for Multiuser Virtual
  organizations see value in interconnecting, additional pieces of        Environments,” Proc. Symp. Interactive 3D Graphics (I3D 95), ACM Press,
  architecture become necessary to enable those walled gardens            1995, pp. 85–ff.
  to interoperate. This has been happening on the Web for a            8. J. Waldo, “Scaling in Games and Virtual Worlds,” Comm. ACM, vol. 51,
  while. The Hypergrid is another step in that direction.                 no. 8, 2008, pp. 38–44.
      The closest system to the spirit of the Hypergrid is Open        9. D. Horn et al., “Scaling Virtual Worlds with a Physical Metaphor,” IEEE
  Wonderland (http://code.google.com/p/openwonderland/wiki/               Pervasive Computing, vol. 8, no. 3, 2009, pp. 50–54.




projec t ( ht t p://open si mu lator.org). A sec-            are accessible via Second Life viewers as the
ond, independent implementation is now avail-                user-driven clients. However, the Hypergrid
able in the SimianGrid (http://code.google.com/p/            can also support arbitrary Web-based multiuser
openmetaverse/wiki/SimianGrid). The SimianGrid
______________________                                       applications — a critical capability, as an ever-
is an alternative back end to OpenSimulator based            growing number of Web-based viewers for
on PHP and Apache. The Hypergrid is already                  these virtual worlds are being developed. (The
deployed in several OpenSimulator-based virtual              “Multiuser 3D Simulation and Gaming Environ-
worlds.                                                      ments” sidebar describes two main types of 3D
    Here, we focus on the design of the Hyper-               simulation and gaming architectures: peer-to-
grid for worlds based in OpenSimulator that                  peer (P2P) and client–server.)

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                                        23




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Virtual World Architectures



                                                                                              Popular configurations include small grids with
                                                       User’s viewer client                   one or a few simulator servers, all directly con-
                                                                                              nected to a MySQL server on the same LAN,
                                                                                              and grids with multiple simulators connected to
                                                                                              Apache-server-based resource services over the
                                                                                              Internet.
                                  Internet

                                                                                              Protocols
        Login          S      S        S        S      S     S      S         …
       service                                                                                Here, we describe the major protocols in Open-
                                                                                              Simulator between the viewer, the login service,
                                                                                              and the simulator services when both the login


                                                                              Virtual world
                                                                                              and simulators are all within the same adminis-
                              LAN,VPN, Internet
                                                                                              trative trust domain.
                                                                                                  So that the viewer software could be reused
          User                                                                                without changing it, these protocols were heav-
        accounts       Assets              Inventory          Avatar                          ily influenced by how Second Life is engineered.
         storage       storage              storage           storage         …
                                                                                              Although the protocols described here target spe-
                                                                                              cific commercial virtual worlds, they’re important
Figure 1. Main architectural components of an OpenSimulator-                                  for three reasons. First, they embody a profound
based virtual world. These worlds can be as small as one single                               generalization of the well-known user agent con-
simulator (S) or as large as thousands of simulators that share                               cept on the Web. Second, they show how to man-
persistent resources. User-driven clients first authenticate with                             age user agent transfers in a distributed system.
the world’s login service, and then exchange data with specific                               Third, they’re the basis for the Hypergrid proto-
simulators. (VPN: virtual private network.)                                                   cols described later, which simply add security
                                                                                              safeguards for when the interacting components
                                                                                              belong to different administrative trust domains.
                   OpenSimulator
                   The OpenSimulator project began in early 2007                              Login. The login protocol involves the user’s
                   as an open source server side to the Second Life                           viewer client, the login service, and a simulator:
                   client. A simulator is the basic unit of virtual
                   space containing one or more regions, which                                1. The viewer contacts the login service on an
                   are 3D spaces of 256 m 256 m            . Simula-                             HTTP-based (or HTTPS) connection, sending
                   tors can be interconnected to form larger, con-                               the user’s credentials (username and pass-
                   tinuous spaces that share persistent resources,                               word) and desired virtual place (simulator).
                   known as grids. In this article we treat “grid” as                         2. The login service verifies the user’s creden-
                   synonymous with “virtual world.”                                              tials. If they’re valid, the login process gen-
                                                                                                 erates a pair of session IDs. (This is a minor
                   Architectural Style and Components                                            detail of Linden Lab’s viewer; in other applica-
                   OpenSimulator worlds follow a client–server                                   tions, only one session ID would be necessary.)
                   architecture similar to that of the Web: user-                             3. The login service creates a user agent, which
                   driven clients merely render the application                                  includes the session IDs and information
                   state, which remains on the server side. Figure 1                             about the user’s 3D representation.
                   depicts the overall client–server architecture of                          4. The login service logs the user’s session in
                   OpenSimulator-based virtual worlds.                                           the grid using a persistent presence resource.
                       Logically, a grid comprises one or more                                5. The login service sends this user agent to the
                   simulator services, a common login service, and                               simulator that runs the desired virtual place.
                   a collection of common resources such as assets                            6. The simulator verifies the user’s presence
                   and inventory. Users access the virtual world                                 with the given session IDs. If verification
                   through a client (or virtual world viewer).                                   is successful, the simulator stores the user
                       In OpenSimulator’s software architecture, the                             agent and prepares for initial viewer contact.
                   connectors to all resource services are plug-ins.                          7. The login service sends the login reply to
                   This allows for developing various concrete mid-                              the viewer, including the session IDs and the
                   dleware grid services to support the simulators.                              desired simulator’s IP end point.

24                 www.computer.org/internet/                                                                               IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                         Hypergrid: Architecture and Protocol for Virtual World Interoperability



8. The viewer contacts the simulator. The simu-      Gecko/20101203 Firefox/3.6.13. The Session
   lator then verifies the existence of the valid    Initiation Protocol (SIP) uses the term “user
   user agent, and the simulation proceeds           agent” to denote the user-driven client software’s
   from there on.                                    Internet end points.1
                                                         Here, we’ve generalized the concept of user
Once the user logs in, he or she can access and      agent to include information not only about the
interact with the resources of the virtual world.    software that users drive and their Internet end
The user can also move around to different           points but also about the users themselves: the
parts of that virtual world through a process        service end points used by a particular user,
called teleporting.                                  identifiers of assets related to that user’s 3D rep-
                                                     resentation, authorization tokens, and so on.
Intragrid agent transfer. The intragrid agent            Because these environments provide simu-
transfer (teleport) protocol involves the viewer,    lation of virtual spaces, of which the user’s
the current simulator, and the target simulator      representation is a part, portions of the user’s
(that is, the simulator to which the user wants to   state could change as that user visits different
go next). We assume all server-side components       simulators. For example, the user could carry
are in the same administrative trust domain:         a script that stores the names of all users that this
                                                     script encounters; such a script is part of the
1. The viewer notifies the current simulator         user agent, and it’s executed by each simula-
   about the desired virtual place where the         tor that the user visits. That script’s state (users’
   user wants to go next.                            names) is accumulated as the user moves around
2. The current simulator sends a copy of the         and the script migrates from one simulator to
   user agent to the target simulator running        another. Transfers of user agents between simu-
   the desired virtual place. It also sends an       lators ensure the preservation of the server-side
   opaque callback address for later use.            state related to the respective users throughout
3. The target simulator stores the user agent        the session’s duration.
   and prepares for initial viewer contact.
   Preparation includes creating authorization       The Hypergrid
   tokens for the user agent to use while visit-     The Hypergrid’s goal is to provide a relatively
   ing that simulator.                               seamless user experience as users visit dif-
4. The current simulator sends information           ferent v ir tual env ironments, while ensur-
   to the viewer about the target simulator,         ing the integrity of all parts. The Hypergrid
   including the target simulator’s IP end point.    achieves seamlessness through a single sign-on
   Although the mechanism is quite different,        (SSO) mechanism that preser ves user iden-
   the nature of this step is similar to HTTP’s      tity throughout the session’s duration, and by
   redirect return code.                             making certain user services available to the
5. The viewer contacts the target simulator,         virtual worlds that the user visits. The result
   which verifies the existence of a valid pres-     is an open but secure federation of virtual
   ence for the user.                                environments.
6. The target simulator invokes the callback
   to the original simulator, signaling that the     Architectural Components
   viewer has made contact.                          The Hypergrid consists of a collection of Web
                                                     services provided by the virtual environments
The current simulator discards its copy of the       to the rest of the world in addition to their inter-
user agent, and the hand-off is complete.            nal services. Figure 2 illustrates the Hypergrid’s
                                                     architecture.
User Agents
The term “user agent” is most notably used to        The gatekeeper service. Users can enter a vir-
identify clients that access Web servers. For        tual world via two main entry points: the regu-
example, the HTTP protocol includes a User-          lar login service, which requires a local account
Agent request header that identifies the soft-       in the virtual world, and the gatekeeper service,
ware used to issue the Web request: Mozilla/5.0      which is the entry point for users with accounts
(Windows;U;WindowsNT6.1;en-US;rv:1.9.2.13)           elsewhere. All user agents from users of other

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                  25




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Virtual World Architectures



      Login     S       S       S    S       S     S    S    …   Gatekeeper                   Once users acquire an identity with their
     service                                                      service                 home world via a login procedure, they can visit
                                                                                          other worlds. A visit to another world requires
                              LAN,VPN, Internet
                                                                                          sending user agent information to the target
                                                                                          world — more specifically, to its gatekeeper. For




                                                                          Virtual world
                                                                                          security reasons, the only authority that can
       User     Assets           Inventory        Avatar                                  send user agents to other virtual worlds is the
     accounts   storage           storage         storage    …                            home world’s user agents service.
      storage                                                                                 To illustrate the need for this component,
                                                                                          consider the following scenario. User 1 is visit-
                                                                                          ing some foreign world Y and wishes to move
                                                  Instant-
                    Assets       Inventory       messaging
                                                                 User agents              to another world Z. World Y has a copy of the
                    service        service                   …     service                user agent, so it can simply send it directly to
                                                  service
                                                                                          world Z. However, such a direct exchange could
                                                                                          compromise the user agent’s integrity. A rogue
Figure 2. Main architectural components of the Hypergrid,
                                                                                          world Y could add malicious data to the user
including additional Web services that virtual worlds can provide
                                                                                          agent, undermining possible trust relations
to become part of the open Hypergrid Federation. The green
                                                                                          between the user’s home world and world Z.
boxes are internal to each grid, whereas the tan boxes are the
                                                                                              To avoid such vulnerabilities, the Hyper-
Hypergrid’s components.
                                                                                          grid establishes the existence of the user agents
                                                                                          service — the authoritative driver of all user
                     worlds enter through the gatekeeper; one of                          agents pertaining to each world’s local users.
                     the gatekeeper’s responsibilities is to authen-                      One of this service’s main responsibilities is to
                     ticate such user agents. Attempts at sending                         regenerate valid user agents every time users
                     user agents directly to the world’s simulators                       move between worlds. A second main respon-
                     will fail because the simulators expect the                          sibility is to keep track of all user agents and
                     gatekeeper to have authenticated those agents.                       their locations.
                     The authentication procedure is the basis for
                     the SSO mechanism, which is the core of the                          Additional user support services. Besides securely
                     Hypergrid.                                                           preserving user identity across virtual environ-
                         Additionally, the gatekeeper can filter user                     ments, the Hypergrid also provides federated
                     agents on the basis of access control rules and                      access to certain services that support a better
                     policy decisions regarding incoming data.                            user experience (see Figure 2). We describe one
                                                                                          of these services here.
                     The user agents service. As explained earlier,                           In these virtual worlds’ rich visual environ-
                     the virtual environments considered here use                         ments, the user’s 3D representation (avatar) is
                     a client–server architecture in which the client                     important, and its preservation across worlds
                     simply renders information kept by the server                        might be desirable. There are several differ-
                     side. This has some important consequences for                       ent ways to represent the avatar, but it always
                     user identity, and how it is managed throughout                      includes assets stored in the user’s home world.
                     the sessions.                                                        As such, preserving the avatar upon agent
                        The most important consequence is that all                        transfers requires providing access to those
                     authority resides not on user-driven compo-                          assets by the world that the user is visiting.
                     nents but on servers, and this includes informa-                         Serving assets on the Hypergrid isn’t the
                     tion pertaining to user identity: users acquire                      same as serving assets within one world, because
                     identities by logging in to identity services                        asset exchanges between worlds involve differ-
                     on the Internet. Those identity services could                       ent administrative and trust domains, and hence
                     be part of the virtual worlds, or they could be                      require additional filters and safeguards. Hyper-
                     stand-alone identity services. OpenSimulator                         grid asset servers should perform authorization
                     worlds include user accounts, and thus can be                        of requests and could perform metadata adjust-
                     identity providers. We call the system with                          ments. For example, the current implementation
                     which a user acquires his or her identity the                        of the Hypergrid asset service in OpenSimulator
                     home world for that user.                                            adds universal resource identifiers to create

26                   www.computer.org/internet/                                                                        IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                         Hypergrid: Architecture and Protocol for Virtual World Interoperability



information pertaining to exported assets. Thus,       Hypergrid agent transfers. Here, we describe a
if John Smith created an asset in world A, the         teleport protocol involving the viewer, the cur-
exported information would include a URL for           rent simulator, the user agents service of the
user John Smith’s profile.                             user, the grid’s gatekeeper service where the
    Besides assets, the Hypergrid enables the          user wants to go next, and the target simula-
open-ended collection of user support services         tor. There are three trust domains: the viewer
related to the user’s resources, social network,       and the user agents service, the gatekeeper and
and communication. Social networking in the            the target simulator in its grid, and the current
Hypergrid is a global, federated facility: users       simulator. This protocol is based on the teleport
can have friends in other grids and can com-           protocol described in the “Intragrid agent trans-
municate with them. Therefore, each world can          fer” section:
expose services that support those global social
connections in a manner that shares similarities        1. (same, except the target virtual place is in
with Diaspora (https://joindiaspora.com).                  another grid and is identified by that grid’s
                                                           gatekeeper address)
Single Sign-On                                          2. The current simulator sends a snapshot of the
The Hypergrid SSO mechanism lets users log                 user agent to the user agents service of that
in only once to their home world and securely              user, along with information about where
use their identities to visit other worlds in the          the user wants to go next. It also sends an
federation without being prompted for cre-                 opaque callback address for later use.
dentials or confirmation. The Hypergrid SSO            2.1 T he gatekeeper and user agents ser v ice
mechanism is based on the protocols described              interactions ensue. The security precautions
earlier but extends them to deal with compo-               regarding these interactions are as follows.
nents in different administrative trust domains.           First, the user agents service generates a
In these protocols, parts in bold denote the               unique service key for the desired grid, adds
new protocol elements that the Hypergrid has               it to the user agent data, and launches the
added.                                                     agent at the desired location’s gatekeeper
                                                           service. The unique service key consists of
SSO login. For the sake of simplicity, the pro-            the destination’s gatekeeper URL, to which a
tocol explained here assumes users always log              unique random token is added (for instance,
into their home world. In OpenSimulator, the               http://hg.osgrid.org/?cap=9876543210). Sec-
Hypergrid login procedure is more general, let-            ond, the user agents service updates the user’s
ting users log in directly to any grid. The sim-           traveling data with the new destination and
plification made here doesn’t change in any way            service key (for example, a user agent with
the main security safeguards on agent transfers            session ID 1, IP address 70.45.12.64, going
that the Hypergrid adds.                                   to hg.osgrid.org, with service key http://
    Here, the user agents service, the login ser-          hg.osgrid.org/?cap=9876543210). Third, the
vice, and the initial simulator are all within             user agents service might filter data from
the same administrative trust domain. The                  the user agent it received from the departing
sequence of events is essentially identical to             simulator, and then launch the agent at the
the one described earlier in the “Login” section;          destination gatekeeper. The destination gate-
the main difference is the collection and stor-            keeper service performs verification against
age of additional information for the user agent:          fake agents (impersonations). The data used
that is, in step 3, the login service creates a user       for this is the provided service token and the
agent comprising the session IDs, information              reported user agents service URL.
about the user’s 3D representation, and a col-         2.2 If all verifications succeed, the gatekeeper
lection of URLs representing the user’s services,          logs the user session in its grid using a per-
including the user agents service; and, in the             sistent presence resource, and launches the
latter part of step 4, the login service sends the         user agent at the desired local simulator.
user agent’s information to the user agents             3. (same)
service; this information includes the user’s           4. (same)
client IP address, as reported by the initial login    5. The viewer contacts the target simulator,
request’s TCP stack.                                       which verifies the existence of a valid presence

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Virtual World Architectures



                 for the user. Additionally, the target simula-    servers should be granted only to authorized
                 tor contacts the user’s reported user agents      asset consumers and not to anonymous clients
                 service URL for verification of the user’s cli-   on the Internet. The only authorized consumers
                 ent IP address. This prevents other kinds of      of those resources are the worlds that the home
                 impersonations.                                   users visit at any point in time. For example, if
                                                                   user U of home world H visits virtual world Z,
            Finally, steps 6 and 7 are the same as in the          then Z might need to download U’s avatar assets
            “Intragrid agent transfer” section.                    from H to construct an accurate 3D representa-
                                                                   tion of the user. Similarly, if, while visiting Z,
            Security                                               U gives an item to another user, Z must broker
            Virtual worlds, especially those built on client-      that transfer, which requires access to the item’s
            ser ver architectures, operate within broad            assets stored in H.
            margins of mutual trust. To a large extent,                We’re currently adding this authorization
            this trust is determined by current technologi-        mechanism to OpenSimulator’s Hy pergr id-
            cal limitations about what can be protected.           facing asset server. It works in the following
            Nevertheless, neither users nor virtual worlds         manner. According to the protocol explained in
            should be allowed to go beyond those mar-              the “Hypergrid agent transfers” section, every
            gins of trust. Hypergrid security must ensure          time the user agents service sends a user agent
            the integrity, availability, and confidentiality       to a new virtual world, it issues a unique ser-
            of resources intended to be integral, available,       vice key. The target world uses that key as an
            and confidential. Two particularly important           authorization token to access resources of the
            types of resources that need protection are the        user’s home world. Subsequent requests to
            user agents themselves and the virtual worlds’         the resources of the user’s home world must
            assets.                                                include that key. Unauthorized requests will be
                                                                   denied access to the asset resources.
            User Agent Integrity                                       The Hypergrid asset servers can establish
            Whatever abuse might occur in one world                more restrictive policies on top of this autho-
            should be limited to that world only, and              rization mechanism. For example, they could
            shouldn’t compromise the integrity of the user’s       deny access to certain types of assets.
            agents sent to other virtual worlds. This is the
            main purpose of the user agents service in the
            Hypergrid architecture.                                   lthough we designed and implemented the
                Hypergrid security relies primarily on reliable
            user agent authentication throughout the federa-
                                                                   A  Hypergrid for OpenSimulator-based virtual
                                                                   worlds and the dedicated clients currently used
            tion of virtual worlds. If impersonations were to      to interact with those worlds, we ultimately
            occur, the Hypergrid wouldn’t function. Imper-         would like it to be an architecture and proto-
            sonations could occur if rogue virtual worlds          col for federating virtual environments on the
            visited by users could send rogue user agents to       Web itself. Consider the architecture in Figure 2.
            other worlds and then control those user agents        If we substitute Web servers for the simula-
            as if they were representing the users.                tors (S), the components in green represent the
                Fortunately, the verifications that the gate-      server-side architecture of many multiuser
            keeper and the target simulator make against           Web applications. As such, it’s straightfor-
            the user agents service ensure that imperson-          ward to add the (tan) Hy pergrid compo-
            ations won’t occur.                                    nents, making those applications ready to be
                                                                   federated.
            Confidentiality of Assets                                 The reason behind this goal is simple: the
            Whatever abuse a user might perform on the             Web has the critical mass of users, and interest
            world’s data should be limited to the exposed          has increased in adding 3D immersion to Web
            data only, and shouldn’t compromise the confi-         applications. Promising emerging technologies
            dentiality of assets that aren’t exposed.              for adding interactive 3D elements to regular
               Hypergrid-facing asset servers open another         Web applications include Flash; Unity 3D; the
            door to the world’s assets that must be carefully      combination of JavaScript, WebGL, and Web-
            secured. Access to assets via Hypergrid asset          Sockets; and server-side streaming. The future

28          www.computer.org/internet/                                                          IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                            Hypergrid: Architecture and Protocol for Virtual World Interoperability



of virtual worlds will likely include various                   2. R.T. Fielding and R.N. Taylor, “Principled Design of the
viewers that run on Web browsers — not only                        Modern Web Architecture,” ACM Trans. Internet Tech.,
the popular 2.5D Flash applications, but well                      vol. 2, no. 2, 2002, pp. 115–150.
beyond. Therefore, the Hypergrid takes the Web
design principles and the server-side of Web                   Cristina Videira Lopes is an associate professor with the
applications as design invariants, 2 carefully                     Department of Informatics in the School of Infor-
staying away from optimizations and simplifi-                      mation and Computer Sciences at the University of
cations that would compromise applicability to                     California, Irvine. Her research interests include infor-
the Web in general.                                                mation retrieval for aspect-oriented programming;
                                                                   software engineering for large-scale systems; ubiqui-
Acknowledgments                                                    tous computing, including lightweight software acous-
Melanie Thielker contributed invaluable input to the               tic modems that can be played and decoded in small
Hypergrid’s design, especially its security. The Open-             portable devices such as cell phones; and massive
Simulator community has made the Hypergrid a reality;              multiuser online (MMO) virtual worlds and their appli-
their feedback and enthusiasm is what matured the Hyper-           cations beyond gaming. She’s a core contributor to
grid from an experiment to a viable interoperability archi-        the OpenSimulator project, a server-side virtual world
tecture. This work is partially supported by NSF grant             platform. Lopes has a PhD from Northeastern Univer-
IIS-0808783.                                                       sity. She’s a senior member of IEEE.


References
 1. J. Rosenberg et al., “SIP: Session Initiation Protocol,”          Selected CS articles and columns are also available
    IETF Internet draft, work in progress, June 2002.                 for free at http://ComputingNow.computer.org.




             NEW                                               {EssentialSets} Available:

       ESSENTIAL INDUSTRIAL                                    Edited by TC AE Elisardo Antelo, these EssentialSets
        IMPLEMENTATIONS OF                                     surveys the industrial design of floating-point
       FLOATING-POINT UNITS                                    units during the last decade. This EssentialSet is
      DURING THE LAST DECADE:                                  broken into two volumes, sold separately.


                 VOLUMES 1 & 2
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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                    29




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Virtual World Architectures




                              An Entity-Component Model
                              for Extensible Virtual Worlds
                                                       The open source realXtend project has developed a freely available open
                                                       source virtual world platform that lets anyone create 3D applications.
                                                       RealXtend is fully implemented in the new Tundra SDK and in an add-on
                                                       for the OpenSimulator server. The framework treats fundamental elements
                                                       of virtual worlds (such as support for avatars) as an add-in functionality, so
                                                       the overall architecture can accommodate a wider range of virtual worlds.
                                                       Attribute values are automatically synchronized among the participants in a
                                                       networked environment. A core API provides basic functionality for GUIs,
                                                       controller input, audio, and means for 3D scene manipulation for application
                                                       code.




                                                       S
Toni Alatalo                                                ince 2007, the realXtend project                doc/ blob/ma ster/acm _ mu lt i med ia/
                                                                                                            ____________________________
Playsign and realXtend Association                          has developed a freely available                overview.rst.) The Tundra SDK, which is
                                                                                                            _________
                                                            open source virtual world plat-                 built entirely using the entity-component
                                                       form that lets anyone create their own               model, is a true platform that doesn’t
                                                       3D applications. RealXtend began as                  get in the way of application develop-
                                                       a collaboration between several small                ers; they can create anything, from
                                                       companies coordinating to develop a                  a medical simulator for teachers to
                                                       common technology base that they                     action-packed networked games —
                                                       then applied in different application                and always with a custom interface
                                                       fields, including virtual worlds, video-             that exactly fits the application’s pur-
                                                       games, and educational applications.                 pose. We treat seemingly fundamen-
                                                       The realXtend Association was founded                tal elements of virtual worlds (such as
                                                       in early 2011 to coordinate further,                 support for avatars) as an add-in func-
                                                       open development.                                    tionality, so the overall architecture
                                                           In this article, we describe the real-           can accommodate a wider range of vir-
                                                       Xtend project and particularly focus                 tual worlds.
                                                       on its entity-component-action (ECA)                     To demonstrate the feasibility of our
                                                       architecture, which provides a general               generic scene-modeling approach, we
                                                       extensibility mechanism for building                 use Tundra to develop a growing collection
                                                       3D virtual worlds. (For a generic intro-             of example scenes in a directory avail-
                                                       duction to the platform and the mod-                 able on GitHub (https://github.com/
                                                       ules, see https://github.com/realXtend/              realXtend/naali/blob/tundra/bin/scenes).
                                                                                                            ___________________________


30                            Published by the IEEE Computer Society          1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                    IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                          An Entity-Component Model for Extensible Virtual Worlds



This article presents two example scenes to           via a URL reference, and the Naali GUI supports
illustrate how the ECA model works in practice.       drag and drop of 3D models from webpages
In the first example, we implement a Second           like the Google 3D Warehouse to the 3D virtual
Life-style avatar that runs on both the server        world scene. In realXtend, a virtual world can
and the clients. The second example is a presen-      be snapped together from existing components
tation application that lets a presenter control      like Lego bricks and viewed instantly.
the view for the other participants as the pre-           Another architectural goal of realXtend
sentation proceeds.                                   is flexible editing of virtual worlds — that is,
    Our approach demonstrates how vir tual            users can edit locally and publish their creations
world architectures can be simple and practical,      later. In contrast, all edits and additions in Sec-
yet powerful and truly extensible.                    ond Life happen on remote servers, and the cli-
                                                      ent application is no more than an interface to
RealXtend Architectural Goals                         server-side functionality. Naali/Tundra is com-
Similar to several other 3D virtual world plat-       pletely stand-alone, without the complexity of
forms, the realXtend project has taken a client–      setting up a separate server for local editing
server approach. A browser-like client called a       as with OpenSimulator (http://an.org/opensim/
viewer renders content, enabling end users to see     usbkey). This is similar to how end users can
                                                      _____
and manipulate a 3D window into a virtual world       author an HTML webpage locally by just editing
where the content itself is stored and shared on      the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript sources before
a (typically remote) server. The realXtend proj-      publishing them simply by copying the files
ect has developed an open source viewer called        over to a Web server. Tundra can similarly open
Naali (the Finnish word for the arctic fox), which    scenes from local files to show the 3D view,
references the project’s Finnish origins and the      which streamlines object and scene creation so
open source Firefox Web browser because Naali         that changes to texture images, 3D models, and
aims for similar widespread availability as a         scripts update immediately in the final form
browser for virtual worlds. The Naali viewer can      without any uploads to a virtual world system.
connect to Second Life, OpenSimulator, or real-           Our project’s f inal architectural goal is
Xtend’s own Tundra server and can run on Win-         extensibility — the ability to dynamically add
dows, Linux, Mac, and some mobile platforms.          or remove functionality to a virtual world plat-
    One architectural goal of the realXtend project   form to meet specific applications’ needs. The
has been to build entirely on open standards and      approach is similar to Web browsers, which also
open source software to remove the roadblock          download both data and executable code from
of proprietary software and pave the way for          servers so that applications can implement cus-
widely used 3D virtual worlds. To this end, Naali     tom behavior in the client. This makes realXtend
and Tundra use HTTP, Collada (Collaborative           a generic platform; you can use the same viewer
Design Activity), Extensible Messaging and            executable to connect to any server, when the
Presence Protocol (XMPP), and open source             scene and associated custom JavaScript code is
software such as OGRE 3D, Qt, OpenSimulator,          downloaded from the Web and executed locally
and Blender. We can see an immediate benefit          to implement a specific behavior.
in that realXtend supports 3D geometry in the
typical polygon mesh format, so existing game         Extensible Scene Architecture
characters, CAD models, and building models           The extensible scene model is independent of
can be used by exporting them from packages           any particular virtual world platform imple-
such as 3ds Max, Maya, and Blender. RealXtend         mentation. A scene is defined by its entities;
has had this capability since the initial proto-      nothing is hardcoded about the scenes at the
type. Second Life (a widely used but proprietary      platform level. This differs essentially from the
3D virtual world), on the other hand, has been        current OpenSimulator paradigm when using
limited to its own special representation using       the Second Life protocol, where the model is
primitive graphical objects (prims) and still only    largely predefined and hardcoded into the plat-
has meshes in beta testing as of summer 2011.         form. In Second Life, a certain kind of land
    RealXtend also allows reuse of existing mod-      (a height-map-based terrain with altitude-based
els and scripts from Web libraries. Any model         texturing) always exists, and the sea, sky, and
asset in realXtend can be included in a scene         sun are always there as well. And each client

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Virtual World Architectures



          Client                   Entity-actions:       Server          Avatars Aren’t Part of the Platform
                                  move [dir], stop                       Avatars are graphical representations of the
                                                                         user within the virtual world. It might seem at
                                                                         first that the concept of an avatar is integral to
                                                                         3D virtual worlds. Second Life’s avatar proto-
                                                                         col is hardcoded into the platform. Yet, many
                                  Movement and
                                  animation state                        virtual worlds, simulation platforms, and games
        Reads input                                  Creates the AVs
     Applies animations            sync with ECs         Physics         don’t have a single character as the locus of
                                                     Movement code       control. For instance, map applications or astro-
                                                                         nomical simulations are about efficient naviga-
                                     Placeable                           tion and time control of the whole space, not
        InputMapper           AnimationController       RigidBody        about moving your presence around, and real-
                                                                         time strategy games involve controlling several
                                AvatarAppearance                         units, similar to board games like chess. Thus,
                                                                         we argue that avatars shouldn’t be part of the
                                                                         base platform because many simulations don’t
Figure 1. Avatar architecture. This example uses a client (green)        require them. Of course, a generic platform
and a server (brown). The filled boxes represent entity-component-       must still allow the implementation of an avatar
actions on the client, server, or shared by both. The arrows             add-in functionality.
represent network messages made as entity-action calls from                  Here, we describe a proof of concept imple-
the client side to the server.                                           mentation of avatars as add-ins using the real-
                                                                         Xtend ECA model. Application XML and usage
                    connection is always assigned to a single ava-       information are available at https://github.com/
                    tar to which the user’s controls are mapped.1 We     realXtend/naali/tree/tundra/bin/scenes/Avatar.
                                                                         _________________________________
                    argue that there is no need to embed assump-             We split avatar functionality into two parts
                    tions about the world’s features in the base plat-   (see Figure 1). The first part governs the visual
                    form and protocols.                                  appearance and related functionality to mod-
                        Our Naali viewer uses the ECA model as a         ify the look and clothing as well as the use of
                    basis for constructing extensible scenes. We         animation for communication. The second part
                    adapted this model from contemporary game-           gives every user connection a single entity as
                    engine architectures.2 Entities are unique iden-     the point of focus and control. The default inputs
                    tities, with no data or typing. They aggregate       from arrow keys and the mouse are mapped to
                    components, which can be of any type and store       move and rotate the avatar. For this discussion,
                    arbitrary data. Applications built using Naali       although we cover the basics of avatar appear-
                    can add their own components so they have the        ance, we focus on the latter control functionality.
                    data they need for their own functionality. The          To give every new client connection a des-
                    code that handles the data exists in preinstalled    ignated avatar, we implement the server-side
                    custom modules or in scripts loaded at run-          functionality in JavaScript (see Figure 2). Upon
                    time as a part of the application data. To get a     a new connection, this script creates a new ava-
                    matching server counterpart where the scene is       tar entity and attaches these components to it:
                    entirely built with entity components, we added      EC_Mesh for the visible 3D model and an asso-
                    the Tundra server module to the Naali codebase       ciated skeleton for animations; EC_Placeable
                    and a new protocol without application-level         for the entity to be positioned in the 3D scene;
                    assumptions. Tundra consists of both viewer          EC_AnimationController to change and syn-
                    and server executables.                              chronize the animation states; and EC_Script to
                        The Tundra platform provides basic func-         implement a single avatar’s functionality. Differ-
                    tionality for all ECAs: persistence, network         ent parts of the same script are executed on the
                    synchronization among all the participants via       client, where it adds two additional components:
                    a server, and a user interface for manipulating      a new camera that follows the avatar and a key-
                    components and their attributes, and eventually      binding to toggle between camera modes.
                    will support security. In addition, Tundra intro-        A second script for an individual avatar
                    duces the concept of entity actions, a simple        (simpleavatar.js) adds additional components:
                    form of remote procedure call.                       AvatarAppearance for the customizable looks;

32                  www.computer.org/internet/                                                         IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                         An Entity-Component Model for Extensible Virtual Worlds


         function serverHandleUserConnected(connectionID, userconnection) {
             var avatarEntity = scene.CreateEntity(scene.NextFreeId(),
                               ["EC_Script", "EC_Placeable", "EC_AnimationController"]);
             avatarEntity.Name = "Avatar" + connectionID;
             avatarEntity.Description = userconnection.GetProperty("username");
             avatarEntity.script.ref = "simpleavatar.js";

               // Set random starting position for avatar
               var transform = avatarEntity.placeable.transform;
               transform.pos.x = (Math.random() - 0.5) * avatar_area_size + avatar_area_x;
               transform.pos.y = (Math.random() - 0.5) * avatar_area_size + avatar_area_y;
               transform.pos.z = avatar_area_z;
               avatarEntity.placeable.transform = transform;
         }

Figure 2. JavaScript source code. The avatarapplication.js code creates a new avatar entity and attaches several
components to it.

RigidBody for physics; and on the client side,       earlier realXtend prototype that didn’t have the
an InputMapper for user input. Entity actions        ECA model, but it is reused in this demo as is.
ensure the avatar moves according to the user        A more generic and customizable appearance
controls. These actions are commands that can        system could be implemented with the ECAs,
be invoked on an entity and executed either          but that’s outside the scope of this example.
locally in the same client or remotely on the           The division of work between the clients and
server, or on all connected peers. For example,      the server we describe here isn’t the only possi-
the local code sends the action “move(forward)”      ble configuration. With Tundra SDK, we use
to be executed on the server when the user           the same core code and A PI for the ser ver
presses the up-arrow on the client. The built-in     and the clients, making it simple to reconfig-
EC_InputMapper component provides trigger-           ure what is executed where. This model of cli-
ing actions based on input, so the avatar code       ents only sending commands and the server
needs to register only the mappings it wants.        doing all the movement is identical to that of
The server maintains a velocity vector for the       the Second Life protocol. It is suitable when
avatar and applies physics for it. Using ECA         trust and physics are centralized on a server.
attributes, the resulting position in the trans-     A drawback is that user control responsiveness
form attribute of the component Placeable is         can suffer from network lag. We can already
automatically synchronized with the generic          use the physics module on the client end too,
mechanism, so the avatar moves on all clients.       which can allow movement code to run locally
The server also sets the animation state to either   as well.
“stand” or “walk” based on whether the avatar           Along with the ability to run custom code
is moving. All participants run common ani-          in the client, it’s easy to extend avatar-related
mation update code to play back t he walk            functionality. For example, in one project
animation while moving, calculating the cor-         for schools, we made it possible for avatars to
rect speed from the velocity data from the phys-     carry objects around as a simple means for 3D
ics on the server.                                   scene editing. Another possibility is to further
    These two parts are enough to implement          augment the client with more data that’s syn-
basic avatar functionality using the ECA model.      chronized for animations — for instance, the
This proof of concept implementation includes        full skeleton for motion capture or machine-
369 lines of JavaScript code in two files. The       vision-based mapping of the real body to the
visual appearance comes from a preexisting           avatar pose. Our open source Chesapeake Bay
AvatarAppearance component, which reads an           watershed demo scene includes minigames with
XML description with references to the base          customized game character controls, includ-
meshes used and individual morphing values           ing flying as an osprey with the ability to dive
that the user sets in an editor. Implemented in      to catch fish. We implemented these using the
C++, it uses the realXtend avatar model from an      human-avatar functionality as a starting point,

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                        33




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Virtual World Architectures



                                                                     and consider a situation in which we added
                                                                     multiple views for the presentation, such as a
                                                                     slide and outline view, or where we animate
                                                                     the presentation content, add voice and text
                                                                     chat components to let users communicate with
                                                                     other viewers, or add annotations to the presen-
                                                                     tation. For simplicity, however, we only demon-
                                                                     strate a basic application here.
                                                                         Regardless of the presentation view, the
                                                                     presenter typically needs the same controls. In
                                                                     Second Life, avatar controls are fixed, and to
                                                                     control a presentation, users might need to cre-
                                                                     ate a presentation sequence object with mouse
Figure 3. Example shared presentation. Two Naali clients stand       click controls to press virtual buttons. In real-
nearby and view the presentation stage of the TOY system, an         Xtend, custom controls in the client can directly
open source learning environment for the Future School of Finland    change the shared scene state.
project. The one on the left just added a webpage to the stage and       For the implementation in realXtend ECA,
is currently carrying the object.                                    the simplest way to get a shared, synchronized
                                                                     view of the presentation slides is to use a static
                                                                     camera that shows a single webpage view. It
                 then modified them according to the different       then suffices for the server to change the cur-
                 animal characteristics.                             rent page on that object for everyone to see
                                                                     it. We could implement this in a 2D GUI, but
                 A Collaborative Presentation Tool                   we do it in the 3D scene here to illustrate its
                 To demonstrate an entirely different use of the     extensibility.
                 ECA framework, we consider an application               To implement this application, we add a new
                 that, in its simplest form, implements collab-      nonspatial entity called Presentation, an appli-
                 orative presentations in which one user controls    cation that’s globally available in the scene.
                 sequencing through a collection (of webpages        (The Tundra chat application is implemented
                 or PowerPoint slides) while others watch. The       in a similar fashion.) To display webpages, we
                 presentation tool lets the presenter control the    need a few basic components: EC_Placeable to
                 position in the prepared material, for example,     have something in the scene, EC_Mesh to have
                 to select the currently visible slide in a slide-   geometry (such as a plane) on which to show
                 show. In a local setting where everyone is in the   the slides, and WebView to render HTML from
                 same physical space, it’s simply about choosing     URLs. For our custom functionality, we add two
                 what to show via the overhead projector. In a       additional components: EC_DynamicComponent
                 remote distributed setting, there must be some      for custom data and EC_Script to implement
                 system to get a shared view over the network.       the user interface for presentation controls.
                     A shared, collaborative view of a set of 2D     As data, we need a list of URLs and an index
                 webpages could be implemented without real-         number for the current position. This custom
                 Xtend technology by using regular Web brows-        data becomes part of the scene data and is
                 ers with HTML, JavaScript, and some backend         automatically stored and synchronized among
                 server logic. Our goal here is to illustrate the    the participants. The EC_Script component is
                 use of the ECA model and automatic attribute        a reference to JavaScript or Python code that
                 synchronization for developing custom func-         implements the logic.
                 tionality. In a minimal implementation of shared        We have two options for handling the user
                 collaborative presentations, we can use ECA         input: either handle input events and modify
                 without using avatars or geography.                 the state correspondingly directly in the client
                     Alternatively, because it’s easy to do, we      code, or send remote actions like in the avatar
                 could add those components back in to build         example. Here, we use remote actions again so
                 shared presentations such as the one in Figure 3,   we can use the server as a security broker and
                 where different avatars see the presentation        to get a similar design to compare with the ava-
                 from different viewpoints. We could go further      tar example.

34               www.computer.org/internet/                                                       IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                         An Entity-Component Model for Extensible Virtual Worlds



    The client-side code maps right-arrow and        talks with some Sirikata developers, we con-
spacebar keys to SetPresentationPos(index+1)         cluded that they aimed to keep the base level
and so forth. The server can then check if the       clean from high-level functionality, but that
caller has permission to do that action — for        capabilities such as attribute synchronization
example, in presentation mode, only the des-         would be desirable in application-level support
ignated presenter can change the shared view.        scripts.
Then, if the presentation material is left in the        The Naali ECA model borrows the idea of
scene for later use, control can be freed for        using aggregation and not inheritance from the
anyone.                                              game-engine literature. 2 Automatically syn-
    The index attribute is synchronized for all      chronizing attribute data and using the same
participants so the outline GUI can update           JavaScript code on both the client and server side
accordingly. To add an outline view, we can add      is inspired by a gaming-oriented virtual world
a 2D panel with thumbnails of all the slides and     platform called Syntensity (www.syntensity.
highlight the current slide. For free browsing,      com). The difference is that the entities in Syn-
                                                     __
clicking on a thumbnail can open a new win-          tensity exists only on the scripting level, and
dow with that slide, while the main presentation     basic functionality such as object movement is
view remains.                                        hardcoded in the Sauerbraten/Cube2 first-person
    Thus, we have a simple, complete shared          shooter platform.
presentation application implemented on top              In Naali, all functionality is now imple-
of a generic ECA model virtual world plat-           mented with the ECAs, so the same tools work
form architecture. Source code of this model’s       for graphical editing, persistence, network sync
implementation is available at https://github.
                                 ___________         identically for all data, and the like. The document-
com/realXtend/naali/tree/tundra/bin/scenes/          oriented approach of having representing
SlideShow, with the additional feature that it
_______                                              worlds externally as files has precedent in 3D
automatically creates the presentation when a        file format standards such as VRML, X3D, and
premade slideshow (such as a PowerPoint file) is     Collada. Unlike those, the realXtend files don’t
added to the scene.                                  directly include 3D geometry, but they describe
                                                     a scene using URL references to external assets,
Comparing Virtual                                    such as meshes in the Collada format. Essen-
World Architectures                                  tially, these files describing scenes are a mech-
Simulations have long demonstrated that ava-         anism for application-specific custom data,
tars and geography aren’t always required. For       which is automatically synchronized over the
example, the open source Celestia universe           Internet. They have script references that imple-
simulator (www.shatters.net/celestia) lets users     ment the applications’ functionality, similar to
view 100,000 stars but doesn’t have any hard-        the way HTML documents contain JavaScript
coded land or sky. Nor are we the first to pro-      references. This isn’t specified in the file format;
pose a generic component model for virtual           instead, it’s how the bundled JavaScript compo-
world architectures. For example, the NPSNET-V       nent works.
system is a minimal microkernel on which arbi-
trary code can be added at runtime using a Java      Status of realXtend Implementations
Virtual Machine.3 A contemporary example is          Two generations of realXtend technology are
the meru architecture from the Sirikata proj-        currently available. The original prototype, a
ect, where a space server only knows the object      General Public License (GPL) licensed fork of the
locations. Separate object hosts, either running     Second Life viewer, has become mostly irrel-
on the same server or any client/peer, can run       evant as the newer Naali viewer has matured.
arbitrary code to implement the objects in the       We built it from scratch, and it’s available under
federated world.4,5 Messaging is used exclu-         the Apache 2 license and is the modular and
sively for all object interactions.6                 extensible platform. Taiga (which combines
   The idea with the ECA mechanism in Naali,         OpenSimulator and the realXtend add-on for it)
rather, is to lessen the need to invent particular   is a continuation and refinement of the original
protocols for all networked application behavior     server project (BSD license). The latest addition
when, for many simple cases, using automatically     to the new generation, Tundra, completes the
synchronized attributes suffices. In preliminary     Naali code base with server functionality and

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                                                                                                                    THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Virtual World Architectures



            a new protocol built purely on the ECA design.       functionality on public servers. It also serves
            It has the same API on the server and clients,       as an example of how a generic EC approach to
            resulting in a powerful toolkit for networked        virtual worlds functionality can be simple, yet
            application development. All the functionality       practical.
            is configured by the applications, but the plat-
            form has the building blocks, such as playback           he generic EC architecture was proposed to
            of 3D skeletal animations and physics colli-
            sions in the efficient C++ libraries — Ogre3D for
                                                                 T   the OpenSimulator core and accepted as the
                                                                 plan of record in December 2009.7 We’ve only
            graphics and Bullet for physics. In this way, the    begun to experiment with the actual refactor-
            JavaScript-driven logic can still perform well.      ing of OpenSimulator scene code to be built
                The Naali viewer has matured and been            with EC. However, EC can be utilized with the
            deployed to customers by some of the develop-        Naali client communicating with the Open-
            ment companies. It’s a straightforward modu-         Simulator servers running the realXtend add-
            lar C++ application with optional Python and         on (modrex) in a limited fashion. These servers
            JavaScript support. The Qt object metadata           still assume the hardcoded Second Life model,
            system is utilized to expose the C++ internals       but developers using Naali can add additional
            automatically. This covers all modules, includ-      arbitrary client-side functionality and have the
            ing the renderer and user interface as well as all   data automatically stored and synchronized
            the ECs. The QtScript library provides this for      over the Internet via OpenSimulator. Entity
            JavaScript support, and PythonQt does the same       actions are currently not implemented in this
            for Python. There is also a QtLua so that Lua        OpenSimulator realXtend add-on.
            support can be added. Thanks to the Ogre3D               The realXtend platform doesn’t yet solve all
            graphics engine, Naali runs on various plat-         problems related to virtual world architectures.
            forms, such as the N900 mobile phone with            Naali doesn’t address scaling at all, nor does
            OpenGL ES, and on powerful PCs with multiple         it support federated content from several pos-
            video outputs with the built-in CAVE render-         sible untrusted sources. We started by provid-
            ing support. An experimental WebNaali client,        ing power at a small scale to let end users easily
            written in JavaScript to run in a Web browser,       develop rich interactive applications. Another
            does EC synchronization over WebSockets and          important missing element in our current EC
            rendering with WebGL.                                synchronization architecture is security, such
                The generic ECA architecture is imple-           as a permission system. Support for permissions
            mented in Naali and is in use throughout in the      was just implemented that is similar to Synten-
            Tundra SDK, which complements the original           sity where the server can control if and when
            Naali code base with a server module (http://
                                                       ____      clients are allowed to modify entity attributes.
            realxtend.blogspot.com/2010/11/tundra-project.           In the future, we look forward to continu-
            html). This configuration enables Naali to run
            ___                                                  ing collaboration with communities such as
            stand-alone for local content authoring or for       OpenSimulator and Sirikata to address trust
            single-user applications, but it can also be used    and scalability issues. OpenSimulator is already
            as a server instead of using OpenSimulator.          used to host large grids by numerous people,
            Tundra doesn’t use LLUDP; instead, all basic         and the Sirikata architecture seems promis-
            functionality is achieved with the generic EC        ing for the long run.4,5 Also, Intel Research has
            synchronization.                                     recently demonstrated how multiple servers can
                For the transport, we use a new protocol         be used to host a single scene for thousands
            called kNet, which can run on top of either UDP      of interacting users using OpenSimulator.8 We
            or TCP (http://bitbucket.org/clb/knet). kNet is      will see whether that design can either be easily
            similar to eNet, but it performed better in tests    ported to the Tundra server or better utilized for
            with regard to flow control. The Tundra server       realXtend as is by using OpenSimulator.
            lacks many Second Life specific features of the          Applications implement functionality against
            more advanced OpenSimulator, such as running         the Naali/Tundra core API. It’s role is simi-
            untrusted user-authored scripts and combining        lar to the W3C Document Object Model (DOM)
            multiple regions to form a large grid. However,      standard in HTML browsers. We’re currently
            Tundra is already useful for both local author-      freezing the API 1.0 version so that applica-
            ing and deploying applications with custom           tions developed now will continue to work in

36          www.computer.org/internet/                                                        IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                An Entity-Component Model for Extensible Virtual Worlds



upcoming releases. We have documented this                        Educational & Serious Games (CGAMES), 2010; http://
                                                                                                              ___
work at www.realxtend.org/doxygen. This API                       sing.stanford.edu/pubs/cgames10.pdf.
                                                                  ______________________
will be reviewed for ease of development, for                  7. A. Frisby, “[Opensim-dev] Refactoring SceneObjectGroup —
challenges in scalability and security, and with                  Introducing Components,” 11 Dec. 2009; http://lists.berlios.
regard to interoperability and standardization.                   de/pipermail/opensim-dev/2009-December/008098.
                                                                  ________________________________
    We hope our approach is taken into consider-                  html.
                                                                  ___
ation both in future OpenSimulator development                 8. D. Lake, M. Bowman, and H. Liu, “Distributed Scene
and upcoming standardization processes —                          Graph to Enable Thousands of Interacting Users in a
for example, if the IETF Virtual World Region                     Virtual Environment,” Proc. 3rd Int’l Workshop Mas-
Agent Protocol (V WRAP) or IEEE Metaverse                         sively Multiuser Virtual Environments, ACM Press,
standardization efforts choose to address in-                     2010; www.pap.vs.uni-due.de/MMVE10/papers/mmve2010_
world scene functionality. We’ll continue to                      submission_7.pdf.
                                                                  __________
develop the realXtend platform and applications
on top of it. Anyone is free to use it for their              Toni Alatalo is the CTO of Playsign and the current lead
needs, and motivated developers are invited to                    architect of the open source realXtend Association.
participate in the effort, which is mainly coor-                  His research interests include agile game development
dinated online.                                                   and playful information systems. Alatalo has studied
                                                                  and worked at the Department of Information Process-
Acknowledgments                                                   ing Sciences at the University of Oulu. Contact him at
Work on this new version of the realXtend platform was            toni@playsign.net.
                                                                  ___________
initially led by Ryan McDougall, who was working as
the principal architect in the beginning of the effort. The          Selected CS articles and columns are also available
Tundra server and protocol is designed by Jukka Jylänki              for free at http://ComputingNow.computer.org.
at Ludocraft Oy, where most of the core development has
occurred. I was initially responsible for the scripting API
development and later for coordinating the overall open
source development. My work for the realXtend Associa-
tion is now sponsored by the Center for Internet Excellence
(CIE) at the University of Oulu.


References                                                                                        stay connected.
1. J. Bell, M. Dinova, and D. Levine, “VWRAP for Vir-
   tual Worlds Interoperability,” IEEE Internet Computing,
   vol. 14, no. 1, 2010, pp. 73–77.
2. M. West, “Evolve Your Hierarchy: Refactoring Game
   Entities with Components,” 5 Jan. 2007; ht t p:// ____
   cowboyprogramming.com/2007/01/05/evolve-your-
   heirachy.
   _____
3. A. Kapolka, D. McGregor, and M. Capps, “A Unified
   Component Framework for Dynamically Extensible
   Virtual Environments,” Proc. 4th Int’l Conf. Collabora-
   tive Virtual Environments (CVE 02), ACM Press, 2002,
   pp. 64–71.
                                                                              Keep up with the latest IEEE Computer Society
4. D. Horn et al., “Scaling Virtual Worlds with a Physi-
                                                                              publications and activities wherever you are.
   cal Metaphor,” IEEE Pervasive Computing, vol. 8, no. 3,
   2009, pp. 50–54.                                                                                TM
                                                                                                        | @ComputerSociety
                                                                                                        | @ComputingNow
5. D. Horn et al., To Infinity and Not Beyond: Scaling Com-
                                                                                                        | facebook.com/IEEEComputerSociety
   munication in Virtual Worlds with Meru, tech. report                                                 | facebook.com/ComputingNow
   CSTR 2010-01 5/11/09, Stanford Univ., 2010; http://hci.
                                                                                                        | IEEE Computer Society
   stanford.edu/cstr/reports/2010-01.pdf.
   ______________________                                                                               | Computing Now
6. B. Chandra et al., “Emerson: Scr ipting for Feder-
   ated Virtual Worlds,” Proc. 15th Int’l Conf. Computer
   Games: AI, Animation, Mobile, Interactive Multimedia,


SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                                  37




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Virtual World Architectures




                              Open Wonderland:
                              An Extensible Virtual
                              World Architecture
                                                       Open Wonderland is a toolkit for building 3D virtual worlds. The system
                                                       architecture, based entirely on open standards, is highly modular and designed
                                                       with a focus on extensibility. In this article, the authors articulate design goals
                                                       related to collaboration, extensibility, and federation and describe the Open
                                                       Wonderland architecture, including the design of the server, the client, the
                                                       communications layer, and the extensibility mechanisms. They also discuss the
                                                       trade-offs made in implementing the architecture.




                                                       V
Jonathan Kaplan                                              irtual world technology is on the              OpenSimulator (http://opensimulator.org),
and Nicole Yankelovich                                       verge of a phase change from an                represent a new genre of virtual world
Open Wonderland Foundation                                   interesting experiment to a large-             technology that has the potential for
                                                       scale phenomena. Although today’s                    large-scale deployment in which orga-
                                                       most popular virtual worlds such as                  nizations will host their own virtual
                                                       Second Life (http://secondlife.com) and              worlds that will be federated together
                                                       Active Worlds (http://activeworlds.com)              into an enhanced 3D Web. Open Wonder-
                                                       have fallen short of expectations for                land follows a large body of work on
                                                       collaboration and education, we predict              collaborative virtual environments,
                                                       that in the future, most Internet sites              starting with research systems from
                                                       will engage visitors with 3D experi-                 the early 1990s such as Diamond Park1
                                                       ences. We base this belief on factors                and the Distributed Interactive Virtual
                                                       such as broadband pervasiveness, the                 Environment (DIVE).2
                                                       advent of voice over IP (VoIP) for home                  The Open Wonderland architecture
                                                       users, and the popularity of massively               defines a common foundation for build-
                                                       multiplayer online games, which dem-                 ing a diverse ecosystem of such worlds,
                                                       onstrate the power of real-time collab-              each with different features and capa-
                                                       oration in 3D environments.                          bilities. The Open Wonderland project,
                                                          Open       Wonde r l a nd    ( ht t p://
                                                                                         _____              which began at Sun Microsystems in
                                                       openwonderland.org), an open source
                                                       _______________                                      2007 as Project Wonderland, has been
                                                       toolkit for creating 3D virtual worlds,              completely community-driven since
                                                       along with a few other systems such as               January 2010. Although the initial moti-
                                                       Open Croquet (http://opencroquet.org) and            vation for creating the toolkit was to

38                            Published by the IEEE Computer Society          1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                   IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                       Open Wonderland: An Extensible Virtual World Architecture



support business collaboration, the project’s mis-
sion quickly broadened to encompass education,
training, simulation, and visualization. Here,
we examine Open Wonderland’s architecture
and design.

Design Goals
In designing the Open Wonderland architecture,            Virtual piano          MIT TEALSim physics     Hospital privacy screen
we had three main goals: enabling collabora-
tion with a focus on synchronous interaction,
providing an extensible toolkit based on open
standards, and putting in place the infrastruc-
ture for federation to enable the 3D Web.

Collaboration
Our goal with regard to collaboration was to              Animated code editor   CMU Alice integration   Marble rollercoaster
enable all the types of synchronous collabora-
tion possible with Web-based tools while add-         Figure 1. Example extensions. By building an extensible toolkit
ing the benefits inherent to 3D interaction.          rather than a fixed-feature environment, we aimed to let
In particular, we wanted to support informal          developers quickly build highly customized worlds with task-specific
collaboration. Many of the same features that         applications.
support formal collaboration, such as immer-
sive audio, also apply to informal interaction.       data, or otherwise disrupt the real work taking
One important advantage of a 3D space is that         place in the virtual world.
it provides an intuitive way to organize multiple,
simultaneous conversations, something not pos-        Extensibility
sible with current audio- or video-conferencing       Our goals for collaboration led us to focus
technology.                                           the technical design on extensibility. While
    Immersive audio coupled with the visual 3D        we could identify certain features — such as
context also enhances collaboration by pro-           audio — that were relevant to all collaborations,
viding a strong sense of other people’s pres-         making the environment useful for real work
ence in the virtual world.3 As we know from           required that it be customizable for different
our research,4 audio is perhaps the single most       tasks. Each use case we looked at benefited from
important factor in successful remote collabora-      new interactive applications, visualizations, and
tion. Given this, we aimed to create an architec-     integration with different data (see Figure 1).
ture that treats high-fidelity, immersive audio       By building an extensible toolkit rather than
as a core toolkit component.                          a fixed-feature environment, we aimed to let
    We made it a design priority to support real      developers quickly build highly customized
work activities with both legacy applications         worlds with task-specific applications.
and collaboration-aware applications designed            To enable this broad range of extensions,
specifically for multiple users. If an application    we focused on a modular architecture based on
is in the world, it is shared, unless a user speci-   open source Java components. We structured
fies otherwise. To make sharing as seamless as        the project with a small set of core services that
possible, we wanted to enable users to drag-          manage the 3D world, including authentica-
and-drop content and automatically launch the         tion, networking, content management, and cli-
correct application to display that type of data      ent rendering. Beyond these core services, we
in the world.                                         implemented most of the features in modules.
    Lastly, we wanted to provide enterprise-             Our extensive use of modules to implement
class security and authentication. For business       core features — including avatars, audio, and
and education applications, users must know           shared applications — meant that we needed
people’s identity. It is also important to secure     a comprehensive set of extension points. We
objects in the world so that unauthorized users       knew we would require extension at many dif-
can’t change important documents, delete crucial      ferent levels, from adding new menus in the

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                     39




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                                                                                                                                         THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Virtual World Architectures



                                                         Wonderland client

                                                         Rendering                MT game              JMonkeyEngine
                   Web administration
                                                                                 Input/events      Collision     Physics
                                                         Core
                                                         services                 Avatars            Cell         HUD
                                                                                   DnD              Security      Audio

                                                         Networking                             Communications


                                  HTTP                               HTTP
                                                                             Darkstar           App data                  SIP/RTP(UDP)
                                                                              (TCP)              (TCP)

                                RESTful Web service APIs

                 Web server
                                                                                                    Shared           Voice
                                                                                                  app server         bridge
                              Web-based management                             Darkstar
                                                                               server



                    Module            Single    Asset        Service
                    manager          sign-on   storage       manager                        Control channels (TCP)
                                                                             Service nodes


            Figure 2. Open Wonderland network diagram. We show communication between the system
            components. The Wonderland client communicates via HTTP with the Web server. Using a number
            of task-specific protocols, the client communicates with other services including the game server and
            voice bridge.

            client to pluggable authentication mechanisms                   with different purposes, features, and code. Cli-
            in the server to integrating new services such                  ent browsers will let users easily move between
            as Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol                   servers, downloading both content (3D artwork)
            (XMPP; http://xmpp.org) chat servers.                           and behavior (mobile Java code). Unlike the
                Our final extensibility goal was to enable                  Web, these worlds’ focus will be on synchro-
            integration with external data. We started by                   nous communication, and as such, they’ll need
            choosing a set of well-supported open stan-                     richer, more extensible programming interfaces
            dards, including Collada (Collaborative Design                  and network protocols, which can handle 3D
            Activity; http://collada.org) for graphics and                  visualization, rich presence information, real-
            the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP; http://ietf.              time application sharing, and full multimedia
            org/rfc/rfc3261.txt) for audio. We also wanted                  collaboration.
            to make sure that developers could integrate
            data from other sources — for instance, from                    Wonderland Architecture
            open Web services to proprietary databases.                     Fig u re 2 shows Open Wonderla nd’s va r i-
            It was especially important that developers                     ous components and how they communicate.
            be able to use existing Java libraries to access                Wonderland uses a client–server model to create
            these services.                                                 collaborative virtual worlds. In practical terms, a
                                                                            world is a virtual space with its own 3D coordi-
            Federation                                                      nate system that clients can connect to in order
            Our long-term goal for the Wonderland toolkit                   to collaborate. Wonderland is written entirely
            is to enable a new type of 3D Web. We imag-                     in the Java programming language. The cli-
            ine a set of loosely connected servers — like                   ent provides a browser that turns these shared
            the World Wide Web — each presenting worlds                     services into a 3D view of the environment.

40          www.computer.org/internet/                                                                           IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                       Open Wonderland: An Extensible Virtual World Architecture



This includes rendering graphics, downloading        at http://reddwarfser ver.org). Darkstar pro-
and caching content, responding to user inter-       vides a server platform specifically designed
actions, and reacting to server messages.            for online games, including “serious games”
   The client and server communicate using           such as the Wonderland environment. Unlike
several networking protocols optimized for dif-      a Web server, it is optimized for low latency
ferent data types:                                   rather than high throughput. The Darkstar
                                                     server divides all actions into short tasks that
   Web services for authentication, download-        it executes within a transaction. It immediately
   ing code, and world assets such as 3D mod-        writes out the results to an internal database,
   els and textures;                                 guaranteeing that no state is lost even during
   custom TCP-based protocols for communi-           server crashes. Wonderland uses the Darkstar
   cating world data such as object properties       server to track the frequently updated state of
   and position;                                     live objects in the world. This includes prop-
   SIP and RTP for audio; and                        erties such as the location for each object and
   multimedia streaming protocols for video,         avatar. Darkstar also provides an abstract com-
   application sharing, and screen sharing.          munication mechanism, allowing a client to
                                                     send simple messages to the server and the
Using multiple communications channels allows        server to send messages to any subset of clients
each protocol to be optimized for the type           connected to that same server.
of data being sent between the client and the            JVoiceBridge (http://tinyurl.com/jvoicebridge)
server.                                              is a pure Java audio-mixing application that
                                                     provides server-side mixing of high-fidelity,
Server Components                                    immersive audio. It runs as a separate Wonder-
The Wonderland server is based on a set of four      land server that mixes SIP audio for multiple
cooperating services. Each service is a separate     users, based on where in the virtual space they
Java application with its own networking and         are. Objects in the world, such as microphones
storage mechanisms. Designing these as sepa-         and cones of silence, can also affect audio.
rate services enables increased flexibility and      JVoiceBridge communicates directly with the
scalability: typically, we deploy all ser vices      Darkstar server over a private channel to keep
on a single machine, but Wonderland admin-           all the audio in sync with the world’s state as
istrators can spread services across multiple        users move around or are added and removed.
machines to increase scalability.                        The shared application server (SAS) is the
    The Web administration server is the main        final standard server component. The SAS runs
coordination point for the various services.         on Linux or Solaris systems to allow server-
This server is based on the open source Glass-       hosted application sharing (see Figure 3). In this
fish Java EE Application server (http://glassfish.   model, an unmodified X Windows application,
java.net). The core Wonderland features such
______                                               such as Firefox or Open Office, runs inside a
as authentication and asset management are           custom X Windows server. This server broad-
implemented as Java EE Web services. The Web         casts application updates in the form of images
server acts as a central management console,         to each Wonderland client with an avatar in the
providing Web-based management of all ser-           application’s range. Clients reconstruct these
vices in the system, regardless of which server      images into a local view of the application that
they are running on. Another important service       users can see and interact with. These legacy
is a token-based single sign-on mechanism.           applications are designed for a single user, so
After users authenticate to the Web server,          a control-passing system ensures that only one
they receive a token that they can give to other     user makes changes to the application at a time.
services. Those services then use the token to       This is necessary only for legacy applications.
authenticate the client when it connects over        Multiuser collaboration-aware applications
different channels.                                  written specifically for Wonderland run locally
    The Darkstar server is based on the Project      on each client and send change events through
Darkstar technology, also developed at Sun.          the Darkstar server, allowing multiple users to
(Project Darkstar has subsequently become a          interact simultaneously while using minimal
community project known as RedDwarf Server           bandwidth.

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                                                                                                                            THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Virtual World Architectures



                         2D shared XII applications                     and rendering framework but is limited to
         NetBeans                                         Firefox       working on a single thread at a time. MT Game
                                                                        is a subproject of Open Wonderland that adds
                                                                        multiprocessor capabilities to JMonkeyEngine
                                                                        by breaking computation into separate process-
                                                                        ing and rendering phases.
                                                                            The core services layer provides the features
                                                                        that the Wonderland modules use. These services
                                                                        include the position of objects in the 3D world, the
                                                                        ability to move objects, and collision detection.
                                                                        Extended core services, such as the ability to load
                                                                        models, calculate real physics, and enforce secu-
                                                                        rity, are layered on top of the core as modules.

                                                                        Communication
        Sticky notes             Whiteboard      Audio recorder
                                                                        The Wonderland client’s communications layer is
                  2D and 3D collaboration-aware apps
                                                                        implemented in a combination of built-in Wonder-
                                                                        land features and module extensions. The built-in
Figure 3. Sharing applications. The Open Wonderland platform            features support authenticating to the Web server
supports both legacy 2D X11 applications and 2D and 3D Java             and communicating with the Darkstar server.
applications written specifically for multiple users.                   Other communications, such as audio and shared
                                                                        application channels, are specified in modules.
                                                                        This demonstrates the toolkit’s ability to support
                                                           App cell     new network protocols entirely in modules.
     Cell tree
                                   Room cell
                                                                        Wonderland Extensibility
                                                                        The Open Wonderland toolkit provides the
     WorldRoot
       cell
                                                                        framework for building a collaborative 3D envi-
                                                         Avatar cell    ronment, but extensions create the world the
                                                                        user sees. To enable this extensibility, we cre-
                                                                        ated a core modular architecture with several
                                                                        well-defined extension points. We also designed
                                                           Bed cell
                                                                        mechanisms for integrating with external data.

                                                                        Extension Points
                                                                        The Wonderland toolkit provides developers
                                                                        with a number of standard extension points and
                                                                        patterns. New object types are the most common
                                                                        type of extension. An object in the 3D world
Figure 4. A world divided into cells. A cell is a volume of 3D space.   is referred to in the Wonderland code as a cell
Any cell can contain other cells to form a cell tree.                   (because the word “object” is already used in
                                                                        most programming languages). A cell is simply
                    Client Design                                       a volume of 3D space, and any cell can contain
                    The Wonderland client is a single application       other cells to form a cell tree.
                    that acts as a browser for connecting to differ-        Each cell in Wonderland is an independent
                    ent Wonderland servers. As with the server, the     Java object that can have both client and server
                    client provides several core services based on      behavior. Examples of client behavior include
                    existing open source components.                    rendering a 2D or 3D object, reacting to user
                        The client’s rendering layer consists of        input, or sending and receiving messages from
                    two separate projects. JMonkeyEngine (http://
                                                              ____      the server. Examples of server behavior include
                    jmonkeyengine.com) is a popular rendering           storing persistent properties, receiving mes-
                    framework for writing OpenGL-based applica-         sages from clients, and sending messages to
                    tions in Java. It provides the basic scene graph    groups of clients. Figure 4 shows a Wonderland

42                  www.computer.org/internet/                                                        IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                        Open Wonderland: An Extensible Virtual World Architecture



world represented as a cell tree. Note how each        plug-ins, connections, and Web applications.
object in the world, including the room, the 2D        A module is a specially formatted Java archive
application, and the avatars, are all variations       (JAR) file. In addition to the standard JAR attri-
of the basic cell. Cells have a well-defined life      butes, a module contains metadata including
cycle that includes the ability to save them as        the module name, version number, and depen-
XML for long-term storage.                             dencies on other modules.
    Another important extension point is a                The bulk of a Wonderland module is in the
capability, or a feature that can be dynamically       data. We divide module data up by type, with
added to any cell. Example capabilities include        each type represented as a top-level direc-
a placemark, which adds an item to users’              tory within the module. The module system
placemark menu so they can jump to a par-              handles each type using a deployer that is in
ticular cell, and a clickable link, which opens        charge of unpacking the data and making it
a Web browser to a particular page whenever            available to the correct subsystem. Example
a user clicks on an object. When building a            deployers in the Wonderland core include
world, users can add capabilities to any cell to       artwork, which is unpacked into a directory
augment its functionality. A capability has the        in the Web server where clients can down-
same life cycle as a cell and is almost identi-        load it; client code, which is also made avail-
cal except that each instance of a capability is       able to clients via the Web server; server code,
associated with a particular cell.                     which is installed in the Darkstar ser ver;
    Both cells and capabilities relate to items        and Web administration modules, which are
that have a particular location in the world.          deployed to the Web server using standard
Developers can add other extensions that aren’t        Java EE mechanisms. The set of deployers in
spatial in nature via plug-ins, which are avail-       the module system itself is even extensible;
able to users no matter where they are in the          Developers can use a new deployer contained
world. Thus, they’re useful for features such as       in a module to deploy custom content in other
text chat and inventory that must always be            modules.
available. Like cells, plug-ins can have func-
tionality in both the client and server, so the        Design Trade-Offs
client plug-in can send messages that the server       The Wonderland architecture has been in use
plug-in must process. The server plug-in can           for close to four years, having undergone two
also save its state in persistent storage.             complete rewrites in that time. Here we discuss
    Plug-ins might also use custom connec-             some of the major design decisions we made and
tions. A connection is a particular data chan-         the advantages and disadvantages we found for
nel between any number of clients to the server.       each approach.
The connection’s type defines the format of the
data the plug-in will send over the channel.           Simulation Model
Custom connections are useful for adding new           Wonderland is based on a hybrid computa-
data channels for features such as text chat or        tion model between the client and server. In
administrator tools. Developers can also employ        this model, the server maintains objects’ states
custom connections to connect to special-              primarily by reacting to client requests. The
purpose applications other than the Wonderland         server doesn’t handle objects’ graphical states
client to form a bridge.                               but rather their properties, such as name or
    The last major extension point is the ability to   position. The client does most of the work in
add custom Web applications. This lets develop-        rendering the object on the screen as well as
ers add functionality to the Web administration        responding to user input and property changes
user interface or entire new Web services. These       the server sends.
extensions are provided as standard Java EE               This approach falls somewhere in between
applications that are deployed to the Wonder-          comparable systems; OpenSimulator performs
land Web server.                                       more computation — including physics — on
                                                       the server and shares fine-grained state with
Module System                                          the client (see http://opensimulator.org/wiki/
Wonderland modules are the mechanism for pack-         OpenSim:Introduction_and_Definitions). Open
                                                       _____________________________
aging extensions, including objects, capabilities,     Croquet, on the other hand, uses a peer-to-peer

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                 43




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                                                                                                                       THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Virtual World Architectures



            model in which most computation is replicated           developing features in the core, interfaces are
            bet ween ser vers (see w w w.opencobalt.org/            designed in the core and implemented in modules.
            about/synchronization-architecture). Wonder-
            __________________________                              Figuring out which module implements which
            land is flexible in that developers can employ          feature can be difficult. Furthermore, because
            e it he r mode l a s ne e de d; h ig h ly i nte r ac-   Wonderland administrators can add, update, and
            tive tasks can be simulated on the client with          remove modules individually, module depen-
            the u nde r sta nd i ng t hat s y nc h ron i zat ion    dencies and versions become a management
            might not be perfect between different users.           challenge.
            Tasks with stronger synchronization require-               Despite this complexity, a modular architec-
            ments can run on the server, with the trade-            ture lets us build an ecosystem of extensions
            off of higher latency and therefore less frequent       around the Wonderland toolkit. We provide a
            updates.                                                Module Warehouse where developers can share
                                                                    their modules with others, and we host module
            Scalability and Interactivity                           repositories so they can share code.
            In many cases, we’ve found the need to choose
            between scalability and interactivity. The basic
            trade-off is simple: a world that’s more inter-             he Open Wonderland toolkit is in active use
            active changes more frequently, requiring more
            bandwidth and computation to keep all the cli-
                                                                    T   all over the world for projects in education,
                                                                    collaboration, and simulation. Our main focus
            ents up to date. A world that changes less fre-         is on improving the current version’s collabora-
            quently, or is static (as in many videogames),          tion features, stability, and scalability.
            can support more users with less communi-                   One key area of f uture development is
            cation required per user. This same decision            increased server federation — that is, the ability
            applies to almost every feature of the environ-         to connect multiple servers. We’ve developed
            ment. For example, using more graphically rich          our client as a browser, enabling a single cli-
            avatars provides a better sense of presence but         ent to connect to many servers with different
            requires more resources from the video card,            features. We’d like to enhance this ability — for
            limiting the number of avatars that a Wonder-           example, to let a client connect to multiple serv-
            land world can display.                                 ers simultaneously — to simulate large, continu-
               For our Wonderland collaboration use case,           ous environments. Another extension would
            we targeted small work groups of fewer than             be to cluster servers so that a group of servers
            20 people, putting more emphasis on interactivity       share common resources such as authentica-
            than on large numbers of users. This target was         tion scope, content repositories, and presence
            based on research related to meeting behavior           information.
            in which we found that the typical meeting had              As we start expanding support for multiple
            between two and 16 participants.4 The current           servers and data types, we must also think
            version of Wonderland supports up to 50 users           about interoperability. As a first pass, many
            in a single space, allowing room for multiple           groups are working together to define com-
            simultaneous groups to interact in the same             mon artwork formats and presence mecha-
            space. Larger groups must be divided into multi-        nisms that different virtual worlds could use.
            ple spaces. Different trade-offs might be made          Eventually, as with the Web, we expect to see
            in a world designed for giving large presenta-          large-scale standardization of virtual environ-
            tions, with much less interactivity but scaling         ments. This will require standardization not
            to many more users.                                     only of content but also of behavior, so that
                                                                    a user can access interactive, collaborative
            Modularity and Complexity                               virtual spaces that work the same no matter
            The last major trade-off is between a modular           which browser they use. Although predicting
            architecture and software complexity. We’ve             what this standard model will look like is dif-
            already described many of a modular architec-           ficult, the Open Wonderland architecture can
            ture’s advantages, including extensibility and          be a starting point for this standardization
            manageability. Some downsides exist as well.            effort.
            Developing in a modular fashion introduces                  Open Wonderland is a highly exten-
            much more fragmentation to the code. Rather than        sible toolkit for building vir tual worlds.

44          www.computer.org/internet/                                                           IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                              Open Wonderland: An Extensible Virtual World Architecture



In its current form, we can deploy it to sup-                  Jonathan Kaplan is an architect for the Open Wonderland
port a wide range of collaboration use cases.                      Foundation and the CTO of WonderBuilders. He is the
Due to our focus on extensibility, it is also                      original software architect of the Wonderland plat-
an ideal platform for experimentation and                          form, a project he cofounded at Sun Microsystems Lab-
research into new virtual world features and                       oratories. Kaplan has an MSE in computer science from
applications.                                                      the University of Pennsylvania. He is the coauthor of
                                                                   J2EE Design Patterns (O’Reilly and Associates, 2003).
                                                                                   jonathankap@gmail.com.
                                                                   Contact him at _______________
References
 1. D.B. Anderson et al., “Building Multi-User Interactive     Nicole Yankelovich is the executive director of the Open
    Multimedia Environments at MERL,” IEEE Multimedia,             Wonderland Foundation and CEO of WonderBuilders.
    vol. 2, no. 4, 1995, pp. 77–82.                                She cofounded the Wonderland project in 2007 as prin-
 2. W. Broll, “Interacting in Distributed Collaborative Vir-       cipal investigator of the Collaborative Environments
    tual Environments,” Proc. Virtual Reality Ann. Int’l           research program at Sun Microsystems Laboratories.
    Symp., 1995, pp. 148–155.                                      She’s also a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts
 3. J. Andreano et al., “Auditory Cues Increase the Hippo-         Institute of Technology Center for Educational Com-
    campal Response to Unimodal Virtual Reality,”                  puting Initiatives. Yankelovich holds seven patents
    CyberPsychology & Behavior, vol. 12, no. 3, 2009,              and has published in the areas of collaborative envi-
    pp. 309–313.                                                   ronments, speech applications, and hypertext. Contact
 4. N. Yankelovich et al., “Meeting Central: Making Dis-           her at nicole@openwonderland.org.
                                                                          _________________
    tributed Meetings More Effective,” Proc. ACM Conf.
    Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 04),                   Selected CS articles and columns are also available
    ACM Press, 2004, pp. 419–442.                                    for free at http://ComputingNow.computer.org.




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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                    45




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Virtual World Architectures




                              Virtual and Real-World
                              Ontology Services
                                                       Both augmented-reality and virtual world applications must model semantic
                                                       knowledge about real- or virtual world objects. The current generation of
                                                       virtual world platforms provides limited facilities for representing this kind
                                                       of knowledge, but a next generation will provide the means to tie semantic
                                                       information to general or application-specific ontology services. This article
                                                       motivates the need for ontology services, outlines several approaches for
                                                       associating ontology concepts with objects and locations, and discusses how
                                                       to populate common-sense ontologies using data harvested from real and
                                                       virtual worlds.




                                                       V
Joshua D. Eno and                                            irtual worlds such as Second Life              interact with the environment or other
Craig W. Thompson                                            (http://secondlife.com) and Open-              users.
University of Arkansas                                       Simulator (http://opensimulator.                  Augmenting objects with additional
                                                       org) provide a 3D landscape in which
                                                       __                                                   semantics is similar to the idea of the
                                                       user-controlled avatars traverse a shared,           Semantic Web, which Tim Berners-Lee,
                                                       multiplayer world, visiting places, creat-           James Hendler, and Ora Lassila pro-
                                                       ing objects, and selling land and goods              posed in 2001 as an extension of the
                                                       to others. Although several architectural            World Wide Web to augment webpages
                                                       variants exist among virtual worlds, the             with semantic information that intelli-
                                                       notion of representing a 3D space con-               gent agents could understand and use.1
                                                       taining terrain, animate, and inanimate              They envisioned that the Semantic Web
                                                       objects is common. These 3D models can               would require knowledge representa-
                                                       represent fantasy places or can model                tion, ontologies, and agents. Around
                                                       real-world locations.                                the same time, the MIT Auto-ID Labs
                                                           Whereas many applications of vir-                coined the term Internet of Things
                                                       tual worlds (socializing, training, meet-            (IoT) to describe the notion of the
                                                       ings, and education) involve humans                  real world populated with intelligent
                                                       using the vir tual world platform                    objects with semantic attributes that
                                                       directly, gaming and simulation appli-               can interact with people or autonomous
                                                       cations must augment virtual world                   agents.2
                                                       objects with information from remote                    Here, we recognize that we can explore
                                                       data sources. Often, these applications              IoT ideas using vir tual worlds and
                                                       include computational agents that                    focus on how virtual world ontologies

46                            Published by the IEEE Computer Society          1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                   IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                  Virtual and Real-World Ontology Services



can borrow ideas from both the Semantic Web            www.yelp.com/yelpmobile, or www.google.com/
and the IoT but can also give back — providing a       mobile/goggles).
                                                       __________
way to model the real world using virtual world            From a computational viewpoint, 3D vir-
data structures and a way to attach semantics          tual world platforms represent objects that
to those data structures — to help develop a           have explicit identity, a graphical representa-
unified vision we could call a semantic world          tion, optional text labels, and behavior models
or smart world in which objects and avatars are        (often represented by scripts that are triggered
associated with knowledge.                             by events). In the future, a corresponding real-
                                                       world computational model could incorporate
Semantics and the Virtual World                        analogous data structures, which lets us con-
In our own work, we’ve explored how to use             sider the real world as one more type of virtual
virtual worlds to model the real world in health-      world.
care and retail applications and have developed            Current mainstream 3D virtual worlds pro-
a collection of prototype smart-world applica-         vide minimal support for semantically label-
tions (http://vw.ddns.uark.edu), including             ing objects. Beyond rendering, the Second Life
                                                       platform itself doesn’t distinguish functionally
   an application that tracks virtual world            whether an object is a door or a castle. It provides
   medical supplies in a supply chain with a           text labels for objects but no further descriptions,
   remote database, recording a track history of       and these labels aren’t tied to semantic concepts.
   objects’ and avatars’ past locations (related       Similarly, the real world doesn’t provide labels —
   search applications can locate objects — for        humans can look at an object and recognize it
   instance, find a wheelchair not in use);            as a chair, as can computers if the object is at
   a mirror-world application in which we use a        a known location, has an RFID tag, or is other-
   real-time location service to track real-world      wise digitally identifiable. Humans can then
   RFID-tagged apparel items and then display          bring to bear other information they know about
   the same items moving in a virtual world to         that object — about its superclasses, its parts,
   create a retail store command post;                 its function, how to repair it, how to operate it,
   an annotation ser v ice for allowing any            and so on. Some of this is general common-
   avatar to annotate unlabeled virtual world          sense knowledge and some might be application-
   objects with descriptions or other attributes       specific, such as the cost of a particular can of
   (price, calorie count, washing instructions, a      okra at a particular market on a particular day.
   link to a repair manual, and so on);                In this article, we call this kind of knowledge an
   a recommendation service that compares an           ontology, by which we just mean a data struc-
   avatar’s profile and recent locations to rec-       ture for recording various kinds of information
   ommend similar locations or avatars; and            including identity, type, supertype, parts, API,
   a protocol for service discovery such that,         and an open-ended collection of attributes and
   when APIs are associated with virtual world         scripts. We can then describe the semantics of
   objects (such as a thermostat or a baby             an entity in the world by referencing informa-
   monitor), lets users discover, download, and        tion from this ontology, allowing computational
   remotely control those objects.3                    agents to interact with and reason about the
                                                       world more effectively.
    In each case, we observe the same architec-            3D virtual world platforms don’t currently
tural design pattern: virtual world objects are        support an ontology capability (beyond plain-
augmented with domain-relevant information             text labels), so applications must provide it. But
that’s then utilized by application-specific logic —   a new generation of virtual world platforms
for example, to make a refrigerator smarter so it      is beginning to provide extensibility mecha-
knows the food expiration dates or a bus route         nisms4,5 that can, among other things, provide
smarter so riders can see when the next bus            ontology services.
will come. A similar design pattern exists for
augmented-reality applications, which provide          Ontology Services
information about nearby locations based on            and Knowledge Sources
geospatial coordinates or pictures of landmarks        If we had a more consistent semantic labeling
(see www.acrossair.com/apps_nearesttube.htm,           for objects, then we could label some things

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                   47




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Virtual World Architectures



            chair and other things table and begin to              Augmented-reality applications already dem-
            associate functional specifications to enable          onstrate using a smart phone to view an area,
            computers to reason about them. If humans can          and labeling nearby buildings.
            look at an object and recognize it as a chair,             A problem in providing an ontology layer is
            it would be useful if computers, including, for        how to populate the ontology and associate con-
            instance, our smart phones, could also do so           cepts with entities. One option is to build fully
            using the same conceptual categories.                  automated recognizers to identify and cate-
                Let’s reason about a virtual or real-world         gorize objects. In important special cases, as
            architecture with a semantic ontology capability:      when all objects are labeled with RFID tags or
                                                                   barcodes that smart phones can read, machines
                Not all real- or virtual world applications        can use the labels. More generally, humans use
                need an ontology layer, so such a capability       image recognition, but more work in image
                could be structured as an optional plug-in         understanding will be needed for machines to
                service or services.                               generally recognize objects. Additionally, a
                The same ontology content could be use-            fully automated system will need to be able to
                ful for modeling a virtual world, but also         recognize when the ontology must expand to
                the real world; an ontology service can be         incorporate new types or relationships discov-
                agnostic to which world it’s modeling.             ered from the environment.
                Similarly, an application might not be aware           A second option is for content creators to
                if it’s operating in the real world or a virtual   manually associate concepts with entities by
                one. We can build applications and test them       labeling the objects they create. This approach
                in virtual worlds before we install them in        is already available in Second Life and Open-
                the real world.                                    Simulator, but in practice creators label only
                General-purpose ontologies are a useful            20 percent of top-level objects, and these labels
                starting point and in many cases are suffi-        are inconsistent. A second, manual method
                cient, but because the kinds of metadata and       (which we prototyped) is to provide an annota-
                relationships between concepts are open-           tion service that lets any user label any object
                ended, specific applications often require         with a semantic label, name, description, rec-
                application-specific ontologies that augment       ommendation, or other property. This approach
                or replace general ontologies.                     uses crowd sourcing to populate ontologies, but
                Finally, if the same ontology is useful for        is still a manual process.
                both real and virtual worlds, perhaps we can           A third option is to use existing ontologies
                build it using data from both real- and vir-       and link these open datasets together.6 For some
                tual world data sources.                           classes of objects, building a partial ontology
                                                                   can be automated based on existing databases.
                An ontology ser vice must provide well-            The WordNet ontology provides a word/concept-
            structured, standard interfaces that can accom-        level ontology and can represent taxonomic and
            modate multiple sources and uses. Intelligent          compositional (ISA and HASPART) relationships.7
            agents have difficulty using semantic informa-         DBpedia har vests ontology templates from
            tion when ontology information sources aren’t          Wikipedia, representing roughly 300 ontology
            structured to be readily available, and the inter-     classes in RDF (including places, people, orga-
            faces for accessing information or controlling         nizations, species, vehicles, devices, and works),
            objects aren’t standardized. Although central-         linked to more than 3.5 million things (see
            ized services would standardize sources and            http://dbpedia.org).
            interfaces, no single source will likely be suf-           Another source of explicit, existing ontolo-
            ficient, so many service providers would offer         gies is retailer databases containing SKU des-
            private ontology services. As an example, a            ignations for thousands of item types — for
            retailer’s ontology could provide pricing infor-       example, different kinds of chairs and tables —
            mation while product specifications could come         that include corresponding price and other
            from a manufacturer-provided ontology.                 attributes, such as product descriptions. More
                Ontologies could be organized or indexed by        generally, the Linked Data project seeks to con-
            various means: type-subtype, location in a 3D          nect a wide range of open datasets (see ____http://
            world, temporally, by context, or by other means.      linkeddata.org/home). For objects with interfaces,
                                                                   ______________


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                                                                Virtual and Real-World Ontology Services



we can further associate API specifications and         Although we’re just now entering a time
provide a consistent way for humans or pro-          when we can gather dense datasets from the
grams to call the APIs — so we could use our         real world, we can already do so using 3D vir-
smart phones to recognize a nearby object,           tual worlds. To gather descriptive data from
download its API, and then generate an inter-        virtual worlds, we created a system that harvests
face that humans or programs could use to            data from OpenSimulator and Second Life.10 In
query or control the object (a more universal        our system, avatarbots (program- rather than
remote). Several protocols that we could asso-       human-controlled avatars) navigate the virtual
ciate with objects to make them into smart(er)       world, storing metadata about the locations and
objects are explored elsewhere.3                     objects they encounter. (We could take a similar
    A fourth option is to mine data from the real    approach with other virtual worlds, but many
or virtual world to create or expand ontologies,     are small and data-sparse).
which we can then add to the broader linked
data community. In the real world, RFID, GPS,        Experiments
image, and sensor data are commonly collected        Next, we describe initial steps for exploring
to help model particular real-world applications     how to use the partial, sparse text labeling
such as supply chain, battle management, or          in 3D virtual worlds to improve and simplify
mapping services, like Google Earth. Especially      all four approaches for providing ontolo-
interesting is recognition of daily living activi-   gies and semantic associations between onto-
ties (such as setting the table) based on object     logical concepts and virtual world entities.
usage (GPS or RFID traces).8                         For the first approach, we use probabilistic
    We can also mine similar information from        models to help populate currently unlabeled
unstructured text on the Web.9 Smart phones          virtual world entity attributes. To improve user-
open the door wide to harvesting this sort of        provided semantic information, we provide lists
information from the real world with humans          of likely concepts for newly created objects
acting as search spiders. With GPS, they can         (such as auto-complete for ontologies). We test
collect and record where a person has been,          the feasibility of linking existing ontologies to
their communications (voice and email), and, if      objects based on unstructured object names and
RFID readers are added to cell phones, traces of     explore methods for expanding existing ontolo-
all the objects a person passes. A community         gies with data-derived relationships.
of humans could harvest a model of locations
and movements, potentially providing a fairly        Determining Location Context
dense model of the world. If graphical and other     Humans rely on context to guide our ability
models were associated with the tags, a virtual      to reason about the world; in the same way,
earth model could be populated and updated in        context can improve computers’ ability to rec-
this way.                                            ognize and interact with objects in real and
    In practice, a combination of all four           virtual worlds. A computer agent (such as an
approaches provides increasingly accurate and        avatarbot that harvests virtual world content)
useful ontologies and entity associations. Auto-     might recognize that solid objects are obstacles
matically associating attributes with entities is    to avoid. However, if the agent knows that the
more feasible when contextual information can        object is a door, it could reason that it can be
narrow down the possible concepts to improve         opened rather than avoided and might further
accuracy. User-provided tags will be more con-       recognize that a door on a residential property
sistent and useful if a means exists for associ-     separates public from private areas, whereas a
ating existing ontology concepts with entities.      front door on a commercial property is a public
Existing ontologies will benefit from additional     entrance.
details derived from virtual or real-world data,         In virtual worlds, context can be explicit in
and data-derived ontologies will be more accu-       cases where property owners have labeled the
rate and useful if they’re based on a scaffold of    property as residential or shopping, but rela-
existing ontologies. All these approaches rely       tively few owners do so. However, because the
on a combination of existing ontologies, data-       difference between a house and a store is obvi-
derived ontological relationships, and user-         ous to humans, even in a virtual world, users
provided contextual information.                     expect other avatars to respect their privacy

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Virtual World Architectures


                  0.5
                  0.4       SVM      Actual
                                                                  Compounding this is the problem of multiple
                  0.3                                             meanings for the same term. A white house
                  0.2                                             could be a brightly painted home, or it might
                  0.1                                             be a specific government building. One way
                    0                                             to minimize these issues is to suggest likely
                               Arts
                              Adult
                             Linden




                            Gaming




                          Shopping
                              Stage
                             Other
                          Hangout
                           Business




                        Residential
                        Newcomer
                         Education




                               Park
                                                                  semantic labels for an object. If the likely labels
                                                                  have multiple senses in the ontology, the user
                                                                  can further select the sense of the word that’s
                                                                  most appropriate for the object.
            Figure 1. Support vector machine (SVM)                    Context is again important in providing
            classification results. The classifier performed      relevant suggestions. We developed a proto-
            60 percent better than simple probability             type annotation system that focuses on resi-
            weighting, although it still over-represented         dential locations. The system can suggest a
            the Residential and Shopping categories.              set of likely terms based both on the location
                                                                  type and on other objects found near that loca-
                                                                  tion. The system collects the object names that
            and stay out of their residential homes. To act       already exist at a location, finds other locations
            correctly in such cases, an agent must use the        in the system with the same objects, then sug-
            same kind of contextual clues that humans             gests names that best match the existing set of
            do, rather than relying on explicit labels. To        objects.
            enable our crawler agents to avoid being intru-           The annotation system ranks suggested
            sive in residential areas, we developed a clas-       terms based on a relevance score that incor-
            sifier that uses location and object metadata to      porates the existing terms’ importance and
            classify locations, even if they aren’t explicitly    the frequency with which the suggested terms
            labeled.                                              occur with the existing terms. The rank score
                Using the subset of labeled locations, we         for a suggested term is the sum of the condi-
            trained a classification model to classify loca-      tional probability that each existing term will
            tions based on their text and region. We used         appear, given that the suggested term is pres-
            a support vector machine (SVM) classifier,11          ent. This probability is smoothed by a factor in
            which performs well compared to other algo-           the denominator to account for low-frequency
            rithms such as naïve Bayesian and k-nearest           terms, as discussed elsewhere.13 The prob-
            neighbor for text classification with large fea-      abilities are weighted by the existing terms’
            ture spaces.12 Figure 1 shows a comparison of         inverse-document frequency (idf ), so that co-
            the SVM classifications with labeled locations’       locations with rare terms receive greater weight
            true classifications.                                 than co-locations with common terms. Finally,
                The average classifier accuracy using five-       we normalize the sum by the sum of the idf val-
            fold validation was 58.2 percent across 13 parcel     ues. The resulting score is similar to the com-
            Second Life classifications, a result that was        mon TF-IDF score used in information retrieval,
            60 percent better than the best naïve classifier      except reversed to provide terms for the loca-
            based just on the underlying parcel type prob-        tion rather than relevant locations for the query
            abilities. Once a location’s general purpose is       terms:
            known, the likelihood of finding certain objects
                                                                                     sti
            changes. In a fully automated system, an object               ∑ i st         +
                                                                                             idfi
            recognition system can use the new contex-            rst =            count            ,
            tual probabilities to improve object classifica-                       Ei idfi
            tion, providing a way to disambiguate a bed (for
            flowers) in a park from a bed (for sleeping) in a     where r st is the rank score of suggested
            residence.                                            term st, sti is the number of locations with
                                                                  co-occurrences of st and existing term i, stcount
            Labeling Suggestions for Users                        is the total number of locations with st, and
            One difficulty in working with user-assigned          is a smoothing factor for low-frequency terms.
            names and descriptions is that different users        The inverse-document frequency (idf ) is a
            might use different terms for the same object type.   commonly used means for giving rare terms

50          www.computer.org/internet/                                                                  IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                  Virtual and Real-World Ontology Services


                                                                        Table 1. Existing ontology coverage.
in the collection more weight than common               Ontology coverage                 Full terms (%)       Stemmed (%)
terms:                                                  DBpedia percent of Second               58.0               59.5
                                                        Life terms
                                                        WordNet percent of Second               30.3               33.7
                                                        Life terms
where |L| is the total number of locations and          DBpedia percent of total                 0.3                0.3
icount is the total number of locations with term i.    WordNet percent of total                 7.9                8.7
    The label suggestions generally conform to
common-sense terms that we’d expect to find
together, particularly for locations that have         words increased coverage by eliminating misses
distinctive objects. For example, the system           caused by plurals, but in some cases might have
suggests the terms {hamper, towels, sink,              created less-accurate matching. By examin-
faucet} when given a location with the terms           ing the terms DBpedia matched that WordNet
{house, bathroom, sink}. In contrast, when             missed, we found that many newer terms or
we give it a location with the terms {kitchen,         informal words existed in the DBpedia dataset,
oven, dishwasher}, it returns the suggestions          which is constructed using Wikipedia entries.
{microwave, freezer, backsplash, utensils}.            Some terms, such as “YouTube,” are unsurpris-
In locations with more ambiguous terms {chair,         ing, but others, such as “media,” were unex-
door, table}, the suggestions are less focused,        pected. However, some of those matches might
resulting in generally common matches. Because         have been matching brand names to abbrevia-
the system works on existing plaintext terms,          tions or foreign-language terms that weren’t
it still has difficulty differentiating between        actually related. Another factor working in
different word senses, but we could adapt and          DBpedia’s favor is its larger size. DBpedia has
improve this approach as semantic labels become        7.5 million titles in its index, covering 3.5 million
available.                                             things (the index contains multiple terms that
                                                       map to a single thing in some cases). WordNet is
Linking Existing Ontologies                            smaller, with fewer than 150,000 index entries, so
Although the existing term-suggestion service          while it had fewer overall matches, it had a
is helpful in creating a more homogenous set           higher hit rate as a percentage of its size. Another
of terms for the set of objects commonly found         factor that might indicate a greater utility to
in similar locations, it still relies on plaintext     the WordNet matches is that only 1.67 million
terms rather than ontological concepts. How-           of the DBpedia instances are classified in a con-
ever, we’re experimenting with tools to associ-        sistent ontology.
ate concepts from WordNet and DBpedia with
virtual world entities.                                Expanding and Creating Ontologies
    One question to ask is how these existing          Although high-quality ontologies are created
ontologies cover the objects found in 3D vir-          for a range of purposes, individual applications
tual worlds. Some terms, such as specific brand        might find that general-purpose ontologies lack
names, have no analog in the real world and            needed details. Additionally, ontologies often
hence won’t appear in ontologies based on the          focus on taxonomic data that provide “is-a” rela-
real world. Likewise, some concepts and terms          tionships but not necessarily functional or “has-
are specific to virtual world lexicons, such as        parts” relationships. Researchers have already
prims, which are primitive objects used to build       found that observing use patterns can reveal
3D models in Second Life. To quantify the cov-         functional semantic relationships,8 and simi-
erage of the virtual world by two large and            lar approaches with objects found in images can
widely used ontologies, we matched the 38,000          derive has-part relationships.13 Using an approach
terms found in the residential location dataset        similar to that used to suggest likely description
with concept terms in both the WordNet and             terms for content creators, we developed tools to
DBpedia ontologies.                                    discover common relationships between objects
    To account for variations in word forms, we        found in the virtual world. For this tool, we rely
analyzed the matches for both raw (or full) and        on the conditional probability P(p|c) that a par-
stemmed terms (see Table 1). Stemming the              ent term will be found, given that some child

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                               51




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                                                                                                                                          THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Virtual World Architectures



            term is found to identify child terms that are                   3. A. Eguchi and C. Thompson, “Towards a Semantic
            strongly associated with a parent term.                             World: Smart Objects in a Virtual World,” Web Vir-
                The results for creating or expanding onto-                     tual Reality and Three Dimensional Worlds Workshop,
            logies varied based on the parent–child relation-                   Proc. Int’l Assoc. for the Development of the Info. Soc.
            ships’ specificity. For example, the probability                    (IADIS) Multiconf. Computer Science and Information
            that a kitchen will be present is highest if the                    Systems, IADIS Press, 2010, pp. 488–493.
            terms cooktop, cabinets, microwave, fridge,                      4. T. Alatalo, “An Entity-Component Model for Extensible
            or oven are found. For the specific kitchen                         Virtual Worlds,” IEEE Internet Computing, vol. 15, no. 5,
            instance, the system’s precision is high, with                      2011, pp. 30–37.
            90 percent of the top 20 objects having a real-                  5. J. Kaplan and N. Yankelovich, “Open Wonderland: An
            world relationship to kitchens. For parent terms                    Extensible Virtual World Architecture,” IEEE Internet
            with less-distinct component parts, the accuracy                    Computing, vol. 15, no. 5, 2011, pp. 38–45.
            is mixed, but still provides useful information                  6. T. Berners-Lee, “Linked Data — Design Issues,” 27 July
            in terms of expanding the ontology probabilisti-                    2006; www.w3.org/DesignIssues/LinkedData.html.
            cally. We might be able to improve the results                   7. C. Fellbaum, WordNet: An Electronic Lexical Database,
            for more general terms by incorporating proxi-                      MIT Press, 1998.
            mity more directly in the scoring function. This                 8. M. Philipose et al., “Inferring Activities from Interac-
            approach’s primary advantage is that it can                         tions with Objects,” IEEE Pervasive Computing, vol. 3,
            expand existing ontologies with relationships                       no. 4, 2004, pp. 10–17.
            that are too specific for general-purpose ontolo-                9. M. Perkowitz et al., “Mining Models of Human Activi-
            gies, or with functional relationships that are                     ties from the Web,” Proc. 13th Int’l Conf. World Wide
            difficult to derive from taxonomic ontologies.                      Web, ACM Press, 2004, pp. 573–582.
                                                                            10. J. Eno, S. Gauch, and C. Thompson, “Searching for the
                                                                                Metaverse,” Proc. ACM Symp. Virtual Reality Software
                ot all virtual world applications will need an
            N   ontology service. Still, such a service makes
            sense as a data structure that virtual worlds
                                                                                and Technology, ACM Press, 2009, pp. 223–226.
                                                                            11. T. Joachims, “Making Large-Scale SVM Learning
                                                                                Practical,” Advances in Kernel Methods — Support Vec-
            can use to represent declarative content. Many                      tor Learning, C.B.B. Schölkopf and A. Smola, eds., MIT
            ontology services will require application-                         Press, 1999, pp. 169–184.
            specific content, so, for virtual world architectures,          12. T. Joachims, “Text Categorization with Support Vec-
            the ability to add ontology plug-ins also makes                     tor Machines: Learning with Many Relevant Features,”
            sense. At the same time, applications can find                      Proc. European Conf. Machine Learning, Springer,
            value in general-purpose semantic information.                      1998, pp. 137–142.
                We’ve seen that only 20 percent of Second                   13. B. Russel et al., “LabelMe: A Database and Web-Based
            Life objects are labeled by their creator. Even                     Tool for Image Annotation,” Int’l J. Computer Vision,
            so, a harvester that collects virtual world data                    vol. 77, nos. 1–3, 2008, pp. 157–173.
            can create a database that a classification sys-
            tem can then mine for semantic information.                     Joshua D. Eno is a postdoctoral researcher at the University
            Even though the information is from a virtual                       of Arkansas working on virtual world architectures
            world, for many information types, the vir-                         and ontologies. His interests include middleware archi-
            tual world provides data that models common-                        tectures, 3D virtual worlds, data mining, and health-
            sense aspects of the real world — so kitchens                       care informatics. Eno has a PhD in computer science
            have stoves and refrigerators (and, with a lower                                                                     jeno@
                                                                                from the University of Arkansas. Contact him at ____
            probability, microwaves and can openers). The                       uark.edu.
                                                                                _____
            resulting common-sense model can be useful in
            real or virtual worlds.                                         Craig W. Thompson is the Charles Morgan chair in the
                                                                                Computer Science and Computer Engineering Depart-
            References                                                          ment at the University of Arkansas. His research inter-
             1. T. Berners-Lee, J. Hendler, and O. Lassila, “The Semantic       ests include artificial intelligence, databases, middleware
                Web,” Scientific Am., vol. 284, May 2001, pp. 34–43.            architectures, RFID, virtual worlds, and pervasive com-
             2. N. Gershenfeld, R. Krikorian, and D. Cohen, “The Inter-         puting. Thompson has a PhD in computer science from
                net of Things,” Scientific Am., vol. 291, no. 4, 2004,          the University of Texas at Austin. He’s an IEEE fellow.
                pp. 76–81.                                                      Contact him at cwt@uark.edu.
                                                                                                 ________


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                                                                                                                       Virtual World Architectures
Accuracy in 3D Virtual
Worlds Applications
Interactive 3D Modeling of the
Refractory Linings of Copper Smelters
This article highlights the need for accurate modeling in some virtual world
applications, especially in engineering, manufacturing, and certain military
applications. For example, virtual worlds can enable teams of engineers,
managers, and customers to collaboratively view a copper smelter during
design and deployment. This article specifically looks at how a virtual world
can help in the design and maintenance of a copper smelter model and its
refractory lining for copper production.




S
     ome of the most popular 3D vir-            The optimization of these copper            Anthony J. Rigby,
     tual world engines, such as Second     smelting furnaces is primarily achieved         Kenneth Rigby,
     Life and OpenSimulator, are very       by specific zoning of the vessels’ heat-        and Mark Melaney
effective for socializing and meetings      resistant lining. The most severe oper-         MellaniuM
but fall short for serious applications     ating areas come in contact with high
that involve accurate rendering. Con-       temperature fluid oxide slags and must
sider the problem of engineers design-      be protected with a well-engineered
ing, maintaining, and deploying the         design and relatively high-cost prod-
refractory linings for smelters used in     ucts. Using virtual environments can
copper production. The longevity of         illustrate the complexity of the required
the refractory lining in these 40-foot ×    configuration much more efficiently
15-foot anode vessels is a crucial pro-     than a set of 2D prints and extracted
duction issue. The smelters must oper-      details.
ate continuously for four to five years.1
During brief shutdowns of the con-          The Need for Virtual
verting furnaces due to plant main-         World Modeling
tenance, refractory installation crews      Using 3D modeling, designers can
must be able to rapidly patch the anode     effectively illustrate the refractor y
vessels and ready them to resume            installation, design, and lining con-
production.                                 cepts required to optimize the copper

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                  1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE     Published by the IEEE Computer Society                          53




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Virtual World Architectures



            smelter’s desired performance. The use of a            applications (for example, collaboration using
            3D-engineered model is highly instructive in           Google docs), and data (such as Wikipedia
            detailing some of the more sophisticated aspects       entries). It supports file sharing, URL shar-
            of the lining design. Refractory engineers can         ing, text chat, and file drop boxes.
            design these vessels with a dimensional accuracy       The VoIP works with no driver configura-
            in AutoCAD 3D, with a tolerance of +/– 0.5 mm.         tion. Noise suppression and echo cancellation
            Using AutoCAD, they can render the model as            operate with built-in laptop speakers and a
            a mesh to engineering dimension specifications         microphone.
            and import it into a texturing software appli-         The world has secure areas with an invitation
            cation, which can color-code and realistically         feature that lets you vouch for other users.
            apply a surface to it.                                 Users behind virtually any firewalls (includ-
               Allowing teams of engineers with differ-            ing HTTP proxies) can access Web.alive.
            ent backgrounds to “walk around” inside the            Presenters are automatically granted addi-
            smelter helps them examine different elements.         tional capabilities to help communicate with
            AutoCAD doesn’t support this kind of team              and manage their audience.
            review, so to achieve collaborative design and
            monitoring, we considered 3D virtual worlds.            Web.alive uses the Unreal game engine to
            However, we found that most popular plat-           render accurate architectural and engineer-
            forms failed to provide accurate renderings. For    ing virtual environments. Unreal (as used in
            instance, the base representation in Second Life    the America’s Army recruitment project; ____http://
            consists of primitive graphics objects (called      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America%27s_ Army)
                                                                __________________________________
            prims), so importing AutoCA D 3D graphics           provides a powerful combination of an accurate
            mesh files wasn’t possible (although Second         physics application (Karma), particle system
            Life is reportedly integrating mesh import via      editor, and vehicle physics for any engineering
            the standardized Collada [Collaborative Design      or military use. It isn’t yet available in virtual
            Activity] format, which provides additional         world platforms such as Second Life. How-
            rendering accuracy). In addition, we can’t          ever, Unreal version 2.5, in combination with
            model certain features in these 3D worlds with      DIRECTX 8.0 and 3D graphical acceleration
            AutoCAD-comparable accuracy.                        video cards, enables us to render engineered
               To meet the need for an accurate 3D virtual      objects with AutoCAD dimensional accuracy
            world engine that could be used in engineering,     and verisimilitude, including rendering high-
            manufacturing, and military applications, we        polygon static meshes, photo-realistic textures,
            chose Avaya’s Web.alive (http://avayalive.com),     and 2D graphics that aren’t subject to debilitat-
            which lets us import complex, high-polygon 3D       ing pixelation on close inspection. The UnrealEd
            models for deployment in a multiparticipant         level editor is integrated with the rendering
            environment.                                        engine and, along with an extensible C++ core,
                                                                provides an UnrealScript high-level scripting
            Web.alive and Unreal                                interface as well as visual editing of avatars
            Web.alive was developed primarily for virtual       and surface textures within the virtual world.
            conferencing and collaboration engagement. It’s     MellaniuM’s bridge between CAD and Unreal
            based on a browser that embeds the Unreal gam-      lets us import CAD designs into Unreal.
            ing engine and DiamondWare 3D spatial voice             UnrealEd is a real-time design tool, opti-
            over IP (VoIP). Web.alive was designed to accu-     mized for building 3D environments. It’s inte-
            rately display engineering applications, enabling   grated with Unreal’s rendering engine, offering a
            teams (currently up to 25 avatars) to collaborate   WYSIWYG camera view and immediate display
            on a design or monitor an engineering system.       of lighting, texture placement, and geometry
            Web.alive offers the following features:            operations. UnrealEd also provides single-click
                                                                playability; designers can launch the viewer and
                Users can drag and drop documents and           walk around their created environment in real
                images to make presentations, collaboration,    time, even during the design process.
                and training easy. Any Web content can be           After 3D model creation, designers can apply
                rendered in the world, allowing access to       photo-realistic textures up to 2,048 2,048 pixels
                media (such as streaming video from YouTube),   to surfaces to enhance objects’ perceived detail.

54          www.computer.org/internet/                                                        IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                           Accuracy in 3D Virtual Worlds Applications



This capability, combined with detailed texture
mapping, yields photorealistic surfaces that can
display intricate engineered details. Because
Unreal can handle up to 60,000 polygons in one
modeled item, and there is an indefinite limit
to the assembled unit’s size, even with a fully
textured and lit surface, the engine can handle
enormous spaces suitable for generating immer-
sive engineering scenarios.

Modeling Copper Smelters
Web.alive, in conjunction with the Unreal gam-
ing engine, provides a 3D virtual world that
supports the accuracy required in engineering,
manufacturing, and other complex, real-world
                                                                 Figure 1. Web.alive rendering of a copper smelter. The 3D
applications. For the copper smelter model we dis-
                                                                 environment displays an accurate model of the anode vessel,
cussed earlier, we imported computer-generated,
                                                                 showing the smelter and converter furnaces, including the design
actual-scale furnace models into the 3D virtual
                                                                 of the vessel’s refractory lining.
world application to provide accurate and realis-
tic surface features and lighting. Figures 1 and 2
show a rendering of the copper smelter after we
import the AutoCAD mesh into Web.alive.


     hen we import these models into the 3D
W    engine framework, we can create content-
rich environments that enable teams to inter-
actively develop or later monitor and maintain
complex equipment. In the near future, we plan
to release similar environments to illustrate
the more complex smelter designs required for
aluminum and nickel metal primary produc-
tion and the innovative incineration of domes-
tic waste. All these applications demand a high
level of engineering complexity, and real-time
collaboration within these environments will
result in rapid assimilation of the know-how
deemed necessar y for extended campaign
performance.
                                                                 Figure 2. Interior of a copper anode vessel, rendered in Web.alive.
Reference
                                                                 This interior consists of thick reinforced tuyere areas, the access
 1. A.J. Rigby, “Controlling the Process Parameter Affect-
                                                                 door, the porous plug placement, the skimming mouth, and the
    ing the Refractory Requirements for Peirce-Smith Con-
                                                                 slag line refractory.
    verters and Anode Vessels,” TMS 2005 Converting and
    Fire Refining, A.G. Ross, T. Warner, and K. Scholey, eds.,
    Wiley, 2005, pp. 213–222.                                    Kenneth Rigby is the CEO of MellaniuM. He has 35 years
                                                                    experience in the British aerospace industry. Contact
Anthony J. Rigby is the marketing manager at MellaniuM,             him at info@mellanium.co.uk.
                                                                           _____________
   a content creation company specifically geared to HD
   environments generated in the Unreal engine used in           Mark Melaney is the CTO and CIO of MellaniuM. He has
   Avaya’s web.alive browser embedded virtual world                 15 years of experience in AutoCAD, 3D Studio Max,
   platform. He has 20 years experience in furnace                  and Unreal 2.5. Contact him at info@mellanium.
                                                                                                     __________
                          joe.rigby@sympatico.ca.
   design. Contact him at ______________                            co.uk.
                                                                    ___


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                                                                                                                                                         THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®


Virtual World Architectures




                              I-Room: Augmenting
                              Virtual Worlds with
                              Intelligent Systems
                                                       An I-Room is a virtual world “intelligent room” that can support collaborative
                                                       meetings and activities, especially when these involve sense-making about a
                                                       current situation, planning, considering options, and decision making. The
                                                       combination of a virtual worlds meeting space and intelligent systems to
                                                       support planning and decision making in an I-Room provides a readily
                                                       understandable framework and generic architecture for a wide range of
                                                       potential collaborative applications and uses.




                                                       M
Austin Tate                                                   i l i t a r y c om m a nd p o s t s a nd        systems to support planning, collab-
Artificial Intelligence Applications                          civilian emergency operations                   orative option generation, plan critiqu-
Institute, University of Edinburgh                            centers provide a nexus where                   ing, and adaptive plan execution in
                                                       a team of decision makers can come                     very dynamic situations. Over the past
                                                       together to gather information, under-                 few years, we’ve linked these technolo-
                                                       stand a situation, and make decisions                  gies together with a virtual interactive
                                                       in crisis situations, during disasters,                meeting space to provide an I-Room — a
                                                       and when an organization or region is                  virtual space for intelligent interaction.
                                                       under threat. But often, these decision                Applications to date include emergency
                                                       makers are distributed and can’t be                    response operations centers used for
                                                       called together physically.                            experimentation and exercises, support
                                                           Whereas most 3D virtual worlds                     for a geographically dispersed cross-
                                                       have been used as social networking or                 disciplinary team engaged in creating
                                                       sales venues, universities and businesses              multimedia products, and even a com-
                                                       have considered other uses, finding such               mercial application involving expertly
                                                       worlds especially effective for teaching               tutored whisky-tasting and sales. Here,
                                                       and collaborative meetings. Relatively                 I describe I-Room technology and its
                                                       few serious applications (sometimes                    collaborative uses.
                                                       called “serious games” because they use
                                                       gaming technology for a serious purpose)               The I-Room
                                                       have been studied in 3D virtual worlds.                An I-Room is an environment for intel-
                                                           For some years, the University of                  ligent interaction. It can provide sup-
                                                       Edinburgh has been developing intelligent              port for formal business meetings,

56                            Published by the IEEE Computer Society            1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                    IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                       I-Room: Augmenting Virtual Worlds with Intelligent Systems



tutorials, project meetings, discussion groups,
and ad hoc interactions. Users can employ the
I-Room to organize and present pre-existing
information as well as display real-time infor-
mation feeds from other systems such as sen-
sor networks and Web services. It can also help
participants communicate, incorporate voice
channels and teleconferencing, facilitate inter-
actions, and record and act on the decisions
taken during a collaboration.
    Using the I-Room concept within vir-
tual worlds gives a collaboration an intuitive
grounding in a persistent 3D space in which
participants’ representations (avatars) appear,
and the artifacts and resources used in the
collaboration are close at hand (see Figure 1).
Avatars can meet each other “face-to-face” in
a virtual world when their human counterparts        Figure 1. Example I-Room. The I-Room shows live information
can’t. Some benefits of a real-world meeting         feeds and links to external data sources.
are retained through immersion in the virtual
world, and in some cases virtual world meetings          Decision makers could use the original
might be an effective alternative to face-to-face    I-X/I-Plan collaborative planning technologies
meetings, telephone calls, or video conferences.     when local or remote from one another by inter-
    Beyond the advantages a shared interaction       acting through a shared Web interface. The I-X
space confers, the I-Room can help deliver intel-    tool suite includes simple chat and information
ligent systems support for meetings and col-         exchange capabilities (using, for example, Jabber/
laborative activities. In particular, we designed    XMPP messaging) for discussions between multi-
the I-Room to draw on I-X Technology,1 which         ple users such as decision makers and special-
provides human participants with intelligent         ist planners. However, the technologies lacked
and intelligible task support, process manage-       a simple and intuitive means to enable aware-
ment, collaborative tools, and planning aids. The    ness of other decision-making agents’ presence
I-Room can also utilize a range of manual and        or share artifacts, and voice and video weren’t
automated capabilities or agents in a coherent       used.
way. Participants share meaningful information           With the advent of 3D virtual worlds (for
about the processes or products they’re working      example, Second Life and OpenSimulator), our
on through a common conceptual model called          team was able to link I-X technologies so that
<I-N-C-A> (Issues-Nodes-Constraints-Annotations).2   they could support a community connected
The I-Room framework is flexible enough to           via such a virtual worlds meeting space. The
provide participants in I-Room meetings with         flexibility of typical scripting facilities in vir-
access to knowledge-based content and natural-       tual worlds and their ability to easily connect
language-generation technology that tailors          with external Web services made the integra-
utterances to users’ specific experience levels.     tion of the intelligent systems relatively easy
                                                     without requiring fundamental changes to how
Intelligent Systems Technology                       the decision-support systems operate. Virtual
One key intelligent system used in the I-Room is     worlds also support good connections to Web-
the I-X Technology process support framework         based static media and dynamically generated
and I-Plan.1 I-Plan is an intelligent planning aid   Web content and can connect with live media
that can offer task-support help, generate and       streams, which facilitate a common, shared
refine plans to adapt them to the situation at       real-time view of presentations and excel-
hand, support the execution of standard oper-        lent links to video teleconferencing for mixed
ating procedures, support the various stages of      reality events. In some applications, an avatar
conducting a meeting, help handle post-meeting       within the virtual world presents a “camera”
group actions, and so on.                            view of a collaborative meeting such that it can

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                                                                                                                      THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Virtual World Architectures



            be relayed to Web observers — that is, users who        Although some of these tasks are simple,
            connect only via Web presentations technolo-         the I-Room can perform others well only if it
            gies such as Adobe Connect. This has enabled         has access to knowledge about meetings in
            voice, video, text chat, and presentation sharing    general and the current meeting and partici-
            across the virtual world and Web observer com-       pants in particular. Linking the I-Room to real-
            munities to extend the reach to users unable to      world knowledge-based systems can potentially
            connect directly for security, firewall, or man-     extend the support they offer into this virtual
            agement reasons.                                     space, thereby distributing the knowledge they
                                                                 embody.4
            I-X Technology and
            I-Room Meeting Support                               Underlying Concepts
            As mentioned, I-X Technology provides intel-         for I-Room Collaboration
            ligent task support, planning capabilities, and      Underlying the use of the I-Room for collabora-
            coordination between multiple agents.1 It pro-       tion and its ability to link human participants
            vides a user interface called an I-X process         to intelligent systems support are the following
            panel (I-P2)3 that acts as a sophisticated “to-do”   concepts:
            list. An I-Room created within a virtual world
            such as Second Life or OpenSimulator can be             a mixed-initiative collaborative model for
            linked to I-X systems and agents external to the        refining and constraining processes and
            virtual world to support collaborative meetings         products;
            in virtual worlds or in mixed reality alongside         communication based on sharing issues,
            real-world meeting locations. It can support            activities and processes, state, events, agents,
            common requirements for meetings by                     options, argumentation, rationale, presence
                                                                    information, and status reports;
                automatically generating a framework for            the use of the <I-N-C-A> ontology for rep-
                the meeting, including generic agenda items         resenting the processes used and products
                (such as review of previous actions, “any           developed during meetings;
                other business,” and the agreed-on date for         I-X Technology and its suite of tools to pro-
                the next meeting);                                  vide task and process support;
                keeping track of actions and agenda items           the use of issue-based argumentation about
                during the meeting itself;                          options;
                recording decisions and taking minutes;             the use of agent presence models, as in
                tracking existing actions and adding new            instant messaging, and awareness of agent
                ones;                                               context, status, relationships within an
                providing access to minutes from previous           organizational framework, capabilities, and
                meetings; and                                       authorities; and
                automatically generating an outline of the          external shared repositories of descriptions
                meeting minutes.                                    of processes, products, and other domain-
                                                                    defined objects.
               Through an object in the virtual world,
            called the I-X helper, the I-Room can sense          Together these provide a principled, intelligible,
            avatars’ presence and respond to commands            and extendable basis for collaboration between
            directed to it. The I-Room can provide addi-         the people and systems involved.
            tional support by
                                                                 Connecting an I-Room
                monitoring participants’ comings and goings      to a Virtual World
                in the meeting;                                  Meeting participants in an I-Room log in via
                prompting in-world “screens” to display the      their avatar in a virtual world viewer. The I-X
                meeting agenda or any relevant images,           helper, which can be any convenient object in
                media, documents, or webpages at appropri-       the virtual world, contains scripts that act as a
                ate times during the meeting; and                conduit for channeling communications to the
                unobtrusively documenting the meeting’s          participants connecting via their avatars. The
                progress and outcomes.                           I-X helper communicates through one nominated

58          www.computer.org/internet/                                                         IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                       I-Room: Augmenting Virtual Worlds with Intelligent Systems



I-X agent to the various I-X services via a com-                       Virtual world server                         I-X services
munications channel (which, for Second Life,                                        I-X helper           HTTP




                                                           Virtual world
for example, uses a mixture of HTTP requests                                                                        I-X comms




                                                            capabilities
                                                                                      comms             XML-RPC
and responses and communications via XML
RPC). Messages from either end can be queued                               Chat     I-X helper                    I-X agent for VW
and sent later if the I-X helper or the nominated
I-X agent aren’t available.                                                  Chat             Listen
    The I-X helper can communicate with ava-
tars in the I-Room via text chat channels in                                      VW viewer                               I-X
the virtual world. It also uses dedicated pri-                                                                          process
                                                                                     Avatar                              panel
vate channels to communicate with and con-
trol suitable devices in the virtual world, such                                         Participants                        Participants
as screens. The helper can operate such devices
within an I-Room by loading a note card held         Figure 2. The I-X helper. The helper connects the virtual world to
within the virtual world itself that contains a      I-X services, such as planning aids and knowledge-based systems.
description of the virtual world capabilities it
should know about, and information on how to         zones based on the flow of “observe, orientate,
communicate instructions to those capabilities.      decide, act” (the “OODA Loop”) alongside the
Specific capabilities to provide flexible display    software to make for simple deployment and
of images, external webpages, and I-X agent-         setup for trials.
oriented information are also incorporated.              Some I-Rooms have been running continu-
The I-X helper provides a sensor for determin-       ously since early 2008, and a number have been
ing when avatars come into range, so that the        used for live events, workshops, collaboration
helper can report them as joining and leaving        meetings and discussions, training exercises,
the I-Room or meeting. The I-X helper also lis-      product design and review meetings, scien-
tens on a specific chat channel for instructions     tific project reviews, social occasions, and so
that it can handle itself either using external      on. This has included meetings in which par-
I-X services or virtual world agents, or object      ticipants have been located on three continents.
capabilities it’s told about through the capa-       Some I-Rooms are constantly available to their
bilities note card. This lets avatars and other      users through publicly accessible virtual worlds
objects in the virtual world use the I-X helper      such as Second Life. Others are deployed rap-
to request services, such as noting action items     idly (within minutes) on demand. The Artificial
or taking minutes and recording decisions. In        Intelligence Applications Institute (AIAI) at the
general, it also lets I-Room participants interact   University of Edinburgh regularly opens an
with external I-X agents and lets those agents       I-Room in support of teleconferences to give a
communicate with and control devices in the          visual indication of presence, rich media shar-
virtual world (see Figure 2).                        ing, and simple ways to initiate back-channel
    More details about I-Rooms and the ways          interactions for participants, even when tradi-
in which we can use them in virtual worlds is        tional video and audio channels outside those
available at http://openvce.net/iroom.               available through the virtual world are in use
                                                     with collaborators. We’ve worked with compa-
I-Room Applications                                  nies such as Disney, EADS (Airbus), Glenkeir
At the University of Edinburgh, we have              Distilleries/The Whisky Shop, Kodak, Slam
deployed I-Rooms in Second Life (on publicly         Games, and others.
accessible areas) and in OpenSimulator (on               I-Rooms are also being applied to a range
privately hosted servers that can run behind         of national and international crisis and emer-
secure firewalls, if necessary). The software        gency response situations,4 homeland security,
for the external I-X services and an example         unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mission moni-
virtual-world-based I-X helper are available as      toring, team training, and simulation exercises.
open sou rce code. We’ve prov ided sa mple           One series of experiments for the Whole of
I-Room 3D models that support the workflow in        Society Crises Response Community (WoSCR)
typical operation centers — for example, with        involved a regional response to an escalat-
a central meeting space and surrounding work         ing swine flu incident.5 WoSCR used a virtual

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Virtual World Architectures



            world I-Room for meetings, alongside a Web           Acknowledgments
            2.0 team collaboration website and wiki. We          The I-X and I-Room projects have received funding from
            performed an evaluation via questionnaires           several sources, including DARPA, the US Joint Forces
            during and after the experiments, and the par-       Command/Army Research Labs/Alion (OpenVCE.net proj-
            ticipants reported that the facilities offered       ect), the European Regional Development Fund, and the
            positive advantages over traditional methods of      School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh.
            meeting and sharing information, which usu-          The university and project funding partners are autho-
            ally involve teleconferences, email, and file        rized to reproduce and distribute reprints and online
            sharing.                                             copies for their purposes notwithstanding any copyright
                                                                 annotation hereon. The views and conclusions contained
                                                                 herein are those of the authors and should not be inter-
                n I-Room provides a shared persistent space
            A   with intelligent systems support for interac-
            tion and collaboration between users, systems,
                                                                 preted as necessar ily representing the off icial poli-
                                                                 cies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of other
                                                                 parties.
            and agents. It allows for the integration of a
            range of intelligent system aids, services, and      References
            agents into the meeting. An I-Room consists of       1. A. Tate, “Intelligible A I Planning,” Proc. 20th Brit-
            elements inside a virtual world and external            ish Computer Society Special Group on Expert Sys-
            knowledge-based and intelligent systems. This           tems, Int’l Conf. Knowledge Based Systems and Applied
            especially includes the I-X planning, process,          Artificial Intelligence (ES 2000), Springer, 2000,
            and task support aids, but has also involved            pp. 3–16.
            knowledge-based and expert systems to access         2. A. Tate, “<I-N-C-A>: An Ontology for Mixed-Initiative
            large semantic knowledge stores, and natural-           Synthesis Tasks,” Proc. Workshop on Mixed-Initiative
            language-generation capabilities.                       Intelligent Systems (MIIS), Int’l Joint Conf. Artificial
                At the University of Edinburgh, we’re refin-        Intelligence (IJCAI 03), ijcai.org, 2003; www.aiai.ed.ac.
            ing the core I-Room artificial intelligence con-        uk/project/ix/documents/.
                                                                    _______________
            cepts and technology and making them more            3. A. Tate, J. Dalton, and J. Stader, “I-P2 — Intelligent
            generic. This work includes the development of          Process Panels to Support Coalition Operations,” Proc.
            generalized links to knowledge-based systems;           2nd Int’l Conf. Knowledge Systems for Coalition Opera-
            capability modeling to identify and exploit             tions (KSCO 02), ksco.info, 2002, pp. 184–190.
            opportunities in virtual worlds; and seman-          4. A. Tate et al., “I-Room: A Virtual Space for Intelligent
            tic tagging of various media and communica-             Interaction,” IEEE Intelligent Systems, vol. 25, no. 4,
            tion streams that constitute a virtual meeting          2010, pp. 62–71.
            to allow a higher level of context-sensitive         5. A. Tate et al., “Virtual Collaboration Spaces and Web
            support, with documentation, indexing, and              2.0: Bringing Presence to Distributed Collaboration,”
            playback facilities. We’re creating several vir-        Reshaping Research and Development Using Web 2.0-
            tual world capabilities to augment I-X support          Based Technologies, M. Baker, ed., Nova Science Pub-
            for intelligent interaction in virtual meeting          lishers, 2011.
            spaces, virtual operations centers, and training
            rooms. Work is also under way to explore the         Austin Tate is the director of the Artificial Intelligence
            synergy between physical instrumented meet-              Applications Institute (AIAI) and holds the Personal
            ing spaces and virtual-worlds-based I-Rooms to           Chair of Knowledge-Based Systems at the University
            better support collaborative distributed decision-       of Edinburgh. His research interests include emergency
            making groups.                                           response using advanced knowledge and planning
                We’re able to provide intelligent decision-          technologies, and collaborative systems, especially
            support tools independent of virtual worlds,             using virtual worlds. Tate has a PhD in machine intel-
            but our experience indicates coupling them               ligence from the University of Edinburgh. He’s a fellow
            has advantages. Intelligent systems can be               of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a fellow of AAAI,
            layered on top of existing virtual worlds                and an IEEE Intelligent Systems senior advisory board
            platforms, and this is facilitated by scripting                                  a.tate@ed.ac.uk.
                                                                     member. Contact him at _________
            facilities in the object-oriented programming
            environments that many flexible virtual worlds              Selected CS articles and columns are also available
            provide.                                                    for free at http://ComputingNow.computer.org.

60          www.computer.org/internet/                                                              IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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             ___________________________




____________________




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Access Control




                  A User-Activity-Centric
                  Framework for Access Control
                  in Online Social Networks
                                            Today’s ever-evolving online social networks (OSNs) need an effective and
                                            usable access control framework. OSN users typically have discretionary
                                            control over their content, relationships, and interactions, while the OSN’s
                                            policies consolidate these individual choices into specific access and filtering
                                            decisions. OSN access control can be built around the concept of user activity.
                                            To this end, the authors distinguish usage activity from control activity and
                                            identify four core control activities: attribute, policy, relationship, and session.
                                            Their user-activity-centric framework enables future extensions as needed.




                                            O
Jaehong Park, Ravi Sandhu,                         nline social networks (OSNs)                  related users’ preferences and policies.
and Yuan Cheng                                     present a domain that’s distinct              Consider the user relationship graph
University of Texas at San Antonio                 from traditional access control.              that Figure 1a shows. Her e, Homer
                                            Although discretionary access control                m ig ht not wa nt h i s coworkers to be
                                            lets users configure access to their own             notified of his activity. He might also
                                            resources, they typically do so in terms             want to prevent Bart from viewing any
                                            of user identities, group or role mem-               violent content, sharing contact infor-
                                            bership, and similar attributes. Access              mation, or becoming a friend of Hom-
                                            control in OSNs is driven more by user               er’s coworkers. We call the expression
                                            relationships based on social graphs,                of Homer’s policies control activities. In
                                            such as friends and friends of friends.              both lattice- and role-based access con-
                                            In typical access control systems, a                 trols, such control activities are admin-
                                            user accesses stored content, whereas                istrative ones — that is, administrators
                                            in OSNs, additional activities occur,                or security officers define control poli-
                                            such as “poking” another user or rec-                cies for users. In OSNs, users participate
                                            ommending other users as friends. The                in control activities on related users
                                            targets of these activities are other users          and content.
                                            rather than shared content.                              Myriad OSN services are available
                                                Furthermore, OSN systems make                    today, but users’ control capabili-
                                            and enforce control decisions for user               ties within these services are still rudi-
                                            activities by collectively referencing               mentary and will likely require further

62                 Published by the IEEE Computer Society          1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                    IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                  A User-Activity-Centric Framework for Access Control



enhancement. For instance, a user might not want                                               Coworker
                                                                                    Homer                  Mr. Burns
to reveal his location information or might want
to use additional privacy rules on some occa-
sions. Current OSNs rarely offer such options.                                            Parent of              Friend
    In this article, we propose developing an
access control framework for OSNs around the
concept of user activity. Our framework accom-                                       Bart                     Ned
modates personalized privacy preferences for                                 (a)
user activities and resources by separating indi-
vidualized user and resource policies. Its scope                                                          Activities (A)   Attributes (T)
                                                                                               OSN’s
goes beyond traditional access control in that it                                                                           Policies (P)
                                                                                              activity
lets users control general usage activity as well                                             decision
as control activities such as attribute, policy,                                                                              Target
relationship, and session controls.                                                                                           users
                                                                                                                               (UT)
                                                                 Users             Sessions                 Action
Access Control Framework                                          (U)                (S)                    (ACT)
                                                                                                                               Target
Figure 1b shows a conceptual depiction of                                                                                    resources
our framework (its formalization is beyond                  Attributes (T)      Attributes (T)
                                                                                                                                (RT)
our scope here). It comprises three main com-                Policies (P)        Policies (P)
                                                                                                                           Attributes (T)
ponents: users, sessions, and activities. Each                       Constrained by                                         Policies (P)
activity consists of an action, zero or more tar-          (b)    (for example, subset)
get resources, and zero or more target users.
                                                        Figure 1. User-activity-centric framework. We can see (a) an
Users                                                   example of online social network (OSN) user relationships and
A user is a representation of a human and is            (b) the various framework components.
associated with user attributes and policies. User
attributes are properties or information about the      privileges if the session is on a mobile device).
user, such as a unique ID, name, address, age, or       A user can have multiple concurrent sessions if
friend list. User policies are rules expressing pref-   the OSN permits, whereas a session belongs to
erences or limits. The user or his or her related       exactly one user (indicated by the double versus
users (such as parents) directly manage some            single arrowheads in the figure).
attributes and policies. The OSN system manages             Although current OSNs don’t support this
others, often as a consequence of various user          capability, we believe future OSNs will find it use-
activities (as with consumable attributes, such as      ful to support sessions with user-controlled attri-
a credit balance, or a reputation attribute based       butes and policies. For instance, a user might be
on aggregated ratings from other users).                allowed to disable some attributes or policies in
                                                        some sessions, as when Homer doesn’t want to
Sessions                                                reveal his friends’ information to other users. He
A session is a representation of an active user         can achieve this by creating a session that doesn’t
who has logged into the OSN (we borrowed the            convey his friends’ information. On the other
term from role-based access control models1).           hand, some user attributes and policies might need
The user-versus-session distinction is impor-           to be required for a session that performs cer-
tant if only to distinguish between those who           tain actions. For example, an OSN system might
are online and those who aren’t. In the sim-            mandate some user attributes and policies in all
plest case, a session inherits all the user’s attri-    sessions, such as a user ID or a basic geographic
butes and policies. More generally, a session           location. We believe the relationship between ses-
might inherit only some, or might inherit them          sion and user attributes and policies provides a
in a slightly modified form, such as substitut-         fertile arena for developing more nuanced access
ing “over 18” for an actual age (represented            control and privacy in future OSNs.
via the “constrained by” relation in Figure 1b).
A session might have additional attributes (such        Activities
as an IP address or access to a device and its          The notion of activities encompasses both gen-
location) and policies (for instance, limited           eral usage activities and users’ control activities.

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Access Control



            A session initiates each activity on the user’s        If Homer’s session has a policy that says it
            behalf. The OSN decides whether the activity is        doesn’t ever want to chat, Ned’s attempt to chat
            permitted. A session can have multiple activi-         will fail.
            ties, whereas each activity is initiated by only
            a single session. Each activity comprises an           OSN Activity Decision
            action, target resources, and target users.            Ultimately the OSN system consolidates all the
                                                                   necessary individual policies and attributes
            Action. Each action is an abstract function            together with its own policies and uses them to
            available to OSN users via a session. Examples         decide whether to permit specific users’ activity
            include when a user reads or writes a comment,         requests. Assume Homer has a policy that says
            likes another user’s posting, invites another          anyone who is his coworker or a direct friend of
            user to be a friend or group member, or indi-          his coworker can’t be a friend to his children.
            rectly triggers an activity notification action        Using this policy, the OSN makes sure Bart’s
            that’s delivered to friends. User actions can be       policy reflects Homer’s policy by either updat-
            carried out on target resources, target users,         ing Bart’s policy or evaluating Bart’s parents’
            or both. For example, read and write actions           policies each time Bart attempts an activity.
            require target resources, whereas friendship           If Bart (in a session) tries to send a friendship
            recommendation actions require two or more             invitation (an action) to Ned (a target user),
            target users, and typical notification actions         the OSN evaluates Bart’s policy and possibly
            require both (that is, multiple target users will      those of his parents, then verifies whether any
            receive notification of an acting user’s activity      of Ned’s friends (the target user’s attribute) are
            information, such as a comment on a picture).          Homer’s coworkers.

            Target resources. Target resources are those           Discussion
            involved in an action. They can include users’         Our framework has some distinctive charac-
            shared content; profile information; user,             teristics. The first is policy individualization,
            resource, or session policies and attributes; and      which is essential for access control in OSN
            any other digital information that users can           environments. Unlike in traditional access con-
            access or manage in the OSN. By considering pol-       trol systems — such as lattice- or role-based
            icies and attributes (in addition to shared content)   access control, where a single, system-wide
            to be part of the resource abstraction, our frame-     security policy is applied to all users — OSN
            work supports users’ ability to partially control      users have their own security and privacy poli-
            their own attributes and policies as well those of     cies and attributes, which the OSN uses col-
            related users. Furthermore, the framework cov-         lectively to make decisions on user activities.
            ers the policies and attributes of these policy and    Individuals or related users can manage these
            attribute resources. For example, Bart’s “no access    policies and attributes themselves.
            to violent content” policy could have its own pol-         Another characteristic is the separation of
            icy stipulating that only Homer can change it, or      user and resource policies. Some policies are
            an attribute that provides information about the       specific to individual users, whereas others
            policy creator. As another example, a video clip’s     are specific to resources, so certain activity
            provider attribute can have a policy that says         controls should be enforced with user policies
            only the provider’s friends can read the attribute     (such as a filtering policy2) and others using
            information. Although, theoretically, this chain-      resource policies. For instance, using resource
            ing can continue indefinitely, we believe practi-      policies to filter out violent content from Bart
            cal OSN systems won’t likely provide policies and      (and other users) would require adding one
            attributes on policies and attributes beyond one       rule per excluded user in the resource policies
            or two levels.                                         of every violent resource, which isn’t scalable.
                                                                   Including the rule “no access to violent con-
            Target users. Target users are the recipients of       tent” in each excluded user’s policy is better.
            an action. For example, if Ned invites Homer               Unlike others’ work on OSNs, 2–6 which
            as a friend or for a chat, Homer’s the target          focuses exclusively on user relationships, our
            user while Ned is the acting user. (More pre-          framework also supports user-relationship-
            cisely, Homer’s sessions receive the invitation.)      independent access controls. More specifically,

64          www.computer.org/internet/                                                          IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                               A User-Activity-Centric Framework for Access Control



it can support attribute-based access control in     Acknowledgments
general, such as the authorization component of      This work is supported by grants from the US National
usage control.7                                      Science Foundation and the state of Texas.
    Our framework also supports sessions
that represent active users, which allows for        References
enhanced controls that we don’t find in existing     1. R.S. Sandhu et al., “Role-Based Access Control Models,”
OSN services and literature. Specifically, a user       Computer, vol. 29, no. 2, 1996, pp. 27–38.
can minimize shareable attributes and change         2. B. Carminati et al., “A Semantic Web-Based Framework
his or her policies to have better security and         for Social Network Access Control,” Proc. 14th ACM
privacy control, while the OSN system ensures           Symp. Access Control Models and Technologies, ACM
that this doesn’t violate other users’ policies.        Press, 2009, pp. 177–186.
Many existing OSNs (such as Facebook or              3. B. Carminati, E. Ferrari, and A. Perego, “Enforcing
MySpace) allow a session with some additional           Access Control in Web-Based Social Networks,” ACM
attributes or policies that the OSN controls but        Trans. Information and System Security, vol. 13, no. 1,
don’t enable any user-controllable session attri-       2009, pp. 1–38.
butes or policies. Much of the recent literature     4. P.W.L. Fong, M. Anwar, and Z. Zhao, “A Privacy
on OSN access controls doesn’t distinguish a            Preservation Model for Facebook-Style Social Network
session from a user.2–6                                 Systems,” Proc. 14th European Symp. Research in
    The recent OpenSocial specification seeks           Computer Security, Springer, 2009, pp. 303–320.
to standardize API language specifications for       5. P.W.L. Fong, “Relationship-Based Access Control:
OSNs,8 and is complementary with our frame-             Protection Model and Policy Language,” Proc. ACM
work. Proposals for OpenSocial Access Control           Conf. Data and Application Security and Privacy
Lists (ACLs), Activity Privacy API, and Album           (CODASPY 11), ACM Press, 2011.
and MediaItem Privacy API suggest API speci-         6. A. Cinzia Squicciarini, M. Shehab, and F. Paci,
fications for ACLs that are attached to resources       “Collective Privacy Management in Social Networks,”
in OSNs.9 Unlike our framework, OpenSocial              Proc. 18th Int’l Conf. World Wide Web, ACM Press,
narrowly defines activity to mean information           2009, pp. 521–530.
(a log) about events (such as user actions), which   7. J. Park and R. Sandhu, “The UCON ABC Usage Control
our framework views as a resource. Thus, the            Model,” ACM Trans. Information and System Security,
OpenSocial Activity Privacy API is mainly for           vol. 7, no. 1, 2004, pp. 128–174.
user activity notification controls and defines      8. OpenSocial Specification 1.1, OpenSocial, 2010; www.___
a specification language for policies that are          opensocial.org/specs.
attached to the user activity log. In our frame-     9. C. Renner, Privacy in Online Social Networks, master’s
work, users can control activity notification by        thesis, Swiss Federal Institute of Tech., Zurich, 2010.
specifying either user policies or resource (for
example, activity log) policies, depending on        Jaehong Park is a research associate professor at the Insti-
whether the notification policy applies to a spe-        tute for Cyber Security at the University of Texas at
cific user or a specific activity.                                                   jae.park@utsa.edu.
                                                         San Antonio. Contact him at ___________


  n contrast to traditional access control appli-
I cation domains, OSNs are uniquely centered
around users’ usage and control activities.
                                                     Ravi Sandhu is the founder and executive director of the
                                                         Institute for Cyber Security, holds the Lutcher Brown
                                                         Endowed Chair in Cyber Security, and is a professor in
Studying access control issues simply based              the Department of Computer Science at the University
on user relationships is insufficient to com-            of Texas at San Antonio. Contact him at ravi.sandhu@
                                                                                                  ________
prehensively understand security and privacy             utsa.edu.
                                                         _____
issues in OSNs. Our proposed user-activity-
centr ic f ramework prov ides a concept ual          Yuan Cheng is a doctoral student in the Department of Com-
sketch for understanding the essential nature           puter Science and the Institute for Cyber Security at
of OSN access control. This framework will              the University of Texas at San Antonio. Contact him at
provide a foundation for future development             ycheng@cs.utsa.edu.
                                                        ____________
of access control policies and models for OSNs
with enhanced security and privacy protection               Selected CS articles and columns are also available
support.                                                    for free at http://ComputingNow.computer.org.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                         65




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                                                                                                                           THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




     Web-Scale Workflow
                                                                     Editor: Schahram Dustdar     ________________




                                Principles of
                                Elastic Processes


                                Cloud computing’s success has made on-demand computing with a pay-as-you-
                                go pricing model popular. However, cloud computing’s focus on resources and
                                costs limits progress in realizing more flexible, adaptive processes. The authors
                                introduce elastic processes, which are based on explicitly modeling resources,
                                cost, and quality, and show how they improve on the state of the art.




       P
             rocess automation and workf lows are                          model. Such a service economy mechanism
             familiar concepts in modern computer sci-                     should be an integrated part of process
             ence. Increasingly, data-intensive applica-                   models.1
       tions play a crucial role in this domain — our                      Quality of service (QoS) within processes.
       online and interconnected society produces                          Because services realize each process in a
       massive amounts of data. Sources include                            workflow, QoS becomes an important notion
       sensor-equipped environments, such as smart                         for two reasons. First, when we uniformly
       buildings, social media, and financial markets.                     regard computation as service, we can view
       To harvest the valuable information hidden in                       a workflow as a compositional service. Thus,
       these “data blobs,” we can often apply the con-                     its quality must be well defined by the qual-
       cept of processes to streamline data processing                     ity of its component services. Second, QoS is
       and analytical steps. Currently, we can apply                       related to the resources services require and
       such processes for both static and real-time data                   thus the cost of those resources.
       from different sources and deliver the analytical
       results within a structured enterprise comput-                      We propose the concept of elastic processes
       ing environment. However, we argue that such                    (EPs), precisely defining the various facets of
       a computing paradigm lacks some necessary                       elasticity that capture process dynamics in
       features for modern Internet-scale information                  cloud and human computing. The main prop-
       processing, where both cloud and human com-                     erties for modeling EPs’ economic and physical
       puting1 are heavily employed.                                   dynamics are resource elasticity, cost elasticity,
          Cloud computing and human computing have                     and quality elasticity (the “Elasticity in Related
       the following common features that we must                      Disciplines” sidebar provides the general defini-
       address for process automation:                                 tions for elasticity that we consider in our work).
                                                                           Elasticity captures one essence of cloud com-
           Dynamic resource requirement and provi-                     puting: when limited resources are offered for
           sion. Both cloud and human computing                        potentially unlimited use, providers must man-
           environments are based on the concept of                    age them elastically by scaling up and down, as
           provisioning adequate resources as services                 needed. However, as is common today, under-
           in a demand-driven fashion based on a price                 standing and supporting elasticity purely from

66     Published by the IEEE Computer Society        1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                 IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                                Principles of Elastic Processes


                                             Elasticity in Related Disciplines

  I  n computer science, the term
     been used as the academic synonym of
                                                        has recently

  thanks to Amazon’s premier cloud service offering, the Elastic
                                                                    ,
                                                                        elasticity measures a function’s responsiveness or sensitivity to
                                                                        changes in parameters in a relative way. In general, the formula
                                                                        for the elasticity of Y with respect to X is
  Compute Cloud (EC2).                                                                 dy X
                                                                        e (Y , X ) =        ,
       The current Wikipedia definition of elasticity in physics                       dx Y
  states that “elasticity is the physical property of a material        where (Y, X) is short for “the elasticity of Y with respect
  when it deforms under stress (for example, external forces)           to X,” and /      is the derivative of Y with respect to X. In
  but returns to its original shape when the stress is removed.         economics, elasticity is an effective way to measure demand
  The relative amount of deformation is called the strain.” When        and supply responsiveness. This notion of elasticity should be
  applied to computing, elasticity naturally reflects the on-           adequate to apply to the resource, quality, and cost dynamics in
  demand nature of cloud service provisioning: it states that the       service-oriented computing, especially in the context of cloud
  amount of resources an application uses or a provider offers          computing.
  can expand or contract based on influences such as demand.
       Another related definition of elasticity is found in econom-     Reference
  ics, which describes it as “the ratio of the percent change in one    1. E. Dowling,                                , 3rd ed., McGraw-Hill,
  variable to the percent change in another variable.”1 That is,            1980.




a resource-management viewpoint is              crucial for future processes in the              elasticity concept. Taking Amazon
rather restrictive. Resources’ require-         context of service-based comput-                 as an example, the following price
ments aren’t determined only by the             ing. Let’s look more closely at cost             models are based on cost elasticity
application using them. If we really            and quality elasticity, which are                estimation:
treat computation as a service, then            discussed much more rarely than is
we must consider all aspects of a ser-          resource elasticity.                                On-demand instances are a pure
vice that might impact the demands                                                                  pay per use-on-demand model, in
on a resource.                                  Cost Elasticity                                     which customers don’t have long-
    The proposed EP is a novel con-             Cost elasticity describes a resource                term commitments and are free
cept that significantly enriches com-           provision’s responsiveness to changes               from planning.
putational processes’ properties in             in cost. Service providers apply it                 Spot instances occur when spot
the context of cloud computing and              when defining price models for cloud                prices fluctuate over time accord-
service-oriented computing in gen-              computing systems. In this context,                 ing to supply-demand status and
eral. Existing workflows are limited            cost elasticity is also referred to as              other factors Amazon consid-
to resource elasticity by adjust-               utility computing, in which resources               ers. Users bid a maximum price
ing machine power, while cost and               such as computational services pro-                 they’re willing to pay for these
quality are barely considered. How-             vided by virtual machines, data                     instances and run them as long
ever, these three main properties are           transmission on the network, and                    as the spot price bidding price,
interdependent, and we must study               storage services provided on differ-                until the instance is explicitly
them based on a uniform founda-                 ent storage hierarchies are charged                 terminated, or the price rises
tion. Our aim is to build a proper              based on a pay-as-you-go pric-                      above users’ bidding price.
modeling, reasoning, and execution              ing mechanism. In defining a price
framework in which we can specify               model for utility computing, the cost               With the spot price option, Ama-
and monitor these properties to build           incurred to support the computing                zon can use higher spot prices dur-
a quantifiable, proactive, and predic-          capacity level is the baseline for the           ing peak times and lower prices
tive resource-capacity-management               design. These cost items include the             during off-peak times to shape cus-
system for Internet-scale process               investment, provisioning, and main-              tomer behaviors such that flexible
automation that integrates multiple             tenance of processor, memory, hard               users would tend to consume more
clouds and various forms of human               disk, and network with, respectively,            during off-peak times and avoid
computing.                                      desired clock frequency, memory                  pu rchases du r i ng pea k t i mes.
                                                size, size of disk space used, and data          This would flatten aggregate usage
Elasticity Properties                           transmission cost. Based on these fac-           over time, which, in turn, would
We’ve identified elasticity consider-           tors, providers can develop dynamic              decrease Amazon’s maintenance
ing resources, cost, and quality as             pricing models based on the cost                 costs. In this sense, price is intuitively

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Web-Scale Workflow



                                             Elastic process system                     Costs               as Figure 1 illustrates. We identified
                  Costs                                                                                     five primar y research challenges
                                                                                                Resources

     Customer 1                                                                                             that informed our model’s design,
                           Quality                                           Resource provider 1
                                                                                                            and discuss these in detail later.
                                                                                                            First, let’s look at EPs’ physical and
                                                                                                            economic properties.
                                              - Elastic reasoning
                                                mechanism (RC 3)                                            Physical Elasticity Properties
                                              - Reusability and adaptive                Costs               An EP must decide how to use exist-
                                                execution (RC 4)
                  Costs
                                              - Formalism for elastic                           Resources
                                                                                                            ing resources in its environment in
     Customer n                                 process system (RC 5)                                       an optimal way (one that can meet
                           Quality                                           Resource providers m
                                                                                                            multidimensional demands but with
                     Specification of constraints                     Self-describing                       a maximum benefit). The EP envi-
                       and preferences (RC 1)                        resources (RC 2)                       ronment is dynamic, with diverse
                                                                                                            resou rce t y pes (computat iona l,
                                                                                                            data, and network resources). These
                                                                                                            resources are also dynamic, as are
                                                                                                            their quality and cost models. Based
controlled not only by cost elasticity                        Response time isn’t the only qual-            on quality and cost, an EP might use
but also by the incentive effect on                       ity criteria used. Other quality mea-             different sets of resources as well as
customers.                                                surements such as the result quality              its processing activities to produce
                                                          in an approximation-based comput-                 multiple outputs. On the other hand,
Quality Elasticity                                        ing process can help provide a new                some demands might have similar
Quality elasticity measures how                           class of cloud algorithms. The Aqua               requirements, so the same resources
responsive quality is to a change in                      approximate query answering system                and processing elements in the EP
resource usage. The elasticity comes                      developed at Bell Labs is an example              can produce multiple outputs. Such
from a feature inherent to cloud                          of a system that makes trade-offs                 behaviors ref lect an EP’s internal
applications — that is, to have a                         considering quality aspects in query              physical elasticity properties.
well-defined quality elasticity mea-                      processing.3 Traditional query pro-
surement, an application service’s                        cessing focuses on generating exact               Economic Elasticity Properties
underlying algorithm requires that                        answers. However, when huge data                  First, let’s distinguish between an
the service’s quality improvement                         stores are involved, providing an                 EP and resources for building EPs,
be monotonic to the consumption of                        exact result might take an unaccept-              which can be any kind of machine
the resource needed. In other words,                      ably long time. In many cases, exact              or human computation and network
the more resources consumed, the                          answers aren’t required, and approx-              resource; machine computation can
better the achievable quality. The                        imate or quick results are preferred.             come from (virtual) computational
main issue here is to associate a ser-                    Aqua is a system for quickly execut-              machines or software services atop
vice with a measurable quality and                        ing queries by providing approximate              machines. Providers make resources
the cost function, which computes                         answers tailored to data warehous-                available, and each resource has cer-
the resource requirement for a given                      ing environments. When we couple                  tain properties, such as quality and
quality, such as execution speed. In                      such an approximation process with                cost. An EP’s function (for example,
this case, a service’s result is deter-                   a monotonic resource consumption                  translation) is a static property that
ministic, but its execution speed is                      model, we can build an elastic que-               accepts certain input data sources
scaled based on the required resource.                    rying system based on the notion of               and produces some results. The func-
In cloud computing, some computa-                         quality elasticity. Recent research               tion is modeled and implemented as
tional forms have this desired prop-                      in data space as an approximation-                a set of interdependent activities. It’s
erty. For example, MapReduce is a                         based type of search computing is an              built from existing components but
scalable programming framework                            important attempt toward an elastic               differently than are static processes.
that lets users process data elasti-                      search paradigm.4                                     As with its physical elasticity
cally.2 It has a desired quality elas-                                                                      properties, an EPs’ economic elastic-
ticity that states that execution speed                   Conceptual Model                                  ity properties include resource, cost,
is scalable to the increase of servers                    To realize EPs, we propose a conceptual           and quality elasticity. An EP uses
in a distributed file system.                             architecture of an EP environment,                resources provisioned by any provider

68                        www.computer.org/internet/                                                                          IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                                 Principles of Elastic Processes


                                                 Partially Elastic Processes

  S   ystems considering quality or cost when deciding on
      resource usage are not novel. The novelty is in explicitly
  modeling quality, cost, and resources allowing for reasoning and
                                                                       Current facility-management techniques have enabled sensor
                                                                       infrastructures that can collect different types of facility infor-
                                                                       mation. Furthermore, data resources available on the Internet,
  making trade-offs. We call processes considering only parts of       such as weather information and maps, can be combined with
  these aspects “partially elastic processes.” One example can be      facility data to support complex data analysis processes. In
  found in the integration of machine and human capabilities for       sensor networks, energy awareness is an essential property,
  processing. Recently, we’ve moved from pure machine compu-           and indeed a large body of research on energy-efficient sensor
  tation processes (such as traditional, compute-intensive work-       networks exists, mostly with a focus on routing, but also on
  flows) to a combination of machine and human computation.            energy-aware resource allocation for process-oriented tasks. 2
  We’ve seen that people and software services can participate         Because energy consumption generates costs, this can be seen
  in processes to perform certain tasks, such as image evalua-         as a partially elastic process as defined previously.
  tion. Given that people have heterogeneous skills and interests,
  human processing systems start to explicitly consider quality        References
  for “resource allocation” — that is, for assigning a task to a       1. B. Satzger et al., “Stimulating Skill Evolution in Market-Based Crowdsourcing,”
  suitable worker. This can lead to results that meet predefined                                                                 (BPM 11), to appear,
  quality requirements.1                                                  2011.
      A further example of partially elastic processes can be          2. K. Akkaya and M. Younis, “A Survey on Routing Protocols for Wireless
  found in data analysis in sustainable facilities and smart cities.      Sensor Networks,”                     , vol. 3, no. 3, 2005, pp. 325–349.




at any place and used at any time,             satisfies its requirements. Ultimately,             the refinement and composition of
as long as their capabilities meet the         an EP can deal with multiple service                the EP’s resource, cost, and quality
constraints the processes require,             objectives. In the simplest case, the               to different levels — activities within
such as minimum spending costs.                EP would serve one consumer (as                     an EP, fragments within an EP, and
Essentially, resource elasticity is an         with an analysis of Facebook activi-                the whole EP — and also apply the
internal property that isn’t exposed           ties) and utilize one provider (such as             different operation and modeling
to consumers. For quality elasticity,          Amazon). In the most extreme case,                  principles at these levels.
however, an EP can offer different             an EP will have N concurrent con-
models, which are accessible to the            sumers and access to a market of M                  Research Challenges
users. They depend on functions,               providers. N consumers would give                   Existing solutions haven’t been able
costs, and resources used. Simi-               K requirements (input data, cost,                   to deal with all the properties we’ve
larly, an EP considers different cost          quality), and K N. So, EPs must be                  mentioned (the “Partially Elastic
models and presents those models to            able to deal with trade-offs between                Processes” sidebar provides exam-
consumers.                                     requirements.                                       ples for existing solutions). To build
                                                   EPs have several properties that                real systems with these properties,
Operation and                                  enable them to compose modeling                     we must address several research
Modeling Principles                            principles, including overlaying EPs,               challenges for interfaces between
In our view, an EP’s basic operation           function composition, and dynamic                   EPs, consumer demands and envi-
principles are its ability to monitor,         property composition. We can out-                   ronments, and elastic properties.
manage, and describe dynamic prop-             line modeling principles as follows.
erties; the dynamic refinement of              An EP must model its function as a                  Specification of
process functions based on quality             static property. The EP’s results are               Constraints and Preferences
(that is, new functions such as data           based on requirements concerning                    Compared to traditional process
enrichment or data cleaning can be             cost and quality, modeled as a set                  execution, elasticity requires giving
added to improve quality); the abil-           of constraints; this model influences               more autonomy to the infrastruc-
ity to determine cost based on mul-            the resource elasticity. Furthermore,               ture and the processes themselves.
tiple resource cost models; and the            modeling can also describe how an                   Each process consumer or user who
ability to provide elasticity across           EP can communicate with other EPs.                  wants to utilize the EP system (EPS)
providers — that is, an EP could               This communication can be based on                  defines a process enriched with con-
spread and combine components                  the abstraction of a service interface              straints and preferences specifying
from different providers, as long as it        such as REST or SOAP. We can apply                  cost and quality trade-offs. The EPS

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                                           69




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Web-Scale Workflow



takes this tuple and will eventually           based on a skill profile, track record,   based on heuristics and partial infor-
present the result to the user. How-           or whether the human is available to      mation are needed. Techniques such
ever, users must still be able to control      process some task.                        as prediction, optimization, auctions,
the system behavior with simple                                                          and virtual markets are candidate
and intuitive interfaces. They need            Elastic Reasoning Mechanism               ingredients for the final adaptive
a means to express their constraints           With multidimensional dynamic             execution recipe.
and preferences in a human-centered            demands, an EP must be equipped               The EPS allows for adaptive
way. They should make statements               with an elastic reasoning mecha-          process execution and can react to
about cost and quality rather than             nism (ERM) to decide how to utilize       changes in the environment and par-
resources. Intuitive human-centered            resources in an optimal way. We can       tially merge processes for optimized
models need a mechanism for trans-             regard an ERM as an optimization          execution. In Figure 1, for instance,
lation into computer-readable for-             system that takes dynamic resource        the blue and green processes share a
mats and vice versa if the system is to        and cost information from the             common computation, which we can
interact with users about constraints          environment to maintain a cloud’s         reuse for efficient execution.
and preferences (for instance, by rec-         dynamically generated capacity and
ommending removing a constraint,               price information (computational,         Formalism for Elastic
resulting in high costs and low qual-          data, and network resources). Such        Process Systems
ity gains).                                    an environment is usually available       A formal system for studying elastic
                                               as part of a cloud management plat-       computing can contribute to model-
Self-Describing Resources                      form, such as Eucalyptus.5                ing and understanding EPs. As in
For the actual processing, the EPS                                                       any process calculus, such a system
maps parts of the processes onto               Reusability and                           must be built on a well-defined set
resources (machines or humans),                Adaptive Execution                        of operators over processes. Differ-
taking into account the specified              Executing processes in an elastic         ent from traditional communicating
requirements. Thus, it must know               way, in compliance with user-defined      process calculi, the system’s opera-
about available resources’ exis-               constraints and preferences, can be       tors should mainly focus on model-
tence and capabilities. To that end,           highly challenging. While several         ing processes’ elastic features and
resources must provide a descrip-              related works on adaptive process         their composition.
tion containing information about              execution exist, they generally don’t
their availability and corresponding           consider combined resources, costs,
costs.                                         and quality. Existing refinement               e’ve identified cost and qual-
    The challenge here is that we
envision EPs “living” in heteroge-
                                               techniques for process structures,
                                               for instance, focus on performance-
                                                                                         W    ity as main facets to consider
                                                                                         for process execution. We argue that
neous environments with different              related qualit y (such as ser vice        future processes should be able to
hardware resources, load character-            availability) but not on result quality   take a description of quality and cost
istics, administration, ownership,             (better images). Runtime refinements      requirements. The execution envi-
laws, and privacy policies. Each               are basic — for instance, component       ronment needs the intelligence to
resource must deal with this degree            replacement — while complex refine-       determine the actual resource usage
of heterogeneity to describe itself.           ments such as fragment replacement        based on that description. This leads
Different levels of detail are pos-            are supported only in offline (not        to elastic processes.
sible, and some information will be            continuous and elastic) processes.
optional, but the description should           To achieve a trade-off between these      References
be comprehensible to anyone.                   aspects in a large-scale heteroge-        1. S. Dustdar and K. Bhattacharya, “The
    To improve scalability, we propose         neous environment requires addi-             Social Compute Unit,” IEEE Internet Com-
a hierarchical description methodol-           tional research efforts.                     puting, vol. 15, no. 3, 2011, pp. 64–69.
ogy: a cloud could, for instance, have             Because the environments we’re        2. J. Dean and S. Ghemawat, “Map-
its own description that’s an aggre-           considering are highly dynamic,              Reduce: Simplified Data Processing on
gation of the “sub-cloud” description,         process execution can’t be sluggish          Large Clusters,” Comm. ACM, vol. 51,
which, in turn, comprises numerous             or even static. It must focus on con-        no. 1, 2008, pp. 107–113; http://doi.acm.
single machines, each with its own             tinuous monitoring and re-planning.          org/10.1145/1327452.1327492.
description, too. Resources might              In such large, complex environ-           3. S. Acharya et al., “The Aqua Approxi-
also be humans (or social compute              ments, exact algorithms drop out,            mate Query Answering System,” Proc.
units1), whose description might be            but approximate decision approaches          ACM SIGMOD Int’l Conf. Management


70                www.computer.org/internet/                                                                 IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                            Principles of Elastic Processes



   of Data (SIGMOD 99), ACM Press, 1999,
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                                                EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
5. D. Nurmi et al., “The Eucalyptus Open-
                                                President: Sorel Reisman*
   Source Cloud-Computing System,” Proc.
                                                President-Elect: John W. Walz;* Past President: James D. Isaak;* VP, Standards
   9th IEEE/ACM Int’l Symp. Cluster Com-
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Schahram Dustdar is a full professor of com-    2011 IEEE Division V Director: Michael R. Williams;† 2011 IEEE Division Director V
    puter science (informatics) with a focus    Director-Elect: James W. Moore, CSDP*
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    Distributed Systems Group, Institute        BOARD OF GOVERNORS
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    Contact him at dustdar@infosys.tuwien.
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     View from the Cloud
                                                                                         Editor: George Pallis   ___________




                                Routers for the Cloud
                                Andrei Agapi, Ken Birman, Robert M. Broberg, Chase Cotton,
                                Thilo Kielmann, Martin Millnert, Rick Payne, Robert Surton,
                                and Robbert van Renesse

                                Today’s Internet often suffers transient outages, but as increasingly critical services
                                migrate to the cloud, much higher levels of Internet availability will be necessary.




       T
             he stunning shift toward cloud computing                    a software patch or migrated within the clus-
             has created new pressures on the Internet.                  ter. The resulting sequence of events can take
             Loads are soaring, and many applications                    several minutes, during which BGPD might be
       increasingly depend on real-time data stream-                     unavailable or not yet fully resynchronized. The
       ing. Unfortunately, the reliability of Inter-                     resulting routing changes can ripple throughout
       net data streaming leaves much to be desired.                     the entire Internet, triggering routing events far
       For example, at the University of Washington,                     from the one on which BGPD had to be restarted.
       the Hubble system (www.cs.washington.edu/                             Could events of this kind account for the issues
       research/networking/astronomy/hubble.html)
       __________________________________                                Hubble saw? On a typical core router, it can take
       monitors Internet health using all-to-all connec-                 two or three minutes to restart BGPD from scratch.
       tivity and throughput tests between hundreds                      Moreover, BGPD might need to be restarted as
       of end points through the Internet. The effort has                often as once per week. Thus, it’s entirely possible
       revealed transient periods of very indirect rout-                 that BGPD restarts are a significant factor.
       ing, Internet “brownouts” (performance prob-                          In this article, we report on a new software
       lems), and even “black holes.” All these problems                 architecture that can help mask BGPD outages,
       are surprisingly common, even when looking at                     greatly reducing their disruptive impact. More-
       routes entirely within the US or Europe.                          over, the same techniques should be applicable to
           Here, we focus on routing in the Internet’s                   daemons associated with other important Inter-
       core, at extremely high data rates (all-to-all data               net routing protocols (we’ve already used the
       rates of 40 Gbits per second are common today,                    approach for two different BGP implementations,
       with 100 Gbits/s within sight). These kinds of                    and an Intermediate System to Intermediate Sys-
       routers are typically implemented as clusters of                  tem [IS-IS] routing daemon). High-availability
       computers and line cards: in effect a data center                 routers are just one of many developments that
       dedicated to network routing. The architecture is                 will slowly reshape the Internet in response to
       such that individual components can fail without                  the challenge and opportunity cloud comput-
       bringing the whole operation to a halt. For exam-                 ing represents — the sidebar “An Internet for
       ple, network links are redundant; if one link fails,              the Cloud” describes how our efforts fit into this
       there will usually be a backup. Such a router could               shifting computing landscape.
       even run routing protocols of different types side-
       by-side, making the actual routing decisions by                   A Close Look at BGP
       consensus — if some protocol instance malfunc-                    Before drilling down on BGP availability, it
       tions, its peers would simply outvote it.                         might be helpful to be more precise about what
           But suppose that a routing protocol (for clar-                availability means for a core Internet router.
       ity, we focus on the Border Gateway Protocol                      Routers drop packets during capacity overload
       [BGP], implemented by a BGP daemon [BGPD]                         (TCP flow control adapts based on overall path
       hosted on some node within the router) needs                      capacity), so it would make no sense to insist
       to be restarted after a crash or updated with                     that a reliable router deliver every single packet.

72     Published by the IEEE Computer Society          1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                     IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                                           Routers for the Cloud


                                                  An Internet for the Cloud

  C      loud computing, particularly in conjunction with increased
         device mobility, is reshaping the Internet. We’re seeing
  unprecedented shifts in demand patterns, a broad spectrum of
                                                                        that unless the Internet can evolve to meet the demands, the
                                                                        associated cloud computing enterprises might consider building
                                                                        new networks that would be dedicated to their use. Compa-
  new quality expectations, and a realignment of the entire field’s     nies such as Google, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, and others
  economics. The implications are far-reaching.                         are insisting on the need to craft virtual enterprise networks.
       The main text of this article focuses on                 , one   If these are to share the same optical fibers used for other
  of several key properties today’s cloud computing applications        purposes, these and other cloud computing providers will need
  demand. The need is most obvious in voice-over-IP (VoIP) tele-        guarantees of disruption-free bandwidth, predictable laten-
  phony and video streaming: for such uses, even the briefest           cies, and hands-on control of routing policy control: “my traffic
  disruptions can cause connections to seize up or fail in ways         from A to B will traverse such-and-such a route,” or “requests
  that are highly visible to the end user. If we can crack the “high-   from user X will be routed to data center Y,” to list just a few
  availability barrier,” we can imagine a future in which the Inter-    examples. A new network-control paradigm has emerged (the
  net carries all such traffic.                                         so-called Open Flow standard; www.openflow.org) with enthu-
       Yet high availability is merely the first step in what will be   siastic backing from the cloud computing community. Moreover,
  an evolutionary process. Cloud applications also need better          with such a large part of the economy Internet-dependent,
  techniques for guaranteeing steady, very high data rates; the         there are growing calls to harden the network so that it can
  ability to prioritize traffic; and robustness under routing-level     offer rock-solid defense against attackers, be they hackers or
  attacks. Content-distribution networks have been central to           cyber warriors under command of national adversaries.
  the static Web’s success: What will be the analogous paradigm             The challenges are significant, but the payoff will also be big.
  for the Web of dynamic content, such as video streams shared          Today, many of the top technical people in the field are racing
  by large numbers of users, gaming applications, or virtual reality    to offer competing ideas. For many of the topics listed, rather
  immersion? The answers to such questions could transform the          than having no solutions, we might soon have a buffet of choices
  Internet’s roles.                                                     to pick from. These are exciting times to work in the field of
       Indeed, many cloud computing uses are so important (both         networking, and the best part of the story is that so much of it
  in the terms of their scale and the associated revenue streams)       has yet to be written.



Accordingly, we adopt an approach               Hardware and link failures jointly
first used in telephony, where avail-           accounted for almost a third of out-                                         Other causes
ability measures the percentage of              ages. With redundant hardware and                             9%
                                                                                                       23%                   Router
time when almost all calls go through           links, both factors have since been                                          misconfiguration
                                                                                                                36%          IP routing
(that is, only a small percentage are           sharply reduced — putting ever greater                                       failures
dropped, and in an uncorrelated                 emphasis on IP routing’s reliability.                   32%                  Physical link
                                                                                                                             failures
way). The wired telephone infra-                    This need for software that can
structure is engineered to guarantee            sur vive hardware outages is vital
99.999 percent availabilit y: the               because we must minimize the per-
“5-nines” standard.                             centage of time that the routes the
    In a one-year reliability study of          router is using are inconsistent with
IP core routers in a regional IP ser-           those its neighbors use — for example,
vice provider network conducted by              because the router has yet to apply
the University of Michigan, router              routing updates that the neighbors
interface downtime averaged roughly             are already employing. A more com-
955 minutes per year, which doesn’t             plete discussion of IP routing failures
even reach the “3-nines” level. Figure 1        is available elsewhere.1
shows the breakdown of problems that                BGP is designed for use in net-
this study identified. The results sup-         works composed of interconnected
port the view that redundant hard-              autonomous systems (ASs). An AS
ware has great potential: back in               could be a network operated by some             or set of ASs, tracking both direct
2004, when the university conducted             ISP, or might be a campus or corpo-             neighbors and more remote ones. A
the study, most deployed routers were           rate network. BGP maintains a table             BGPD instance runs on a router and
monolithic (nonclustered), and many             of IP networks, or “prefixes,” that             uses path availability, network poli-
links played unique, critical roles.            represent paths to a particular AS              cies, or operator-defined databases of

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                             73




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View from the Cloud


      Router control‐processor cluster
           runs the FTSS service                                                                   called graceful restart, which exploits
                                                                                                   routing tables that were downloaded
                                                                                                   into the hardware line cards prior to
                                                                                  Remote           the crash. Assuming the crash left
                                                                                   BGPD            the routing tables intact, when the
                                                                                                   new BGP service starts up, the router
                BGP state                                                                          will still be running using the old
     FTSS                                                     (d)
                               (c)                                                                 routing table, a bit like an airplane
                (a)                                                                                on autopilot. The router won’t be
                                                                                                   adapting to new routing updates and
                                                                                    R
                                          P-R                                    P-                is thus frozen in time, but at least it
                                        TC                                    TC
                                                                                                   was initially in a consistent state.
                                                                                           FTSS    Graceful restart tells the neighboring
                                 BGPD                                  BGPD’
                                                                                  (b)
                                                                                                   routers to continue to route packets
                                                Shim                                               through the impacted router, even as
                                                                                                   the restarting BGPD resynchronizes
                                                                                                   with its peers. The problem, however,
                            Original host                           Backup host
                                                                                                   is that while this is happening, BGP
                                                                                                   updates continue to stream in at a
                                                                                                   furious pace, so routing tables can
                                                                                                   become inconsistent within seconds.
                                                                                                       This creates a strong motivation
                                 shim                                                              to improve routing daemon avail-
        fault-tolerant storage service                                                             ability. For example, some work has
distributed hash table                                                                             aimed at running BGP in a movable
                                                                                                   virtual machine (but VM migration
                                                                                                   is slow, and offers no help for fault
                                                                                                   tolerance), and some hand-tuned BGP
                                                                                                   migration mechanisms exist. 2 Our
                                                                                                   approach offers fault tolerance, can
                                                                                                   support BGP upgrades (patching), and
                                                                                                   works with routing daemons other
routing rules (patterns the operator                   BGPD is recovering when an update           than BGPD, yet is fast and built from
has defined) to select preferred routes.               arrives.                                    surprisingly simple technologies.
It then advertises reachable prefixes                      Imagine that some router experi-
by publishing sets of attributes that                  ences an event that forces it to restart    Fault-Tolerant BGP
include the paths. As routing changes,                 BGPD. When BGPD fails or migrates,          Our new approach uses software to
BGPD exchanges updates with its                        the TCP links from it to the BGPDs on       transform a standard BGPD imple-
peers that might add to the list of                    neighboring routers disconnect (break).     mentation into a fault-tolerant ser-
reachable prefixes or retract some                     Those neighbors will sense the failure      vice. It involves minimal changes
prefixes; those peers are expected to                  and try to route around the affected        to the existing BGPD, the operating
update their own states accordingly.                   router, but the alternative routes might    system, and existing protocols such
BGP allows BGPD instances to apply                     be poor ones, and sometimes no backup       as TCP, IP, and UDP. The first step is
routing updates in an unsynchro-                       routes are available (recall that we’re     to “wrap” BGPD in a fault-tolerance
nized, distributed manner, but nor-                    focused on the Internet’s core, where       layer, the fault-tolerance shim. The
mally the delay between when one                       data rates are so high that only Internet   shim helps the underlying routing
router applies an update and when                      “backbone” links and routers can han-       protocol handle failures in ways
its neighbor does is negligible, hence                 dle the load). This, in turn, can trigger   invisible to remote peers.
this asynchrony isn’t noticed: most                    secondary routing decisions at routers          Figure 2 illustrates the approach.
routers are working with ver y                         further away, and so forth.                 The solution combines the existing
similar routing tables at any given                        So, how can we make BGPD                BGPD with several new components.
moment. However, one important case                    more available? Currently, the main         The first is fault-tolerant state stor-
exists where the lag can be larger: if                 approach is to activate a BGP feature       age (FTSS), in which the shim stores

74                    www.computer.org/internet/                                                                     IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                               Routers for the Cloud



BGP state and other data that must be      FTSS                                       key-value model to also support
preserved across failures. The second      FTSS is a fault-tolerant storage solu-     record linking and offers efficient ways
component is the shim itself. The solu-    tion that saves and replicates state so    to traverse linked data structures.
tion routes BGP connections between        that in the event of a failure, a state-
BGPD and its peers through the shim,       dependent component can recover its        BGPD
so that the shim can see all incoming      previous configuration. In our archi-      As noted, we made only minor
and outgoing updates as well as any        tecture, the shim is the only com-         changes to the existing BGPDs with
changes to the routing table. This lets    ponent that interacts directly with        which we worked (we’ve applied our
the shim checkpoint all this informa-      FTSS, using it to store the wrapped        methodology to two, so far: Quagga
tion so that any incoming update will      BGPD’s state, incoming and out-            BGPD and a proprietary Cisco BGPD).
be securely logged in FTSS before our      going BGP updates, the routing infor-      The main change was to have BGPD
BGPD actually sees it, and any out-        mation table, and a small amount           connect to the shim rather than
going or routing table update will be      of additional state associated with        directly to its remote peers. A side
securely logged before being sent to       TCPR. FTSS runs on all nodes within        effect is that without further modifi-
a neighboring peer or installed into       the router; in our target setting, this    cation, when BGPD restarts, the shim
the hardware.                              would range from a few dozen nodes         can supply the initial routing state:
    The shim can also support multiple     to several hundred.                        rather than informing remote peers of
routing protocols running side-by-             FTSS is implemented as a one-hop,      the restart, the shim itself senses the
side, a configuration that often arises    in-memory, performance-optimized           restart, pulls the needed state from
in the core Internet, where an AS          distributed hash table (DHT). Each         FTSS, and pushes it into BGPD at a
might have internal routing protocols      state record has a unique ID (basi-        very high data rate. In our experi-
t hat it uses to manage its own            cally, a file name and a block num-        ments, using state typical of real
network, and a separate BGP routing        ber), and FTSS uses this as a key.         core-Internet routing conditions, this
layer that talks to neighboring ASs. It    The component maps the key to a            took as little as 1.5 to 4 seconds. The
uses a form of voting to select among      few nodes within the router (recall        remote peers, of course, remain com-
competing routing “proposals” in such      that the router is a cluster), and FTSS    pletely unaware of the event. Finally,
cases, combining the routing protocol      agents on these nodes replicate the        when the remote peer set changes,
outputs to create the routing table that   update. Lookup works the same way.         BGPD informs the shim so that it can
will be downloaded into hardware.              FTSS maintains full membership         manage the associated connections.
    Of course, the shim itself can expe-   tables (with at most a few hundred
rience a failure, so we’ve designed it     nodes in each router, and often far        TCPR
to store its state in the FTSS, enabling   fewer, the full address list easily fits   TCPR is a TCP-splicing technology.
it to recover rapidly on a different       in memory). Consequently, FTSS can         The approach is best understood by
node. The last component of our solu-      perform requests with a single RPC         first considering the behavior of a
tion can “splice” the new TCP con-         to each target node. FTSS also lever-      standard NAT box: it has the effect of
nections (which the shim creates) to the   ages parallelism: we break the BGP         grafting a TCP end point that thinks
old TCP connections that it was previ-     state into a large number of small         itself to be connected to server X
ously using to connect to remote peers.    chunks and spread these over many          on port P to a server that might
Called TCPR (for “TCP with session         machines, doing PUT and GET oper-          really be running on machine Y using
recovery”), this splicing technology       ations in parallel, and in this way        port S. The NAT box translates
works somewhat like network address        gain roughly an order of magnitude         back and forth. TCPR works in much
translation (NAT), but rather than         in speed. Even when we take into           the same way but at the level of the
translating source and destination         account delays associated with the         byte-sequence numbering used within
addresses in NAT-style, TCPR also          need to replicate data for robustness,     TCP’s sliding window protocol.
updates the TCP sequence numbers.          this yields a fast, flexible store. In         The key idea is very NAT-like: when
The effect is to connect the new con-      fact, accessing remote memory in this      a restarting BGPD’s shim wrapper tries
nection to an existing, active, TCP        manner is approximately two orders         to connect to a peer, TCPR intercepts
connection that is open at a peer, in a    of magnitude cheaper than file I/O         the three-way handshake so that the
manner that won’t lose any data and        to a standard local disk, and many         remote peer won’t see a connection
imposes just milliseconds of delay.        orders of magnitude faster than            reset. Instead, it computes the “delta”
    We’ve focused primarily on the         remote file I/O. To support check-         between the randomly chosen initial
shim; let’s next look at our approach’s    points and complex object stor-            sequence number for the new connec-
other components in more detail.           age, FTSS extends the usual DHT            tion and the sequence numbering used

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                            75




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                                                                                                                                                    THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




View from the Cloud



in the old connection. As packets are          fall within the window of normal                     Our effort was supported by Cisco and is a
sent back and forth, TCPR adds or sub-         asynchrony between BGP peers in                      part of the NEBULA project within the US
tracts the delta, depending on which           the core Internet. Overall, the abi-                 National Science Foundation’s Future Internet
way the packets are going. Thus the            lity to fail and recover transparently,              Architectures (FIA) program (see http://r3.cis.
new connection end point finds itself          coupled with the ability to test new                 upenn.edu/paperspdfs/R3_WP_Full.pdf).
                                                                                                    ______________________
talking to the old remote end point.           versions and configurations of rout-
TCPR handles the TCP options used in           ing software in production without                   References
routing protocols such as BGP, includ-         risk, eliminates many of what used                   1. C. Labovitz, G.R. Malan, and F. Jahanian,
ing the MD5 signatures. In our experi-         to be the biggest causes of downtime.                   “Internet Routing Instability,” IEEE/ACM
ments, TCPR splicing takes as little as                                                                Trans. Networking, vol. 6, no. 5, 1998,
350 microseconds, and having TCPR                 oday’s cloud computing systems
on the path has a negligible impact on
TCP connection performance.
                                               T  are appealing for their low cost
                                               of ownership, amazing scalability,
                                                                                                       pp. 515–526.
                                                                                                    2. E. Keller, J. Rexford, and J. van der
                                                                                                       Mer we, “Seamless BGP Migration with
    TCPR and the shim cooperate                and flexibility. The cloud even brings                  Router Grafting,” Proc. Networked Sys-
in several ways. First, TCPR delays            environmental benefits: users share                     tems Design and Implementation (NSDI 10),
outgoing acknowledgments until the             computing resources, which are used                     Usenix Assoc., 2010, pp. 16–30.
shim confirms that it’s backed up the          more efficiently, and the data centers
associated incoming data; this ensures         are typically located near power-                    Andrei Agapi is a PhD student at Vrije Univer-
that, after a crash, the new BGPD              generating sources: by using the net-                   siteit, Amsterdam, and a software engi-
won’t see any gaps or duplicated bytes         work to move data to a data center, the                 neer with Cisco Systems. Contact him at
in the incoming data stream. Simi-             need to move electricity to widely scat-                aagapi@few.vu.nl.
                                                                                                       ___________
larly, the shim backs up any outgo-            tered computing devices is reduced.
ing data so that, after a node crash, the      However, for many applications, net-                 Ken Birman is the N. Rama Rao Professor of
recovered shim/BGPD pair can finish            work routing instabilities make the                     Computer Science at Cornell University.
transmitting any data that was being           cloud less reliable than it needs to be.                Contact him at ken@cs.cornell.edu.
                                                                                                                      ___________
sent at the time of the crash. Finally,            Our work tackles a root cause for
the shim backs up parts of the TCPR            this problem, and by dramatically                    Robert M. Broberg leads the Reliable Router
state, enabling TCPR itself to recover         improving router availability, offers                   Research Effort and is a Distinguished
if a node running it crashes and the           a path toward better stability in the                   Engineer at Cisco Systems. Contact him
TCPR daemon must restart.                      Internet as a whole. The technique                      at rbroberg@cisco.com.
                                                                                                          ____________
                                               is incrementally deployable (mean-
Solution Performance                           ing that it can be rolled out without                Chase Cotton is a senior scientist with the
As this article was going to press, we         change to routers that run existing                     University of Delaware. Contact him at
were just finishing our port of the full       protocols) and brings immediate ben-                    ccotton@udel.edu.
                                                                                                       __________
fault-tolerant BGP implementation to           efit to any path that traverses even
an actual CRS-1 router and hadn’t yet          just a few routers using our approach.               Thilo Kielmann is an associate professor at
measured recovery times or the corres-         Wit h enough router s using t he                         Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Contact
ponding router-availability levels in          method, we could imagine that VoIP                       him at kielmann@cs.vu.nl.
                                                                                                               ___________
a true Internet deployment. However,           telephony could achieve the same
we do have a full implementation               (or even better) quality of service seen             Martin Millnert is writing his master’s thesis
running on a testbed, and were able            in wired telephone networks, and                        at Cisco Systems. Contact him at martin@
                                                                                                                                        _____
to experiment with it using realis-            that other kinds of streaming media                     millnert.se.
                                                                                                       ______
tic BGP routing tables and update              applications could be deployed with
traffic. The results are encourag-             sharply improved quality guarantees                  Rick Payne is a software engineer at Cisco Sys-
ing: complete recovery finished in             relative to what’s feasible today.                       tems. Contact him at rpayne@cisco.com.
                                                                                                                              ___________
as little as 30 ms for a BGPD that had
no routes to recover (for instance,            Acknowledgments                                      Robert Surton is a PhD student at Cornell Univer-
one with an empty routing table) and           We are deeply grateful to professors Jonathan           sity. Contact him at burgess@cs.cornell.edu.
                                                                                                                            _____________
405 ms for a BGPD with a large rout-           Smith (University of Pennsylvania) and Doug
ing table containing 157,975 entries.          Comer (Purdue University) for helping us iden-       Robbert van Renesse is a principal research
These numbers were essentially                 tify this research topic, and for their encourage-      scientist with the Department of Com-
unchanged when we tested with BGP              ment and advice at many stages. We also thank           puter Science at Cornell University. Con-
updates arriving every 130 ms, and             John Denisco for his invaluable assistance.             tact him at rvr@cs.cornell.edu.
                                                                                                                   ___________


76                www.computer.org/internet/                                                                              IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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CS Library
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                                                                                                                            THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




     Standards
                                                                                      Editor: Barry Leiba   ___________




                                Inside the Identity
                                Management Game

                                Techniques for managing authentication and authorization are critical to the
                                next round of Internet innovation. Cloud-based services, the social Web, and
                                rapidly expanding mobile platforms will depend on identity management to
                                provide a seamless user experience. Although a number of standards have been
                                advanced, an Internet scale identity solution remains elusive.




       T
             here’s an old saying in American baseball –              of OpenID and OAuth (the Web Authorization
             “You can’t tell the players without a pro-               Protocol) solutions has major advantages for
             gram,” which seems particularly relevant                 connection-driven RESTful API developers and
       to the current state of online identity manage-                is being widely deployed. Large service providers
       ment. The combination of a protracted develop-                 such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and
       ment cycle, shifts in technologies and use cases,              PayPal all contribute to development efforts.
       and legal requirements for both privacy and                        Many of the major standards organizations
       security have all led to the creation of a vital but           are represented in the identity ecosystem, but a
       somewhat fractured landscape.                                  number of key specifications come from smaller
           Early authentication schemes relied on creat-              efforts with open source roots. Identity manage-
       ing site-specific user accounts with their corre-              ment has also drawn the attention of govern-
       sponding user names and passwords. The World                   ments, policy makers, and advocacy groups, as
       Wide Web and its proliferation of sites and services           well as industry consortia, all of which bring
       has resulted in a site-by-site account management              their own expectations and requirements to the
       pattern that’s been a strain for users and service             table. This diverse set of players has led to a
       providers alike. Increasing use of the Internet as a           proliferation of organizations, each with its own
       way to share and manage protected resources has                set of participants, preferred development tools,
       also brought an additional burden for verification             and proposed solutions.
       and authorization. The past 10 years have seen
       several developments in both the authentication                The Identity Ecosystem
       and authorization arenas. The primary goal has                 A good place to begin to get the identity man-
       been a Web-based, scalable solution that com-                  agement big picture is with the ITU Study Group
       bines the ease of single-sign-on (SSO) with                    17 (the lead study group on identity management)
       authorization based on an exchange of identity-                and the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1/SC
       related assertions across security domains.                    27 Working Group 5 (identity management and
           A number of problems must be solved before                 privacy technologies). Both these groups have
       we’ll see a robust, full-featured, Internet-scale              taken on defining frameworks for identity man-
       identity management system in place, but progress              agement and collecting and harmonizing common
       has been made on authentication/authorization                  terms used in developing identity- and privacy-
       solutions for the Web. Two in particular are gaining           related standards. A quick review of current work
       broad acceptance. The relatively mature SAML/                  programs also provides a useful catalog of open
       SOAP paradigm and SAML-based federations have                  design issues as well as the large number of outside
       traction in enterprise, educational networks, and              activities they’re tracking. The definitions docu-
       e-government. The rapidly advancing combination                ments are both freely available and recommended

78     Published by the IEEE Computer Society       1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                   IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                               Inside the Identity Management Game


                                                      Editor’s Introduction

  A     s we’ve taken to using the Web for more and more interre-
        lated things, it’s become important to identify ourselves to
  many different organizations – “domains” in Internet terms – and
                                                                            Identity management has become a significant issue on the
                                                                        Internet, and there are many organizations working on the
                                                                        problem. In this issue, Lucy Lynch of the Internet Society gives
  to want those identities to work, in some fashion, between domains.   us an overview of the landscape. Next time, we’ll take an in-
  Perhaps we want to share information between our Facebook and         depth look at the US Government’s approach to identity man-
  Flickr accounts or would like to have one “wish list” on several      agement, in NIST’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in
  shopping sites. Perhaps we just don’t want to have to remember        Cyberspace (NSTIC).
  myriad sign-on identifiers. We need “identity management.”


reading, as most new identity efforts           established by members such as                                           https://www.
                                                                                               any member state (see _________
begin with (yet another) attempt to             Microsoft, Equifax, Google, Novell,            eid-stork.eu/index.php?=61).
                                                                                               ___________________
find a common vocabulary.                       Oracle, and PayPal to advance the                  Another recent example is the pro-
    OASIS, the W3C, and the IETF all            user-centric, wallet-like metaphor IMI         posed National Strategy for Trusted
provide standards that underlie cur-            offers. In 2011, Microsoft declared            Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) being
rent identity management designs,               its own Information Card imple-                driven by the US government to seek a
and we can combine these building               mentation “feature complete” and               partnership with private enterprise to
blocks in multiple configurations.              announced that it won’t be shipping            manage authenticated citizen engage-
OASIS supplies SAML and the Web                 CardSpace 2.0. A lthough the ICF               ment with government sites. Three
services (WS-*) suite of standards,             is still intact, most partners are cur-        organizations have already stepped
as well as the Identity Metasystem              rently more focused on OpenID/                 up to provide trust framework ser-
Interoperability (IMI) specification            OAuth implementations.                         v ices t hat meet N IST SP 800-63
used for Information Cards. The W3C’s               Any overview of the identity eco-          requirements for levels of assurance
HTTP architecture, URIs, and the                system wouldn’t be complete without            in some fashion: The Open Identity
service-related SOAP are leveraged              some consideration of its implement-           Exchange (OIX) will provide list-
by federated and distributed identity           ers and adopters. There is a mailing           ing services and support the devel-
solutions. The IETF provides several            list, a code repository, or an event to        opment of additional frameworks.
relevant standards, including HTTP,             match nearly every interest. Com-              The Kantara Initiative will serve as
the Simple Authentication and Secu-             munities range f rom t he loosely              a special assessor and will leverage
rity Layer (SASL), Transport Layer              aligned Identit y Commons to the               its existing certification programs to
Security (TLS), and Public-Key Infra-           more formal European-Commission-               provider auditors and interoperabil-
structure (PKIX) along with numer-              funded Stork project. The former               ity testing. InCommon, an Internet2
ous active efforts including OAuth,             houses a few working groups but is             consortium of inter-federated edu-
Abfab (Application Bridging for Feder-          best known for hosting the semi-               cational institutions, will provide
ated Access Beyond the Web), and the            annual Internet Identity Workshop              an interface to research and educa-
recently proposed Web Object Encryp-            (IIW), which has focused on user-              tion with strong levels of assurance
tion and Signing (WOES) standard.               centric identity. Meetings feature a           based on its own internal controls.
    The more loosely organized open             self-organizing structure that lends
source community has also contrib-              itself to brainstorming and advanc-            Advancing SAML Federations
uted some key specifications, and sev-          ing small specifications. A recent             After the initial SAML 1.0 standard
eral new organizations have formed              such specification is Simple Cloud             was published, two complementary
to house and drive these efforts. The           Identity Management (SCIM), which              projects adapted the protocol and its
OpenID Foundation (OIDF) is a non-              used the spring 2011 IIW meeting               associated capabilities to address their
profit that hosts numerous active               to solidify interest in work on stan-          own use cases. The Liberty Alliance
working groups, publishes specifica-            dardizing common API-based solu-               was formed by a consortium of major
tions, and manages the open-code                tions already in the market. The Stork         software vendors and focused on
repository. Oauth.net is an even less
             _______                            project aims at implementing an EU-            federated cases for large enterprises,
formal effort including an active set           wide interoperable system for rec-             including governments. Meanwhile,
of implementers organized around                ognition of eID and authentication             the Internet2-based Shibboleth project
the original OAuth 1.0 specification.           that will enable businesses, citizens,         focused on higher education needs.
The Information Card Foundation                 and government employees to use                   These early adopters of federated
(ICF) was an industry consortium                their national electronic identities in        identity solutions were supporting

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Standards



organizations and enterprises with            While early adopters were developing     process and is widely used in current
large user bases, signif icant pro-           standards, building tools, and extend-   start-up efforts.
tected resources, complex authoriza-          ing use cases, the world around them
tion patterns, and data and services          changed.                                 OpenID for
spread across multiple domains. As                Social applications turned the       Lightweight Identity
early adopter development efforts             “authenticate, then authorize” model     As Web 2.0 users looked for ways to
progressed, OASIS continued work              inside out as users rushed to connect.   collaborate with others across mul-
on SAML 1.1 and ultimately SAML               Mobile phones and other Internet-        tiple sites and services, the need for
2.0, adding features such as attri-           enabled devices began to efficiently     a simple, persistent way to identify
bute profiles, metadata capabilities,         use native applications. The new         oneself became a compelling issue.
and the use of pseudonyms. OASIS              generation of innovators viewed the      Some users wanted t he abilit y to
has also advanced the WS-* suite              Internet from inside the Web and         represent themselves with a single
of specifications, which addresses            brought a new set of languages and       identifier, whether publishing a
several identity-related concerns. The        tools to bear on development. While      set of photos or posting comments
Liberty Alliance work moved toward            still focused on Web services, coders    on a friend’s blog. The process of
formalizing the requirements for “cir-        looked to JavaScript Object Notation     adding a new account for ever y
cles of trust,” with proposed frame-          (JSON) and REST to build their APIs.     site was cumbersome and often
works for testing interoperability            The features that had made SOAP          disappointing, as individuals often
and compliance with US National               attractive to SAML users were viewed     found their preferred user name
Institute of Standards and Technol-           as too rigid and too difficult to man-   taken and grew frustrated with
ogy (NIST) levels of assurance. With          age in the fast-paced Web 2.0 world.     managing multiple accounts and the
the publication of its Assurance                  The increasing use of Web-based      related passwords. Security concerns
Framework, the Liberty board took             APIs favored the REST model, which       also grew as users recycled pass-
a decision to wind up the Alliance            can bypass SOAP, SAML, and the           words among sites, with little regard
and contribute all Liberty assets to          Web Services Description Language        to the relative values of their bank-
the Kantara Initiative. The Shibbo-           (WSDL) in favor of a simple exchange     ing-related account versus their blog
leth project continues to develop the         of well-defined, consistent HT TP        accounts. Lightweight SSO became a
Shibboleth federation software and            messages between client and server.      goal. The social identifier was con-
the OpenSAML libraries.                       The reuse of existing HTTP architec-     ceived as something unique but that
    SA M L federations are deeply             ture features allows for immediate       wouldn’t require a high degree of
embedded in education, govern-                interoperability. On the other hand,     proofing.
ment, and corporate intranets and             SOAP-based exchanges enabled cus-            The proposed solution was to let
have been customized to address the           tomized message vocabularies that        users create and asser t an iden-
security concerns of verticals such           weren’t guaranteed to interoper-         tity that would be widely accepted,
as healthcare and banking. All this           ate. SOAP provided for methods for       thereby letting them use a single pass-
activity has produced a mature but            back-channel exchanges that included     word and present a unified persona
complex set of standards that have            both security- and privacy-enhancing     online. The pattern would require
evolved to meet primary stakehold-            features and permitted use with pro-     coordination among three parties:
ers’ needs. Sophisticated problems            tocols other than HTTP, but came         the end user (data subject), the ser-
related to inter-federation, discov-          with heavy ties to XML. Although         vice provider (relying party, or RP),
ery, user privacy, data minimization,         XML can also be used in the REST         and a designated identity provider
informed consent, and service provi-          model, the trend has been for a more     (IdP). Web developers, and blog soft-
sion “below the Web” are active topics        stripped-down approach. JSON, based      ware implementors in par ticular,
for developers. Issues and solutions          on a subset of JavaScript, is purpose-   introduced several models for decen-
are driven by the federation opera-           built for data exchange and bills        tralized authentication, and then
tors, and users and service providers         itself as the “fat-free alternative to   these efforts were merged into the
are sometimes seen as problems to be          XML.” The social Web environment         OpenID 1.0 specification in 2005. In
managed, rather than as full partici-         is driven by a rapid development         the OpenID scenario, a user creates
pants in the identity exchange.               cycle and a need to enable seam-         an account with the IdP of his or her
                                              less exchanges among multiple end        choice and can then use an agent —
SOAP vs. REST, XML vs. JSON                   points to deliver a coherent experi-     usually browser-based software — to
Why haven’t SAML federations solved           ence for users. The combination of       negotiate authentication. If the IdP
the identity management problem?              REST and JSON has enabled that           doesn’t recognize the asserted OpenID,

80               www.computer.org/internet/                                                              IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                                                       THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




                                                                       Inside the Identity Management Game



or if the user refuses the request from   along with some proposed solutions.         and struggled to create a simple set
the RP, authentication fails.             The 2.0 release was also supported          of workf lows that provided good
    While OpenID sought to solve the      by the completion of patent-related         user experiences in diverse environ-
SSO problem for users, the three-         nonassertion agreements from all            ments. As an illustration of the loose
party authentication dance brought        key contributors to earlier OpenID          organization around the work, one
new issues. Two in particular are         specifications.                             specification author, Eran Hammer-
worth mentioning, both related to                                                     Lahav, leveraged his blog to detail
RP adoption. The first is the so-         OAuth for User                              these issues and chronicle how
called “NASCAR problem” (referenc-        Authorized Delegation                       OAuth and related delegation mecha-
ing the proliferation of sponsor logos    With decentralized authentication           nisms were deployed. In 2008, the
plastering race cars), which arises       well under way, attention turned to         OAuth document editors introduced
because users must pick an OpenID         the problem of authorization in the         their work to the IETF, and Oauth 1.0
from among the many available             Web 2.0 context. The original OAuth         has since been published as RFC 5849
options. Although RPs can provide         specification (from 2006) aimed to          (http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc5849).
a generic text-entry box for OpenID       complement OpenID and let users             The IETF then chartered a working
entry, this proved to be confusing,       delegate access to an API acting on         group to look at formal standard-
and sites quickly began displaying        the user’s behalf to share a protected      ization of the OAuth 1.1 protocol.
logo buttons of the most popular          resource with the data requester. The       Although a few original participants
OpenID providers, such as Facebook,       metaphor often used to describe this        continued to work on the IETF vari-
Google, and Yahoo. This simplified        functionality is the “valet key” you        ant of OAuth, work also continued in
the user experience and helped drive      would hand to a parking lot atten-          the deployment community with little
adoption among a few IdPs. But as         dant. Such a key will only let the          attention being paid to the IETF effort.
new providers entered the identity        valet drive the car within a limited            By 2009, several OAuth imple-
market, the number and placement          range and might block access to the         mentations existed in the wild, and
of logos became problematic.              on-board radio or phone.                    the or iginal core specif ication’s
    The second issue is particular            The concept is simple: users            limitations were beginning to cause
to those RPs that aren’t also IdPs.       authorize limited access to resources       fractures in the development com-
By agreeing to accept authentication      (photos uploaded to a website) to           munity. In April of 2009, a major
from the large external IdPs, the RP      another service provider, who then          securit y v ulnerabilit y based on
loses some control over its relation-     might print the photos or release them      session attacks shook the commu-
ship with any given user and his          to a blog writer for reuse. The access      nity, and a competing proposal —
or her associated identifying data.       grant is accomplished through the           OAuth Wrap, introduced at the IIW
Although this might be appealing to       exchange of a shared secret between         meeting in November — fur ther
users, it doesn’t provide much incen-     users and the first-party service,          divided efforts. In April 2010, vari-
tive to service providers. Meanwhile,     which then grants access to the third       ous authors introduced a new draft
the large providers can leverage          party via a token. The token need not       proposal for OAuth 2.0, incorporat-
OpenID to extend existing relation-       reveal either users’ identifying infor-     ing features from OAuth Wrap. This
ships and manage internal delegation      mation or their long-lived authentica-      work is advancing in the IETF, and
among their own service offerings.        tion credentials, and doesn’t give the      additional drafts have been submit-
    The OpenID 2.0 specification was      third party service full access to users’   ted to deal with security consider-
published in late 2007. It added          first-party accounts. In OAuth terms,       ations and token usage. The various
functionality, including a format for     the third party is the consumer (that is,   documents are headed for working
extensions to allow for attribute         the consumer of the token).                 group approval, but some outstand-
exchange, and also added several              The exchange of tokens and the          ing issues must still be closed out.
new identifier types, such as the         desire to protect users’ identity and           Meanwhile, OAuth implementa-
OASIS-sponsored Extensible Resource       resources brought an increased              tion and deployment continues to
Identifier (XRI) as well as a special     need for security and the inclusion         grow, and issues with interoperablity
identifier for Open ID providers (OP).    of cryptographic requirements. The          arise, depending on which draft is
The new identifiers were intended         deployment scenarios also covered           used for guidance.
to aid in discovery. The specifica-       Web-based applications, desktop cli-
tion also included a security consid-     ents, and mobile applications. Early        OpenID Connect
erations section that outlined some       implementers found the cr yptog-            The last OpenID specification (2.0)
risks associated with using OpenID,       raphy elements difficult to manage          was published in 2007, is seriously

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                            81




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Standards


                              Scorecard in Identity Management Standardization

     T   he following organizations are working on standards
         related to identity management:
                                                                          Open Identity Exchange (OIX; http://openidentityexchange.
                                                                          org)
                                                                          __
                                                                          Kantara Initiative (http://kantarainitiative.org) — proceeded
     The OpenID Foundation (OIDF; ht tp://openid.net /
                                                                          by the Liberty Alliance
     foundation/)
     _______ — OpenID 1.0/2, OpenID Connect
                                                                          InCommon Federation (w w w.incommon.org /about .
     OAuth (community site; http://oauth.net) — OAuth 1.0/
                                                                          html)
                                                                          ___
     OAuth Wrap
                                                                          US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST;
     Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF; www.ietf.org) —
                                                                          www.nist.gov)
     OAuth/WOES/Abfab/HTTP
                                                                          Identity Commons (www.idcommons.net)
     World Wide Web Consortium (W3C; www.w3.org) —
                                                                          Information Card Foundation (ICF; http://informationcard.
     HTML/HTTP/SOAP
                                                                          net/foundation)
     Organization for the Advancement of Structured Informa-
                                                                          International Telecommunications Union (www.itu.int/
     tion Standards (OASIS; www.oasis-open.org) — SAML/
                                                                          ITU-T/studygroups/com17/index.asp)
                                                                          _________________________ — ITU-T Study
     XML/WS-*/XRI
                                                                          Group 17
     Shibboleth Project (www.shibboleth.net) — Shibboleth/
                                                                                                                                  www.
                                                                          International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ____
     OpenSaml 1.0/2.0
                                                                          iso.org)
                                                                          ____
     US National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace
     (NSTIC; www.nist.gov/nstic)


outdated, and no longer ref lects               We’ll continue to engage developers and      using multiple devices to access mul-
either the current state of deploy-             potential deployers about OpenID Con-        tiple accounts and services. We’re
ment or potential new use cases —               nect at upcoming OpenID Summits ... to       also encouraged to store protected
some of which will require a higher             better understand, critique, refine, test,   resources in various locations across
level of assurance than we can                  and ready OpenID Connect for prime           the Internet. Just managing our own
obtain with just a self-asserted iden-          time. (See http://openid.net/2011/05/20/     personal contacts and calendars can
tifier. In addition, the use of OAuth,          openids-second-act-openid-connect.)
                                                _______________________                      be a challenge. When we add the
which wasn’t considered in the 2.0                                                           desire to share some of our informa-
case, has become common. Whereas                    Still very much a work in prog-          tion with others while continuing to
XRI is now moribund, the Exten-                 ress, OpenID Connect is intended to          protect our most sensitive data, the
sible Resource Descriptor (XRD) is              work with OAuth 2.0 and JSON-based           issues become even more complex.
nearing completion and might now                token formats for encryption and                 Identit y management imple-
be preferred for discovery in some              signing to create a social Web iden-         mentations have come a long way,
cases. OpenID also needs to work                tity stack, and will impose some new         but greater coordination among the
both with native applications and in            requirements, such as using Secure           current players is necessar y. The
mobile devices, features not explic-            Sockets Layer (SSL) to help address          dominant models each bring useful
itly addressed in the current version.          ongoing security concerns. With              properties to the table, but conver-
    T he OI DF cont inues to house              the addition of attribute exchanges          gence has been slow. As new part-
development efforts and has moved               and artifact bindings, this proposed         nerships such as the NSTIC advance,
toward a more formal structure with             stack begins to resemble older SAML          and ser vices like mobile Internet
dedicated working groups, each with             federations — built with R EST-              access and cloud computing gain
a charter and a mutually agreed-                ful APIs and using JSON instead of           traction, integration will become
on intellectual property regime. In             XML.                                         even more important. It’s time to
2010, two of those working groups,                  The Connect work depends on              play ball!
OpenID Artifact Binding and OpenID              both the IETF’s successful standard-
Connect, combined their efforts to              ization of OAuth 2.0 and the out-            Lucy Lynch champions the Trust and Iden-
add ress ex tended use cases and                puts of the recently proposed WOES               tity Initiatives for the Internet Society.
account for the use of OpenID in                working group, also in the IETF.                 Her interests include the development
conjunction with OAuth. Initially                                                                and deployment of Internet-scale trust-
labeled OpenID ABC, this work is                                                                 enabling technologies and policies. Lynch
now titled OpenID Connect. In a                    he need for identity management
recent announcement, OIDF executive
director Don Thibeau says, in part,
                                                T  will only continue to grow. As
                                                individuals, we now find ourselves
                                                                                                 has an MS in mass communications from
                                                                                                 the University of Oregon. Contact her at
                                                                                                 lynch@isoc.org.
                                                                                                 _________


82                 www.computer.org/internet/                                                                     IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                         Beyond Wires
Editor: Cecilia Mascolo   ________________




When the Shift Hits
the (Television) Fan


The television ecosystem faces growing attention and audience fragmentation
thanks to an explosion of content sources and content consumption devices.
In this article, the author looks at some of the interaction paradigms, viewer
behaviors, and innovative social and dual-screen experiences that seek to dis-
rupt or redefine the traditional models of audience measurement and content
distribution, in an effort to address these challenges.




I
    can clearly recall the day my dad brought             You were defined by what you watched, and woe
    home our first color television. It was a Sony        betide the teenager who wasn’t up on the latest
    Trinitron (yes, this was in the eighties), and        soap opera plot twists from Santa Barbara or was
it held pride of place in our living room for quite       unfamiliar with the newest music videos top-
a few years. We lived in Africa at the time, and          ping the UK charts. Most families still operated
with just a single national broadcast channel,            with a single television in their living rooms, but
our viewing options were limited to just under            homes became a battleground for control of the
12 hours of televised content a day, combining            remote. These were the days before DVRs took
American and British fare with news, weather,             over — so live events like cricket matches took
and local programming. We kids were allowed               precedence over taped shows, leaving the losers
to watch up to an hour of television a day —              in these battles praying devoutly for reruns.
after the homework was all done, of course. But               Looking back, those days seem remarkably
it was definitely family time. Mom would make             simple and uncomplicated. We had choices, but
tea and biscuits, dad would put away his work             the regulated programming schedule allowed
papers, and we’d all curl up on the couch to              for some degree of social activity around the
watch a documentary on Norman Carr and his                television. Today, I stare in wonderment at my
fascinating life studying lions in the wild.              toddler as he rapidly zips his fingers around the
    Fast forward a decade, and we were in India           password lock on my tablet, flicks his way to
just as satellite television began its unstoppable        the screen with the blazing red Netflix icon, and
march into the average Indian household. Sud-             with another click or two settles in to watch
denly it was no longer a question of what to              the misadventures of The Cat in the Hat. And
watch but what not to watch. Specialized sports,          that’s just the start. He knows to turn on the
movie, and music channels abounded. Even the              big-screen television and press “DVR” on the
national broadcasting agency got in on the act,           remote to see the listing of recorded shows. He
spawning multiple channels and creating more              knows to switch HDMI inputs to bring the PS3
diverse schedules tailored to national, regional,         online so he can watch Curious George’s latest
and local needs. Television went from being just          shenanigans on DVD. Broadcast television poses
enter tainment to becoming a status symbol.               the least attraction to him because it doesn’t

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                   1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE          Published by the IEEE Computer Society              83




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Beyond Wires



guarantee his being able to see con-           service like Netflix, Internet live-        back on our tablet-based cable pro-
tent that he likes when he likes it.           streamed events (such as the recent         vider application to see real-time
Our propensity to turn on the tele-            French Open) accessible to viewers          streams of different channels when
vision only to watch real-time con-            on any capable networked device,            conflicts in schedule occur. We get
tent (news or sports) has done little          and, last but not least, Internet por-      our movies through Netflix (and yes,
to diminish his conviction that all            tals (for example, Hulu) that enable        it’s been a long time since I saw the
the “f un” content lives in the on-            on-demand viewing of broadcast              inside of a movie theater) and catch
demand space. While this isn’t rep-            content for some provider-approved          up on missed content episodes via
resentative of the larger population,          time window af ter t he or iginal           Hulu when convenient. Such viewer
it’s definitely a growing trend today          broadcast.                                  behaviors are further compounded
as people lead busier lives and carry              Concurrently, the television-as-        by concerns about attention frag-
more gadgets that support rich con-            device role is being redefined by the       mentation, with research showing
tent consumption.                              emergence of big-screen televisions         an increasing trend in multitasking
                                               with multiple HDMI inputs, allowing         around content consumption.
A Changing Ecosystem                           for a variety of multimedia-capable             Although such behaviors have
In industr y, this trend has been              devices to be interfaced seamlessly for     social ramifications (notably, a decrease
broadly categorized as X-shifting.             true lean-back viewing and interac-         in social interactivity from family-
For instance, time-shifting trends             tion. Where once the television served      time viewing), they also have huge
(such as personal video recorders)             primarily as a conduit for broadcast        implications to content providers and
let users consume live or broadcast            content, today it serves as a rich and      advertisers. The television is known to
content at their convenience instead           interactive display for cable content,      have a high impact on consumer pur-
of at the scheduled hour. Place-               gaming consoles, set-top boxes, media       chase behaviors, not just in increased
shifting solutions (such as from               centers, and even basic PCs. Market         brand recall and awareness but also
Sling Media; www.slingmedia.com/               research shows that increasing num-         in inf luence wielded by celebrity
go/placeshifting)
_____________ let users access                 bers of viewers have connected their        endorsements and product placement
and consume content in their homes             PCs to their television sets to view        in popular shows. Audience fragmen-
from anywhere. Motorola’s Follow               Internet content on the big screen or       tation makes it harder to track viewer
Me TV solution (see http://tinyurl.            view (and share) stored multimedia          preferences and intent, and target
com/3buhj45) takes it to the next level,       content (photos, videos, and so on)         them for relevant merchandise or
enabling seamless device-shifting              with a larger audience in the home.         content recommendations.
during content consumption — letting               Second, we’re seeing a significant          In this context, two types of
a user pause his or her content on             shift in user behavior around con-          viewer populations are of most con-
one device in the home and resume              tent consumption, driven largely by         cern: the cord-cutters and the cord-
it on a second device in a different           the fragmentation in the content and        nevers. Cord-cutters refer to viewers
room, without missing a beat. While            device ecosystem. Whereas tradi-            who subscribed to cable services but
all these shifts have catered increas-         tional viewing behaviors were cen-          subsequently “cut the cord,” rely-
ingly to user convenience in content           tered around shared or social “family       ing almost exclusively on Internet
consumption, they’ve also exposed              time,” current behaviors skew toward        content, on-demand streaming ser-
two key shifts in the television eco-          individualized viewing tailored to          vices (like Netflix), and free over-
system itself.                                 personal interests and convenience.         the-air broadcast programming in
    First, we’re seeing an increas-            In lieu of a single television set in the   an attempt to cut costs. On the other
ing separation in the roles of televi-         family room, the average American           hand, cord-nevers (a term defined by
sion as content and as device. A few           home boasts multiple sets (in the           the tech media) refer to a new gen-
decades ago, these roles were insepa-          kitchen, bedrooms, and study) along         eration of viewers who’ve avoided
rable. Watching television implied             with numerous other multimedia-             cable subscriptions from the start.
consuming live broadcast content on            capable portable devices such as lap-       While cord-cutters represent some
the television set in the living room.         tops, smart phones, and tablets.            loss in revenue to cable operators,
Today, television-as-content can be                I can see evidence of this in my        cord-nevers are completely invisible
consumed from numerous sources                 own home. We watch news and live            to them and thus pose a challenge to
in diverse ways: broadcast content             events in the family room together.         future growth. As a result, there’s
supplied by cable operators and sat-           The DVR is dominated by child-              increased interest in and excitement
ellite providers, DVDs purchased,              friendly fare for on-demand view-           about new technologies that can
rented, or streamed from a third-party         ing. My spouse and I tend to fall           connect cable and content providers

84                www.computer.org/internet/                                                                  IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                    When the Shift Hits the (Television) Fan



to new and existing audiences in a         user engagement w it h t he f ir st      a manual process, with the viewer
manner that supports these chang-          screen. On the other hand, inter-        being asked to select his or her cur-
ing behaviors.                             active applications on the second        rently watched program from an
                                           screen generate not just richer and      onscreen list or guide shown on the
Rise of the Mobile Devices                 more personalized analytics (on an       companion device. This takes effort
Enter “companion devices” for tele-        individual rather than household         and distracts from the viewing expe-
vision viewing. Previous market            basis) but provide additional real       rience. Time-zone conflicts coupled
research shows that many TV view-          estate and targets for continued         with local or regional scheduling
ers multitask during content con-          engagement with the user before,         changes create additional complex-
sumption, often watching television        after, and during content consump-       ity in any one-size-fits-all solution.
on one screen (primary) but doing          tion. The catalyst in the change has     This has created new opportunities
interactive tasks on a second screen       been the emergence and popularity        for audio and video fingerprinting
(mobile or PC). This “dual-screen”         of tablet devices like Apple’s iPad      solutions (such as Yahoo’s IntoNow
behavior has two kinds of impact.          (iOS) and Motorola’s Xoom (Android)      produc t), wh ich detec t conte x t
First, it creates a divided attention      that provide not just larger real        through simple media capture and
model in which users aren’t always         estate for complementary informa-        analysis on the second device.
engaged with the onscreen content          tion or interactions, but also have
(or ads), translating to lower viewer-     improved hardware capabilities to        Search and Advertising
ship numbers or missed revenue from        support rich video playback directly     Television is a hugely visual medium
related advertising or content sales.      on the device. Cable providers have      with rich audiovisual context for
Second, it allows for third-party ser-     since released numerous tablet-          most user queries. Given deficien-
vices to be presented to viewers for       and smart-phone-targeted applica-        cies in integrated information search
richer interactions related to the first   tions that range in capability from      capabilities within existing televi-
screen content. Examples of such ser-      synchronized remote controls (for        sion and cable boxes, an opportunity
vices range from simple search (“Who       example, the Comcast Xfinity app)        exists for developing complementary
made the dress worn by character X         that let users navigate and control      search and response solutions lever-
in show Y?”) to chatter (for example,      their set-top box from a compan-         aging the rich input and context-
Twitter, Facebook) and social TV           ion device, to live streamed content     capture capabilities on mobiles. Some
applications (such as GetGlue and          (such as the Cablevision Optimum         of our work at Motorola Mobility
Miso) where viewers “check in” to          app), where viewers can essentially      (for instance, TV Answers) has explored
meet other fans and earn badges or         get any subscribed channel streamed      value propositions such as crowd-
exclusive content access. Data from        live to their tablets within the con-    sourcing within this domain, using
these services show surges in activ-       fines of their home wireless network.    the large population of television
ity around popular television shows            So, where do we go from here? We     viewers as a “social sensor” for both
or live events (for instance, http://
                                  ____     will see a veritable flood of Android-   creating and curating responses.
blog.twitter.com/2011/02/superbowl.        and iOS-based tablet and smart phone     Potential also exists for new dual-
html), with the potential for richer
___                                        devices entering the market this         screen advertising strategies that can
measurement and analy tics (see            year, along with the software devel-     leverage companion devices as inter-
http://blog.getglue.com/?p=7736).          opment kits, testing harnesses, and      active advertisement real estate or
    From a Beyond Wires perspec-           application market support required      as tools for determining ad cam-
tive, the ability to create loosely syn-   to create, deploy, and sell interac-     paigns’ effectiveness around tele-
chronized application experiences          tive applications. The “companion        vised content.
concurrently across television and         device” applications market is nascent
mobile domains is a game changer,          but rapidly growing to accommodate       Gamification
effectively opening up the otherwise       the various needs and challenges the     Gamification refers to the inclusion
closed television ecosystem to dis-        social and interactive television eco-   of game mechanics in non-game
ruptive and innovative new applica-        system faces today.                      contexts to make an experience
tions and enablers.                            Some key opportunities lie along     more fun or engaging for users.
    The television and cable industry      the following paths.                     Although the dominant use case for
has been quick to see the challenge                                                 gamification has been loyalty pro-
and the opportunity in dual-screen         Context Synchronization                  grams (as evidenced by the success
behaviors. On one hand, divided            Today, correlating the mobile experi-    of Foursquare [https://foursquare.
attention (across two screens) dilutes     ence to television content is mostly     com]), there’s significant interest

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                         85




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                                                                                                                                      THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




Beyond Wires



and utility to extending the concept            repositories of content comes chal-      Acknowledgments
to television. Applications such as             lenges in content discovery. Social      Thanks to all my colleagues and peers within
Miso and GetGlue have translated                interactions and smart recommend-        the Applied Research Center, and to the many
the Foursquare paradigm to social               ers will become increasingly rele-       folks on Twitter who have engaged me in
television, awarding viewers with               vant as users try to fi nd new ways      interesting discussions on this topic. I hope
badges or exclusive content access              to connect and consume content. The      I did you all justice.
in exchange for loyalty to programs.            key challenge in social television
Content portals like USA Networks’              applications is to balance the degree    Nitya Narasimhan is a distinguished member
characterarcade.com have applied                of peer interactivity (lean-forward)         of technical staff within the advanced
gamification to pre- and post-content           with the degree of attention to con-         concepts group in the Applied Research
viewing experiences, using immer-               tent (lean-back) required by users in        Center at Motorola Mobility. Her cur-
sive games and contests to get view-            different contexts.                          rent interests span scalable Web ser-
ers more invested in a show or its                                                           vices, interactive mobile and television
characters. Plenty of opportunity                                                            applications, crowdsourcing and social
remains for exploration and inno-                  he take-away message for us as
vation in this space, starting from
game elements for user interaction
                                                T  researchers developers, and tele-
                                                vision viewers is this: Television
                                                                                             search, and context-aware frameworks.
                                                                                             Narasimhan has a PhD in computer engi-
                                                                                             neering from the University of California,
to creating games with a purpose                was, is, and will continue to be the         Santa Barbara. She’s been a researcher,
that tap into crowdsourced television           dominant source of entertainment             developer, and innovator in industry for
behaviors to generate useful data or            for most users. But, it should no lon-       nearly a decade. Contact her at nitya@
                                                                                                                               ____
content.                                        ger be viewed as an isolated device          motorola.com.
                                                or a closed ecosystem. The commu-
Social and Serendipitous                        nity exists. The tools and enablers
Applications                                    are being built. The early explorers          Selected CS articles and columns
With fragmented viewing comes                   and adopters are out in force. Will                                          http://
                                                                                              are also available for free at ____
isolation. And with increasingly large          you join us?                             ComputingNow.computer.org.




           Silver
           Bullet
            Security                                                         In-depth interviews

              Podcast                                                        with security gurus.
                                                                           Hosted by Gary McGraw.


                                              www.computer.org/security/podcasts
                                              *Also available at iTunes


                               Sponsored by




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                                                                                                                             THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




                                                                             The Functional Web
Editor: Steve Vinoski    _________




Scala Web Frameworks:
Looking Beyond Lift


S
     cala is a hybrid object-oriented and func-             Zenexity, has worked hard to create a developer-
     tional programming language for the Java               friendly experience.
     Virtual Machine (JVM) that’s growing in                    Installing Play is easy. You download the zip
popularity. Two previous Functional Web columns             file, expand it in a location of your choosing, and
presented the Lift framework, the best-known                add the base directory to your environment’s PATH
Web framework written in Scala.1,2 In terms of its          variable, so the play command is on your path.
prominence and full feature set, Lift is the Scala              To install the Scala module, r un this
analog of the Ruby world’s Ruby on Rails.                   command:
    But other frameworks exist in the Scala
world, just as alternatives exist to Rails in the           play install scala
Ruby world. One size doesn’t fit all needs. A full
list of Scala frameworks is available at http://
                                               ____         Now you can create a Scala Web application in a
doi.ieeecomputer societ y.org/10.1109/ M IC.
__________________________________                          directory of your choosing:
2011.104. Some are full-stack frameworks for
______
building multi-tier applications. Others are “point”        play new SampleScalaApp --with scala
tools for specific parts of an application, like tem-       play run
plate libraries for generating webpages (analog-
ous to Java Server Pages). Still others focus on               The new application SampleScalaApp is now
building particular kinds of networked servers,             in a directory of the same name. Play’s built-in
like REST response servers that are “headless.”             Web server starts via the run command. By
    Space considerations prevent us from dis-               default, it listens for requests on port 9000. If
cussing all these tools. It’s hard to choose just a         you go to http://localhost:9000 in your browser,
few representative examples, but here I focus on            you’ll see the page shown in Figure 1, which
three: Play, a full-stack, commercially supported           provides instructions for what to do next.
application framework; Scalatra, inspired by the               The directory structure Play creates for an
lightweight, popular Sinatra framework; and                 application will be familiar to Rails programmers.
Finagle, a highly scalable, headless server library.        Because Play (and Rails) are designed to grow
                                                            gracefully as applications become large, Play puts
Play                                                        code for different application responsibilities in
Play (www.playframework.org) is a Java-based                separate files so file sizes remain manageable.
Web framework with a very capable module                       The SampleScalaApp/app directory has a
architecture that makes it straightforward to               view subdirectory for views, which hold the
write plug-in modules. Scala support is imple-              webpage templates, a models subdirectory for
mented as a module. It permits the use of Scala             domain classes, and a controllers subdirec-
throughout the stack, including webpage tem-                tory for the responders to user actions. However,
plates and the database query layer.                        because Scala code doesn’t require the direc-
   A professional Web application developer                 tory structure to match the package structure,
accustomed to the polish and ease of use provided           you can put the files for your controllers
by Rails will feel at home with Play. Its creator,          and models in the app directory, if you prefer.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                     1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE          Published by the IEEE Computer Society              87




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                                                                                                                                 THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




The Functional Web


                                                                                                Template('now -> new Date)
                                                                                            }

                                                                                            def list = {
                                                                                              new Template(
                                                                                                "contacts" -> Contact.find(
                                                                                                  "order by name,
                                                                                                     firstname ASC").
                                                                                                     list())
                                                                                              }
                                                                                            ...
                                                                                        }


                                                                                            The sidebar, “An Aside on Scala
                                                                                        Syntax” offers a brief explanation of
                                                                                        some Scala features used in this and
                                                                                        subsequent examples.
                                                                                            The list method instantiates a
                                                                                        new HTML page Template to format
                                                                                        the response. The latter is passed
     GET     /                                    Application.index
                                                                                        key-value pairs, in which the keys
     GET     /contacts                            Application.list
                                                                                        are names of variables that will be
     POST    /contacts                            Application.create
                                                                                        referenced in the HTML template — in
     POST    /contacts/{id}                       Application.save
                                                                                        this case, a contacts variable. A
     GET     /contacts/{id}                       Application.form
                                                                                        find method on a singleton named
     GET     /contacts/new                        Application.form
                                                                                        Contact, which corresponds to a
     POST    /contacts/{id}/delete                Application.delete
                                                                                        domain model object of the same
                                                                                        name, is called to query the database
     # Map static resources in /app/public to the /public URL
                                                                                        for all the contacts, ordered by name.
     GET     /                        staticDir:public
                                                                                        The query result is converted to a
                                                 ZenContact/conf/routes file.           Scala list. (At the Java byte-code level,
                                                                                        Contact.find will look exactly like a
                                                                                        static find method defined in a tra-
                                                                                        ditional Java class named Contact.)
The simple examples that come with             value appears in this position in an         Here is the Contact domain model
the Scala module do just that.                 incoming URL path. The id will be        class defined in ZenContact/app/
    Configuration of various proper-           passed to the controller for use as a    models.scala (again simplified for
ties, such as the database persistence         database lookup key, for example.        brevity):
settings, occurs in SampleScalaApp/               Using the routes from Figure 2, the
conf/application.conf. Routing URL             URL http://localhost:9000/contacts       package models
requests to the controllers that handle        will get routed to the list method in    /* imports ... */
them is defined in SampleScalaApp/             the Application singleton object,
conf/routes.                                   which is defined in ZenContact/          case class Contact(
    Let’s look at the ZenContact sam-          app/controllers.scala, which looks         id: Pk[Long],
ple application that comes with the            like this (simplified slightly for         @Required firstname:
Scala module to see examples of what           brevity):                                    String,
these various directories and files                                                       @Required name: String,
might contain. Figure 2 shows the              package controllers                        @Required birthdate: Date,
routing table for ZenContact. It cov-          /* imports ... */                          @Email email: Option[String]
ers all the life-cycle steps required to                                                )
view and manage a list of contacts.            object Application extends
    First, the expression {id} defines a         Controller {                           object Contact extends
variable id that will be given whatever          def index = {                            Magic[Contact]

88                www.computer.org/internet/                                                               IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                                                                 THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




                                                                       Scala Web Frameworks: Looking Beyond Lift


                                                  An Aside on Scala Syntax

  F   or readers unfamillar with Scala syntax, here are a few
      pointers:
      Compared to Java, Scala import statements use the “_”
                                                                          A method definition begins with def. Types for return val-
                                                                          ues are usually inferred, and parentheses are usually omit-
                                                                          ted if there are no arguments. The method body begins
      character instead of “*” as a wildcard.                             after the “=” sign.
      Semicolons are inferred.                                            Scala supports the syntax key -> value to pass key-value
      The object keyword declares a singleton object. The run-            pairs to maps and methods that want them.
      time will only instantiate one instance. Scala uses objects to      Pattern matching is like switch statements on steroids. In
      hold methods and fields that would be declared static in            pattern-matching expressions, each potential match begins
      Java classes.                                                       with the case keyword, followed by a match expression
      When the case keyword is used, it adds extra features to            and the body to execute if the match succeeds. The match
      a class, including a corresponding singleton object (called a       expression and body are separated by “=>”.
                 ) with the same name (used for factories, pattern        You subclass with the extends keyword. Using the with
      matching, and so on).                                               keyword, you can implement pure interfaces or mix in addi-
      The whole class body is the primary constructor, so the             tional behaviors. Both pure Java-like interfaces and mix-ins
      constructor argument list is passed after the class name.           are defined using a feature called     .



    You can handle integration with            exceptions used in JDBC. Anorm also           method will ignore any rows that
Play’s Java-based object-relational            embraces the view that SQL itself is          don’t match one of the cases, effec-
mapping (ORM) layer using annota-              the best domain-specific language             tively implementing a filter.
tions (such as the @Required anno-             for talking to your database, so you             Play provides a rich, well-designed
tation on some of Contact’s fields)            should embrace it and not try to hide         framework for building multi-tier
and having the “companion” single-             from it. Anorm makes it easy to con-          Web applications that will feel
ton Contact extend a Magic class               vert back and forth between Scala             familiar to the Ruby on Rails devel-
that provides the find method, for             collections and data from queries or          oper moving to Scala. The Scala
example.                                       data that’s used for updates. You can         module adds powerful APIs that
    So, what are the benefits of using         parse results with pattern match-             exploit Scala’s functional program-
Scala? All the code you would write            ing and a built-in parser combinator          ming features.
in Java becomes more concise in                library.
Scala, and you gain the additional                 Here’s an example query adapted           Scalatra
benefit of Scala’s rich collections            from the Anorm documentation:                 One popular alternative to Rails
library. A great illustration of this is                                                     in the Ruby world is a lightweight
the new Anorm API in Play’s Scala              val countries =                               framework called Sinatra. It’s ideal
module (http://scala.playframework.              SQL("Select name,population                 for quickly building lightweight
org). It isn’t a traditional ORM, but
__                                                 from Country")().collect {                Web applications with minimal
a wrapper for the lower-level Java                case Row("France", pop:Int)                code, where massive scalability and
Database Connectivity (JDBC) API.                    => ("France", pop)                      interoperability with extensive third-
Anorm embraces a view I discuss                   case Row(name:String, pop:Int)             party services are less important.
elsewhere,3 that there are benefits to               if(pop > 1000000) =>                    Compared to Rails, Sinatra is easier to
working directly with the collections              (name, pop)                               use for websites without database per-
that your database driver provides,            }                                             sistence requirements, for example.
as long as those collections offer                                                           Scalatra (https://github.com/scalatra/
useful methods for working with                    Country is a database table, and          scalatra)
                                                                                             _____ started as a port of Sinatra
them. In contrast, the benefits of             the block passed to collect uses              to Scala, but has since added new
converting back and forth between              pattern matching to select the rows           capabilities of its own.
those collections and domain objects           we care about. In this case, we select            Recall that in Play, you normally
don’t always outweigh the disadvan-            France and all other countries where          define routing, controllers, models,
tages of extra runtime complexity              the population is greater than 1 mil-         and views in separate files. This sep-
and overhead.                                  lion (note that Scala case matching is        aration of concerns makes sense for
    Anorm wraps JDBC with Scala                eager; that is, the first match “wins”).      larger applications. In Scalatra, you
collections semantics and more con-            Each case “body” returns the tuple            can define everything in one file,
venient handling of the checked                (name, population). The collect               which is very convenient for small,

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                                      89




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                                                                                                                                THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




The Functional Web


     /* package declaration and imports ... */
                                                                                       that will be rendered with the Sca-
     // UrlSupport and ScalateSupport are "traits";                                    late template engine (http://scalate.
     // mixins of additional behaviors.                                                fusesource.org). The second section,
                                                                                       __________

     class TemplateExample extends ScalatraServlet                                     shown in Figure 4, defines how the
         with UrlSupport with ScalateSupport {                                         application should respond to vari-
                                                                                       ous requests.
      // Scala supports embedded XML literals, which we                                    Setting up a Scalatra project and
      // use to create this page template. They are mapped                             running it in development mode isn’t
      // to a Seq (sequence) of Node objects.                                          as straightforward as it is for Play.
      object Template {                                                                Some familiarity with Maven or the
                                                                                       Scala build tool, sbt (https://github.
                                                                                                                __________

          // """multi-line string""".                                                  com/harrah/xsbt/wiki) helps. The
          def style() =                                                                Scalatra README.markdown file that
            """                                                                        comes with the distribution describes
            pre { border: 1px solid black; padding: 10px; }                            the details.
            body { font-family: Helvetica, sans-serif; }                                   Once you have the project set up
            h1 { color: #8b2323 }                                                      and running with the example code
            """                                                                        in Figures 3 and 4, you will get the
                                                                                       page Figure 5 shows when you go
          // The expression { title } will be replaced                                 to http://localhost:8080 (the default
          // with the value for the title method argument,                             port). The “hello world” link at the
          // using the Scalate template engine.                                        bottom takes you to the same page.
          def page(title:String, content:Seq[Node]) = {                                    Clicking the “date example” link
            <html>                                                                     produces Figure 6, which demon-
             <head>                                                                    strates the parsing and handling of
              <title>{ title }</title>                                                 URL path values.
              <style>{ Template.style }</style>                                            Note how the route definition
             </head>                                                                   automatically decomposes the URL
             <body>                                                                    path /date/2009/12/26 into year,
              <h1>{ title }</h1>                                                       month, and day values.
              { content }                                                                  Finally, clicking the “form exam-
              <hr/>                                                                    ple” link yields Figure 7. (I entered the
              <a href={url("/")}>hello world</a>                                       word “Hello!” into the text field before
              <a href={url("/date/2009/12/26")}>date                                   taking the screen shot.) Clicking the
                example</a>                                                            “Submit” button produces Figure 8.
              <a href={url("/form")}>form example</a>                                      The value in the form text field,
             </body>                                                                   Hello!, was passed as a parameter
            </html>                                                                    with the POST and used by the appli-
          }                                                                            cation to prepare the response shown
      }                                                                                to the user.
                                                                                           Although Scalatra requires very
                                                                                       little code to create applications,
                                                                                       it actually scales better than you
                                                                                       might expect because it uses Jetty
                                                                                       (http://jetty.codehaus.org/jetty/) as
                                                                                       the underlying Web server.
                                                                                           Scalatra is a great tool for quickly
simple applications. As the applica-           I adapted from the examples that        building lightweight Web applica-
tion size grows, you can separate              come with the distribution. (Actu-      tions, especially if you’re already
responsibilities into different files.         ally, a web.xml file is also required   familiar with Scala and Java tools,
   Let’s look at a simple one-file             to configure the Web server.) The       like sbt and Jetty. As with Play and
example of a Scalatra application,             first section, which is shown in        its Scala module, Scalatra lets you
broken into several sections, which            Figure 3, defines an HTML template      use the power of Scala collections

90                www.computer.org/internet/                                                              IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                           Scala Web Frameworks: Looking Beyond Lift


                                                beforeAll {
and other functional features to                  contentType = "text/html"
minimize the code you write and                 }
maximize your ability to transform
data as needed.                                 // Routing: HTTP GET request for URL
                                                // http://server:port/ (i.e., empty path)
Finagle                                         get("/") {
                                                  Template.page("Scalatra: Hello World",
Finally, let’s consider Finagle (https://
                                 _____
                                                  <h2>Hello world!</h2>
twitter/github.com/finagle), which                <p>Referer: { (request referer) map {
was developed at Twitter for building                 Text(_) } getOrElse { <i>none</i> }}</p>
very fast, RPC-style servers using                <pre>Route: /</pre>
Netty, a client–server socket API                 )
based on Java’s New IO (NIO) library.           }
Finagle is designed to meet Twitter’s
needs for extreme scalability.                  // Routing: HTTP GET request for a URL with
    Finagle is a good example of a very         // the path "/date/YYYY/MM/DD", where Y, M,
focused server development tool that            // and D will be assigned to the year, month,
                                                // and day parameters, respectively.
doesn’t attempt to provide a full Web
                                                get("/date/:year/:month/:day") {
stack. Instead, it focuses on serving             Template.page("Scalatra: Date Example",
a specific need — the development of              <ul>
fast, lightweight client–server net-                <li>Year: {params("year")}</li>
working applications, in which the                  <li>Month: {params("month")}</li>
ability to scale is paramount.                      <li>Day: {params("day")}</li>
    For clients, Finagle offers connec-           </ul>
tion pooling, load balancing, failure             <pre>Route: /date/:year/:month/:day</pre>
detection, failover, retry, and other             )
features important for distributed,             }
reliable, and scalable client access to
                                                // Routing: HTTP GET request that will return
services. For servers, Finagle offers           // a form with one text field.
“backpressure” (a defense against               get("/form") {
denial-of-service attacks or other                Template.page("Scalatra: Form Post Example",
rogue clients), service registration,             <form action={url("/post")} method='POST'>
and support for protocols like HTTP,                Post something:
Comet, Thrift, and Memcached/                       <input name='submission' type='text'/>
Kestrel.                                            <input type='submit'/>
    For the purposes of this col-                 </form>
                                                  <pre>Route: /form</pre>
umn on the functional Web, Fina-
                                                  )
gle demonstrates the elegance and
                                                }
power of compositional semantics
that are common in functional lang-             // Routing: HTTP POST request, invoked when
uages such as Scala. Finagle uses               // the form is submitted using POST.
an elegant composition mechanism                post("/post") {
for handling the parallel paths of                Template.page("Scalatra: Form Post Result",
normal and exceptional processing                 <p>You posted: {params("submission")}</p>
that any Web application must                     <pre>Route: /post</pre>
handle.                                           )
                                                }
    Consider the ser ver example
shown in Figure 9, which is adapted
                                                protected def contextPath =
from an example in the distribution.              request.getContextPath
It demonstrates an HTTP server that         }
separates exception handling from
normal control-flow processing and
how they’re composed together to
build the service.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                 91




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The Functional Web




92         www.computer.org/internet/                                                  IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                            Scala Web Frameworks: Looking Beyond Lift




   Note the composition of error         types that are subclassed by Handle-     that is, the andThen method, which
and normal response handling in the      Exceptions and Respond, respec-          composes invocation of the two
definition of myService. The under-      tively, support a composition protocol   apply methods in the objects so that
lying SimpleFilter and Service           that’s common in Scala libraries —       HttpServer handles exceptions first,

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                     93




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                                                                                                                                THE WORLD’S NEWSSTAND®




The Functional Web


     /* package declaration and imports ... */
     object HttpServer {                                                          then normal processing. In either
       /* A simple Filter that catches exceptions and                             case, the Respond object returns
        * converts them to appropriate HTTP responses. */                         a response asynchronously (using
       class HandleExceptions                                                     a Future) to the client. Note this
           extends SimpleFilter[HttpRequest, HttpResponse]{                       model’s power in separating con-
         def apply(                                                               cerns and building services that
             request: HttpRequest,                                                compose from smaller pieces.
               service: Service[HttpRequest, HttpResponse]) = {
           // "handle" is invoked asynchronously.
                                                                                       eb application development
           // If an exception occurred, it sets the
           // corresponding error status code.
           service(request) handle { case error =>
                                                                                  W    might be approaching 20 years
                                                                                  old, but we’re still learning new
             val statusCode = error match {                                       tricks as we apply the elegance, con-
               case _: IllegalArgumentException => FORBIDDEN                      cision, and power of functional pro-
               case _ => INTERNAL_SERVER_ERROR                                    gramming ideas. The example Web
             }                                                                    and service frameworks I discussed
             val errorResponse =                                                  here — Play, Scalatra, and Finagle —
                    new DefaultHttpResponse(HTTP_1_1, statusCode)                 demonstrate these capabilities, while
             errorResponse.setContent(                                            leveraging the best established fea-
                    copiedBuffer(error.getStackTraceString, UTF_8))               tures in traditional object-oriented
             errorResponse // return value                                        frameworks.
           }
         }                                                                        References
       }                                                                           1. D. Ghosh and S. Vinoski, “Scala and Lift:
                                                                                      Functional Recipes for the Web,” IEEE
         /* The service itself. Simply echoes back "hello!".                          Internet Computing, vol. 13, no. 3, 2009,
          * Note that no error handling is required here! */                          pp. 88–92.
         class Respond extends Service[HttpRequest, HttpResponse]{                 2. D. Pollak and S. Vinoski, “A Chat Appli-
           def apply(request: HttpRequest) = {                                        cation in Lift,” IEEE Internet Computing,
             val response = new DefaultHttpResponse(HTTP_1_1, OK)                     vol. 14, no. 3, 2010, pp. 88–91.
             response.setContent(copiedBuffer("hello!", UTF_8))                    3. D. Wampler, Functional Programming
             Future.value(response) // asynchronous                                   for Java Programmers, O’Reilly Media,
           }                                                                          2011.
         }

         def main(args: Array[String]) {
                                                                                  Dean Wampler is a principal consultant at Think
           val handleExceptions = new HandleExceptions
                                                                                     Big Analytics (http://thinkbiganalytics.
           val respond = new Respond
                                                                                     com). He specializes in Scala and “big
                                                                                     __
                                                                                     data” analytics using the Hadoop ecosys-
             // Compose the error Filter and Service together:
                                                                                     tem of tools. Wampler has a PhD in phy-
             val myService: Service[HttpRequest, HttpResponse] =
                                                                                     sics from the University of Washington.
                 handleExceptions andThen respond
                                                                                     He’s the coauthor of Programming Scala
                                                                                     (2009) and the author of Functional Pro-
             val server: Server = ServerBuilder()
                                                                                     gramming for Java Developers (2011),
               .codec(Http())
                                                                                     both published by O’Reilly Media. He’s a
               .bindTo(new InetSocketAddress(8080))
                                                                                     member of IEEE and the ACM. Contact
               .name("httpserver")
                                                                                              dean@deanwampler.com
                                                                                     him at ________________ and
               .build(myService)
                                                                                     follow him on Twitter, @deanwampler.
         }
     }

                                                                                       Selected CS articles and columns
                                                                                                                      http://
                                                                                       are also available for free at ____
                                                                                  ComputingNow.computer.org.
                                                                                  __________________


94                   www.computer.org/internet/                                                        IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                       Practical Security


Not Reinventing PKI until
We Have Something Better
                         Trinity College Dublin




P
       ublic-key infrastructure (PKI) underlies                    the use cases to which it’s been put. In addition,
       many Internet protocols and applications,                   numerous core features intended to be part of
       providing widely implemented and well-                      a PKI have never really seen widescale deploy-
studied mechanisms for using asymmetric cryp-                      ment, and the PKI-related business models that
tography in support of key distribution and                        have grown up in the past decade have attracted
authentication applications and protocols. PKI,                    criticism. We’ll examine each of these aspects to
for example, is used as part of the Internet Key                   motivate our discussion.
Exchange (IKE) portion of IP security (IPsec) used                     First, because X.509 was designed long ago
in many virtual private networks (VPNs). It’s                      for one thing, but continues to be used for lots
also used in the handshake phase of the Trans-                     of other things (ironically, not including X.500
port Layer Security (TLS) protocol that secures                    authentication), some technology mismatches
most Web services. In addition, many other less                    exist. For example, having to select a “notAfter”
common, or less visible, applications use PKI.                     or expiry date for a public-key certificate is
    PKI originated in the 1980s as part of the                     often inconvenient. Additionally, in some cases,
ISO’s work on directories, where the basic PKI                     allowing more than one public key to be con-
standard (X.509) was developed as a way for                        tained within a single certificate would be bet-
directory user agents to authenticate to directo-                  ter, whereas in others we might like more than
ries. In the mid-1990s, the IETF started a work-                   one signer for a certificate. X.509-based PKI
ing group (PKIX) to produce an interoperable                       can’t (without hackery, at least) do any of these
profile of X.509 for use with Internet applica-                    things, so these are real shortcomings with real
tions and protocols. Although PKIX’s lifespan                      impact — the idea that a consumer device such
has been extended many times over the years                        as a phone should have an expiry date baked in,
via added work items for various ancillary spec-                   for example, has been a barrier to using PKI for
ifications, the latest iteration of the core PKIX                  device-specific private keys.
specification is RFC 5280,1 which specifies the                        Second, the PKI community has never really
profile of X.509 for which PKIX was originally                     succeeded in solving some core problems —
chartered 16 years ago.                                            mainly, the provision of mechanisms that would
    So, given that we have a technology (X.509-                    enable Internet-scale key enrollment (where
based PKI) that has broad implementation sup-                      Internet-scale means for users, not Web serv-
port, sees widespread use, and has been under                      ers); nor have we ever had a working solution
constant development in one form or another for                    for searching for public keys at that scale. Both
more than two decades, we might wonder whether                     problems have been solved many times at the
there’s any need at all to consider reinventing                    enterprise scale, even for very large enterprises,
PKI. Yet various people have proposed doing                        although perhaps PKI has been significantly
just that from time to time.                                       more costly in these situations than ought to be
                                                                   the case.
Problems, Problems                                                     The PKI business models that have evolved
X.509-based PKI is by no means a perfect tech-                     over time have also tended toward entrench-
nology and is indeed a poor match for several of                   ing particular uses of the technology, with an

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                            1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE         Published by the IEEE Computer Society              95




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Practical Security



emphasis on the presence of well-              needs as they arose. This is in           X.509 was much less entrenched
known “root” public keys (or trust             contrast to the X.509-based PKI           than is now the case. The lesson
points) in Web browsers and operat-            approach of focusing on an infra-         that I take from the SPKI exercise
ing systems. Currently, these trust            structure for many applications.          is that there is no point in trying
points’ owners charge, per year, for           Both approaches have their draw-          to develop something just slightly
public-key certificates, a situation           backs: the X.509-based approach           better — a new technology must be
that doesn’t work well for noncom-             is more likely to produce work that       radically better to stand a real chance
mercial websites, for example, but             isn’t used, whereas the PGP approach      of replacing one as mature as X.509-
that also grates even for commercial           is more likely to produce work with       based PKI.
sites. The set of trust points embed-          limited scope. Having said that, PGP          XKMS illustrates yet another recur-
ded into browsers and operating                and X.509-based PKI have evolved          ring theme — format wars. X.509 uses
systems might also have stifled the            to the point where both now provide       Abstract Syntax Notation (ASN.1),
market for new PKI services; they’ve           similar features. PGP doesn’t have        which ISO originally developed as
led application developers toward              the associated businesses operating       part of its Open Systems Intercon-
using TLS or HTTPS because doing               commercial certification services —       nection (OSI) framework. The ASN.1
so meant they could inherit some               something the PGP communit y              family of specifications provides a
trust points for their applications.           believes is a strength but the X.509-     way to describe data structures used
    Storing overlapping sets of X.509          based PK I industr y considers a          in protocols, and how those can be
trust points in many browsers and              weakness. Although PGP has seen           encoded for transmission via net-
operating systems also has a poten-            widespread deployment, new appli-         works. Because they aim to be very
tially significant security weakness:          cations don’t tend to adopt it, outside   generic, ASN.1 encoding schemes
each and every trust point is trusted          the open source community, because        involve quite a lot of unnecessary
by the client to issue public-key              X.509-based tools and libraries are       overhead and also generally produce
certificates for any name whatso-              more common, and substantial indus-       hard to read or debug binary for-
ever. So, if any of those (hundreds of)        try support exists for X.509-based        mat encodings. Development tools
trust points make a mistake and                PKI. In principle, however, little else   also tend to be less widely available
issue a certificate wrongly, this can          of significance differentiates X.509-     than for other formats, and for long
affect any Web service, for any cli-           based PKI and PGP. So, PGP’s exis-        periods, good open source ASN.1
ent on the Internet. Because this has          tence alone doesn’t really provide        development tools weren’t avail-
happened a few times, and quite                any compelling reason to switch           able. ASN.1 does, of course, work,
recently,2 the operators of, in par-           (in either direction).                    but it isn’t very developer-friendly,
ticular, large scale Web services                  SPKI was intended to usurp            although you do get used to it after
are now quite nervous about this               X.509-based PKI and is arguably           a while. Roughly a decade or so ago,
exposure and would like to have                based on a more generic PKI model         XML became the flavor of the month
some control over this process so              in which each relying party (RP)          data format, roughly as JavaScript
that any mistakes made have less               decides which keys to treat as trust      Object Notation (JSON) is today, so
impact.                                        points. This differs from current         some pressure existed to redefine
                                               X.509-based PKI implementations,          PKI to use angle brackets rather than
Supposed Alternatives                          where applications and operating          ASN.1’s data structure definition and
Given these issues, it’s no surprise           systems providers make those deci-        encoding scheme.
that alternatives to X.509-based PKI           sions. SPKI also offered an authori-          The arguments I’ve just described —
have been suggested over the years,            zation model (as does X.509), but the     essentially, that ASN.1 sucked, and
with perhaps the most significant              provision of a common authentica-         that because everyone was doing
work done on Pretty Good Privacy               tion and authorization infrastructure,    everything in XML, it would be
(PGP),3 Simple PKI (SPKI, usually pro-         while initially appealing, seems not      easier and better all around to for-
nounced “spooky”),4 and the XML Key            to work, given that different peo-        get the existing work and start over,
Management Specification (XKMS).5              ple frequently develop the different      avoiding the mistakes that occurred
Let’s briefly look at each in turn.            rules and policies for authentica-        in the past — were made in favor of
    PGP isn’t really cast as a direct          tion and authorization at different       developing an XML-based PKI. (You
replacement for X.509-based PKI but            times. SPKI failed to catch on, in my     might sense that this writer wasn’t
has generally been developed in par-           opinion, because it just didn’t offer a   convinced.)
allel, with features added over the            significant benefit over X.509, even          Rather than actually reinvent
years to meet specific applications’           though SPKI was developed when            PKI though, consensus was reached

96                www.computer.org/internet/                                                               IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                 Not Reinventing PKI until We Have Something Better



in the standards development com-         being deployed provide for crypto-         DNSSEC deployment much more
mu n it y to i nstead develop a n         graphic protection for DNS responses       likely now than was the case even
XML-based way to interact with an         based on a key hierarchy managed           two years ago.
X.509-based PKI, which became the         by domain registries.6 If public keys
W3C’s XKMS recommendation. But            stored within the DNS (and hence           What Might Happen
XKMS was intended to be more —            associated with domain names) are          Instead?
that is, it also aimed to enable XML      secured with DNSSEC, then many             So, the question is how to properly
consuming applications to interact        of the functions required of a PKI         plan for and regard PKI’s evolution?
with other forms of PKI that might        are provided — using this, DNSSEC-         This, of course, brings us into the
supersede X.509. However, XKMS            aware applications can find public         realm of speculation, which is usu-
has seen basically no real deploy-        keys easily and authenticate them          ally futile, but sometimes fun.
ment at all in the past decade. In        as being associated with a named               One area where I would hope to
my opinion, this is partly due to the     entity. DNSSEC can thus provide            see progress is in developing schemes
realization that yet another data for-    either an alternative to or, more          that would actually allow for clients
mat won’t in fact make life any eas-      likely, an additional level of assur-      to use their own key pairs in a PKI. A
ier for developers, but also partly for   ance for X.509-based PKI. Indeed, a        successful technology for this would
the same reasons that told against        relatively new IETF working group          greatly help with current problems
SPK I — not enough added benef it         (DANE; http://tools.ietf.org/wg/dane/)     with passwords and phishing. The
and an entrenched industr y and           is tasked with specifying just this        recent level of server-side breaches,
community backing for the X.509-          functionality.                             exposing hundreds of thousands of
based way of doing things.                    If (as I expect) DANE succeeds         passwords, might have brought us
    So, we’ve had a mature technol-       and is widely deployed, then it            to the point where it’s worth looking
ogy (X.509-based PKI) and some            might ameliorate the trust point           again at how to deploy client-side
challengers, only one of which (PGP)      “scope” vulnerability described earlier.   private-key handling. Although the
has really seen deployment at any         DANE, thanks to DNSSEC, poten-             protocols and client-side technol-
scale. We might then ask — what           tially offers a way to additionally        ogy for this have existed and been
would be required to really displace      bind DNS names to public keys cer-         widely deployed for more than a
X.509-based PKI to any significant        tified via X.509 — the difference          decade, user interface, private-key
extent?                                   between the two bindings being that        management (especially considering
    First, I should probably say what     the control over the DANE binding          mobility), and business issues with
I mean by “displace” — what I don’t       is often much nearer to the domain         that technology remain and con-
mean is that some putative new            operator than with current X.509-          tinue to limit the use of client-side
technology would cause us to imme-        based PKI implementations in brows-        private keys to enterprise use cases
diately stop using X.509-based PKI.       ers. DANE, however, is unlikely to         and (mostly) niche applications that
Short of catastrophic cryptographic       replace the current X.509-based PKI        have hidden all the PKI complex-
algorithm breaks, that won’t happen.      deployments because it would merely        ity from users. We’re now at a point
What I do mean is that the putative       replace the too-many unscoped trust        where we could revisit this, and, if
new technology would become the           points problem with a potentially          all the right parties are willing to
technology of choice for new appli-       much worse too-many-registrars             work on the problem, we could even
cations and protocols that require        problem. Although dealing with             succeed.
public-key management functions,          hundreds of trust points might present         What I have in mind for this is
such as authenticated key transport/      difficulties, dealing with hundreds        a new HTTP authentication method
agreement and signature verification.     of registries and thousands of essen-      that involves Web (and other HTTP)
    One technology currently being        tially unknown (to the RP) regis-          servers in asking for TLS mutual
developed is based around using           trars would almost certainly present       authentication, but that uses a dif-
the DNS to store public keys. The         equally bad problems. DANE also            ferent key pair for each client for
DNS underlies many services on the        requires that DNSSEC be deployed           each service, and where the public
Internet and is generally trusted for     before it can achieve real utility, and    key need not be certified by a public
mapping from names to IP addresses.       DNSSEC deployment has been on the          certification authority (CA).
To date, that mapping hasn’t usually      cusp of happening for many years,              Two new pieces of technology
been cryptographically protected,         without actually having happened.          would be needed to make this work.
but the DNS Security (DNSSEC)             However, recent developments in            First, servers would have to provide
specifications that are now finally       signing the DNS root make broad            a key-registration service for each

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                         97




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Practical Security



separate Web service, where the                versions are now much more fre-               In summar y, although X.509-
service provider could register a              quently updated means that this is        based PKI has well-known problems —
newly minted client public key for             achievable, if the relevant parties are   the most important of which (the
authentication to that service. This           interested.                               scoping of CAs) DANE is addressing —
would need to be invisible to users,               The scheme I’ve outlined, which       there is at this point no real benefit
with the additional round trip hap-            requires no changes to existing           in trying to reinvent PKI.
pening between the browser and                 X.509-based PK I, together with
key-registration service whenever              ongoing improvements in how it’s          Acknowledgments
the user doesn’t have an existing key          deployed (such as DANE) impose a          I have been, and continue to be, involved
stored for that service. Note that the         very high barrier to entry for any        in a number of these PKI related activi-
key-registration service doesn’t need          new PKI technology. In particular,        ties in a number of ways, from document
to deal with identity — the identi-            there’s little point in entering into     author to various cat-herding roles. In all
fier associated with the user’s public         another format war — for example,         of those roles, I’ve usually made fairly
key would be the service’s and not             attempting to develop all this func-      decent mistakes in my predictions, so caveat
a user identifier. Separating iden-            tionality in JSON — because that          lector.
tity handling from key management              wouldn’t really offer anything new of
should let services build key regis-           note, and would likely just consume       References
tration into whatever identity han-            effort for little positive outcome.        1. D. Cooper et al., Internet X.509 Public-
dling workflow they wish to use; the           One reason does exist, however, for           Key Infrastructure Certificate and Cer-
user’s key pair is just like a password        developing cryptographic APIs and             tificate Revocation List (CRL) Profile, IETF
(but better) and need not actually be          formats for JSON — just as XML                RFC 5280, May 2008; www.ietf.org/rfc/
bound to any identifier for the user           application developers can select the         rfc5280.txt.
                                                                                             ______
when sent over the wire. The service           XML digital signature specification        2. P. Hallam-Baker, “The Recent RA Com-
can associate the public key with              rather than its ASN.1 equivalent to           promise,” blog, 23 Mar. 2011, http://       ____
whatever identity or account han-              make their lives easier, the same             blo g s .c omo do.c om /i t- s e c u r i t y/d at a
                                                                                             ________________________
dling it wishes.                               tools should be available for JSON            -security/the-recent-ra-compromise/.
                                                                                             _____________________
    Second, to handle user mobility            application developers. However, if        3. J. Callas et al., OpenPGP Message Format,
and the now-common case of users               we want the same kind of private-             IETF RFC 4880, Nov. 2007; www.ietf.org/
with multiple browsers, we need a              key management to be usable for dif-          rfc/rfc4880.txt.
                                                                                             _________
way to bind different keys from dif-           ferent services, then each one should      4. C. Ellison et al., SPKI Certificate Theory,
ferent devices to the same service-            be able to use the same PKI.                  IETF RFC 2693, Sept. 1999; www.ietf.org/
managed identity or account. This                                                            rfc/rfc2693.txt.
                                                                                             ________
could simply be a well-known URL                                                          5. P. Hallam-Baker and S. Mysore, XML Key
available at the service where a                   he scheme I’ve outlined in the
user who’s authenticated with one
key could get a short-lived code or
                                               T   previous section illustrates how
                                               I would see X.509-based PKI devel-
                                                                                             Management Specification (XKMS 2.0),
                                                                                             W3C recommendation, June 2005; ___
                                                                                             w3.org/TR/xkms2/.
                                                                                                                                         www.


other value that, when entered into            oping in the near term — with some         6. R. Arends et al., DNS Security Introduction
a session authenticated with the key           new (or revisited) use cases and              and Requirements, IEFT RFC 4033, Mar.
from another device, would bind                applications using the technology             2005; www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc4033.txt.
the two keys to the same account.              but, as with DANE, modifying the
Again, this divorces key manage-               business and trust point models that      Stephen Farrell is a research fellow at Trin-
ment from identity or account man-             have developed over the past decade           ity College Dublin and chief technolo-
agement, leaving the latter to the             so as to make the PKI far less visible        gist with NewBay Software. His research
service.                                       to end users.                                 interests include security and delay/
    Implementing these solutions                   Research into new models for              disruption-tolerant networking. Farrell
wouldn’t be difficult, but would               authentication and key management             has a PhD in computer science from Trinity
require coordinated action from a              should of course continue, and will                                            stephen.
                                                                                             College Dublin. Contact him at _____
wide range of both browser vendors             someday produce a technology that             farrell@cs.tcd.ie.
                                                                                             __________
and Web services before the new                will displace X.509-based PKI, but
scheme could be deployed at scale.             I don’t expect that to start happening
However, I hope that the rather large          for several years yet, given that no           Selected CS articles and columns
costs associated with server data              compelling candidate technology is             are also available for free at http://
                                                                                                                             ____
breaches and the fact that browser             on the table at present.                  ComputingNow.computer.org.

98                www.computer.org/internet/                                                                      IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                                                 Peering


Emergent Collectives

                     Stanford University, retired




I
    n recent columns, I’ve referred to an arti-                    This is an important point with respect to
    cle I published in 2005 in a French jour-                  prediction and why I used the term “emergent.”
    nal, on emergent collectives.1 Though I’ve                 When a system’s behavior is governed more by
given the URL before (http://www-cdr.stanford.                 its protocol rather than some form of central
edu/~petrie/revue/), some new developments
______________                                                 control, that behavior is hard to predict with
(including a new research project from Belgium                 today’s tools: we can’t predict emergent behav-
[www.emergent-collectives.be/en/]) mean it’s                   ior very well. And if you’re predisposed to think
time to summarize and review that article’s con-               in terms of central control, then certainly you’ll
tent here, as well as expand on it based on some               be consistently fooled.
recent experience.                                                 But that’s not all. The Internet itself, the
                                                               WWW, music and video file sharing, Wikipedia,
Emergent Collectives                                           and Linux have lots and lots of people contrib-
Explain Disruptions                                            uting huge amounts of content and building out
The article first reviews how certain distributed              tremendous networks of information and func-
Internet-based systems have been unanticipated                 tionality, for free! This goes counter to most
by people who should have been experts, such                   older notions of economics.
as RIAA executives, Bill Gates, ATM commu-                         Although I hadn’t read “The Cathedral and
nications experts, Robert Metcalfe, and those in               the Bazaar” (w w w.catb.org/~esr/w r it i ngs/
charge of France’s Minitel system. I made the                  cathedral-bazaar/cat hedral-bazaar/) when I
                                                               ____________________________
point that despite what Dilbert cartoons would                 wrote the Revue article, Eric Raymond captures
have us believe, these people aren’t fools, and                well the notion that people want to contribute to
asked what has been happening (and continues                   something larger than themselves. Social net-
to happen) with these disruptions that surprised               works’ success suggests that we abstract from
technically savvy people?                                      this motivation because many postings at best
    I can’t resist digressing here. France has a               can be described as building community by
long history of making iconic, wrong-headed                    self-advertising. But people have certainly used
Internet initiatives. Most recently, President                 social networks for good purposes, and the
Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a “more civi-                     social motivation is present in any case.
lized Internet” (see http://tinyurl.com/3u946yy).                  The features of an emergent collective are
As one blogger recently said, good luck with
that French Intranet (or they could just bring                      a network of information/function nodes
back the Minitel). Here’s a suggestion for Scott                    that has minimal central control, and that’s
Adams: put Dilbert on loan to the French gov-                       largely controlled by a protocol specification,
ernment to implement Sarkozy’s suggestions.                         in which it’s easy for people to add nodes to
    Back to the question: How is it that all these                  the network,
smart folks have been so wrong-headed? A par-                       and where they have a social incentive to
tial answer: engineers and government officials                     do so.
are trained to think of systems with a central
control, and they’re dealing with systems where                   Such networks grow quickly, and their
the control is largely in the protocol.                        behavior is difficult to predict, especially if your

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Peering



models depend on central control                   I speculate that Wi-Fi-sharing         of individuals who link up for short
and “rational economics.”                      was a weak emergent collective             time periods, supported by new
                                               because many people were sharing           Internet technologies that let them
A Failed Prediction                            not because they wanted to contrib-        find each other (possibly via social
What can we predict from this char-            ute to something larger but because        networks) and coordinate their work.
acterization, if it’s true? Well, one of       the routers came shipped with no               Such a prediction might be more
my related predictions from 2001 has           security as a default.                     wishful thinking than an actuality,
somewhat failed 10 years later. I pre-             Free and open hotspots have            yet it has a good chance of coming
dicted that 3G cellular wouldn’t be            grown as businesses have increas-          true if only because of economic
the “wireless Internet” of the future          ingly recognized the economic ben-         forces. We’re all becoming self-
and Wi-Fi would (http://www-cdr.               efits of doing so, much as I predicted     employed. We’d better get used to it
stanford.edu/~petrie/802.11-Stockholm-
__________________________                     in 2001. But the emergent collective       and at least hope for better Internet
2001/). I wasn’t entirely wrong in
____                                           of Wi-Fi has largely collapsed; it’s       tool support. I still suspect such new
this, but I was wrong in the “emer-            instructive to see that the Wi-Fi net-     tools will emerge, because a mar-
gent collectives” article to predict           work we have today isn’t an emer-          ket exists for them: the increasing
the growth of the user-powered                 gent collective, and that emergent         need to outsource larger and more
Wi-Fi network, and it’s instructive to         collectives can die, especially if their   complex tasks. This is being done
consider this case.                            social incentive is weak.                  right now by boutique consulting
     I underestimated the power of                 What can we learn from this case,      companies with access to various
cellular providers to throw unimagi-           other than that prediction, especially     experts. This, too, will become more
nable amounts of cash at the prob-             of the future, is difficult? First, that   of a commodity owing to economic
lem, including persuading people to            the social incentive must be strong,       pressure. So good reasons exist to
be fearful of unsecured Wi-Fi net-             and we don’t know how to measure           believe in such a future — but how
works, even persuading Germany and             this. Second, we can’t ignore tra-         can we really evaluate the likelihood
Italy to pass very restrictive connec-         ditional economic forces. We don’t         of emergent collectives, either social
tivity legislation.                            know how to measure this, either. So       or economic, when we have so few
     In the US, the cell providers             prediction just got harder.                tools?
have been remarkably successful
at preventing cities from providing            Predicting Emergent                        A Major Research
free Wi-Fi to their residents. Only            Collectives                                Opportunity
Mountain View, California, has suc-            Apple’s “apps” aren’t an emergent          Here’s something that needs to hap-
ceeded, and only because of Google.            collective as defined initially. They      pen in our research world: we should
Finally, even I have a 3G smart-               did create a platform in which it was      develop a better understanding of emer-
phone, because it’s the cheapest way           relatively easy for individuals to add     gent behavior based on combinations
for me to get Wi-Fi for my laptop at           nodes and value. A sort of proto-          of protocols and social incentives.
home, where I write this. The cellular         col exists in terms of the API. But        Suppose we could design emergent
providers have been much more suc-             the incentive is economic. It’s like       collectives so that useful behavior
cessful at suppressing this particular         an emergent collective, but perhaps        resulted?
emergent collective with the security/         easier to predict because of the eco-          Were we able to do so, we could
fear tactic than have been the record          nomic incentive. Maybe we could            certainly achieve a lot more. For
companies with the tactic of suing             say there are two types: social and        all the discussion in the distributed
teenagers.                                     economic emergent collectives. The         agents community about emer-
     So consumer-provided free and             former remain harder to predict than       gent behavior’s value over the past
open 802.11 networks have collapsed,           the latter, but mixes will be even         20 years (at least), very little in the
largely due to consumers’ fears that           more difficult to predict.                 way of engineering methods exist
someone would sit in their driveway                Another prediction that I’ve made      for predicting emergent behavior,
listening to their signals — even though       in this space2 is that, because of the     much less designing it, although
for years any hackers inclined to sit in       creeping commodization of every-           there is some related analysis.3 Were
their driveway could easily crack the          thing, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk            some researcher to actually develop
security most people used. People are          (www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome)              a general algorithm that would pre-
no longer sharing their Wi-Fi, sadly           will become more mechanized and            dict collective behavior based on an
leaving broadband providers with               that, in fact, more complicated jobs       interaction protocol and external
more control than necessary.                   will be done by “flash companies”          constraints, it would be an important

100               www.computer.org/internet/                                                                IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                                              Emergent Collectives



development worthy of an interna-         companies, this is an oxymoron:           contrar y to the usual enterprise
tional award.                             they’re designed to run routine pro-      theory of effectiveness: Google is
    Possibly the most impor tant          cesses efficiently and not for the con-   “wasting” 20 percent of its produc-
potential application of such new         sumer’s benefit, despite mottoes to       tivity. Yet, just looking in from the
science would be in computational         the contrary and laughably wrongly        outside, this seems to be working,
cognition. We still have no computa-      named “customer relations systems.”       at least with respect to innovation.
tional model of human minds. Such             Yet, as John Hagel and John           Wouldn’t it be cool if companies
a model would explain, for instance,      Seely Brown point out, these same         could predict such outcomes prior to
the phenomenon of attention and           companies are filled with smart, cre-     trying them for real?
how it shifts, or how it affects sub-     ative folks who go largely unrecog-           Turns out, they can. They could
jective time. We don’t have this          nized (http://blogs.hbr.org/bigshift/     simulate new behavior protocols in
model, but we do strongly suspect         2010/04/are-all-employees-knowledge-
                                          __________________________                focus groups, with employees play-
that our minds are composed of dis-       wo.html). Such people are frequently
                                          _____                                     ing the roles of likely types of peo-
tributed (probably stupid) agents,        employed in routine jobs and must         ple. Such role-playing capabilities
largely unknown to our conscious          use their real talents in hobbies and     currently exist among management
mind (whatever that is), that some-       “skunk projects” while the com-           consultants to evaluate leadership
how settle among themselves what          pany suffers from being unable to         effectiveness (http://mz-x.com/files/
gets brought to our conscious mind’s      respond adequately to changing            Info_LeadershipSimulation_en.pdf).
                                                                                    _________________________
attention, very unlike our computer       market conditions and technologies.       Such simulations’ capabilities could
operating systems’ central time-          These two authors also discuss the        easily be adapted to test new inter-
sharing model.                            formation of “creation networks”          nal business processes designed to
    Ver y early work in t his area        (www.johnhagel.com/paper_pushpull.        address problems and increase cre-
exists,4 but it doesn’t yet tell us how   pdf ), wh ich have some relat ion
                                          ___                                       ativity. We don’t have to have the
attention shifts much less predict dis-   to emergent collectives but which         science to completely predict the
tributed agents’ emergent behavior.       focus on practical tactics companies      emergent behavior in order to try
A conference devoted to this research     might try to encourage productivity       out intuitions about how to change
area will take place in November          creativity.                               things for the better.
(http://cogsys.org/acs/2011/home/),           Now imagine that networks of              For instance, suppose you have a
and we can hope for impor tant            like-minded creative people inside        problem with mid-level managers not
results.                                  companies could emerge that were          taking the initiative but rather always
                                          designed to solve recognized prob-        passing decisions up to the next
A Practical Approach:                     lems by changing the company’s            level, which is a counter-innovative
Enterprise Simulation                     behavior. Such systems would be           behavior. The solution is to sim-
We don’t have to wait for such            kinds of games in which people            ulate an incentive program that
advanced science and discoveries to       would be motivated to creatively and      rewards decision-making. Problem
use the notion of emergent collec-        collectively solve such problems. But     with decision transparency? Build
tives to have more near-term impact.      we don’t know enough about how to         that into the game. Tweak as nec-
I suggested in the emergent collec-       predict such emergent behavior, so        essar y. Include some t ypical role
tives article1 that companies perform     how can we design such systems?           behaviors likely to prove problematic
simulations of possible emergent col-         Again, we don’t have to wait for      and see what happens.
lectives to predict disruptions. Sim-     new science and engineering. We               I was a part of such a role-playing
ulation is what we know how to do         can experiment. This isn’t something      game development recently, and the
today: just let the distributed agents    firms tend to do — either they’re doing   results were quite sur prising and
system run and see what happens.          poorly, in which case they don’t want     rewarding to all involved in the
    I now suggest a very narrow but       to waste resources, or they are doing     exercise. One key insight was that
important practical application for       well, in which case they don’t think      the behavior wasn’t determined by
enterprises, based on a recent expe-      they need to improve. But companies       central fiat but rather by the interac-
rience that led me to view networks       can and should always be engaged in       tion protocol, including both reward
of people much as an Internet-based       such small-scale experiments.             and social incentives. I wish I could
technology.                                   Google is running a small exper-      talk about this more, but it was a
    A lot of money and time is cur-       iment by letting some employees           small private exercise concerning a
rently going into the topic of “inno-     work for one day per week on what-        real problem in a real company. How-
vative companies.” But for most           ever they think is important. This is     ever, it gave me the confidence to

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                       101




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Peering



suggest that others experiment with                            with existing tools. In particular,                                               Proc. 2nd Int’l Conf. Software Eng. and
this approach: it can be a practical way                       role-playing simulations are a prac-                                              Formal Methods (SEFM 04), IEEE Press,
to change an enterprise’s behavior.                            tical approach to designing protocols                                             2004, pp. 24–33.
    Other than being preoccupied                               that can achieve new desired behav-                                            4. W. Br ide we l l a nd P. L a ng le y, “A
with the day-to-day urgencies of get-                          iors inside enterprises.                                                          Computational Account of Ever yday
ting the product out the door, there’s                             I look forward to new results in                                              Abductive Inference,” Proc. 33rd Ann.
no reason why companies can’t con-                             this early decade of the 21st century                                             Meeting of the Cognitive Science Soc., Wiley,
duct such role-playing simulations                             by today’s young researchers and                                                  2011; w w w.isle.org/~langley/paper s/
today, and there are very good rea-                            practitioners.                                                                    abduction.cogsci11.pdf.
                                                                                                                                                 _____________
sons to do so.
                                                               References                                                                  Charles Petrie retired from Stanford Univer-
     y points here are that emergent
M    collectives are an important
feature of today’s economy, that
                                                                1. C. Petrie, “Emergent Collectives for
                                                                   Work and Play,” AGIR Revue Generale
                                                                   de Strategie, Societe de Stratege, La
                                                                                                                                              sity as a senior research scientist with the
                                                                                                                                              CS Logic Group. He received his PhD in
                                                                                                                                              computer science from the University of
impor tant fundamental research                                    societe de ‘information, nos. 20–21, 2005,                                 Texas at Austin. Petrie was a founding
remains to be done in distributed                                  pp. 146–152.                                                               member of the technical staff of the MCC
(agent) systems, that these principles                          2. C. Petrie, “Plenty of Room Outside the                                     AI Lab, founding editor in chief of IEEE
extend beyond Internet technologies                                Firm,” IEEE Internet Computing, vol. 14,                                   Internet Computing, founding execu-
into almost any group of people who                                no. 1, 2010, pp. 92–96.                                                    tive director of the Stanford Networking
nevertheless are connected by some                              3. C. Rouff et al., “Properties of a Formal                                   Research Center, and founding chair of
protocol that governs their behav-                                 Method for Prediction of Emergent                                          the Semantic Web Services Challenge.
ior, and that more could be done                                   Behaviors in Swarm-Based Systems,”                                                          petrie@stanford.edu.
                                                                                                                                              Contact him at ____________




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102                           www.computer.org/internet/                                                                                                            IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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                                                                               The Battle for Internet Openness



cont. from p. 104                           What isn’t called for is unbridled         Cloud systems themselves must be
international identity management.          liability for the intermediaries that      highly resistant to external and
The NSTIC proposal is broad enough          facilitate communication on the            internal penetration. Access to infor-
to encompass strongly authenticated         Internet, turning them into unli-          mation held in cloud computing
pseudo-identities in addition to            censed police forces. Rather, it seems     systems must be strongly protected
strong personal identities. We might        that we need national and inter-           even while making it easy for the
think of the former as strongly             national norms for due process and         legitimate owners to authorize the
authenticated identifiers that, in and      discovery of harmful actors. Protect-      access and transfer of protected
of themselves, don’t identify persons       ing civil rights must go hand-in-          information.
or institutions but can be routinely        hand with protecting against harm,
and repeatedly validated as “the            and it’s the balance between these            hat this process and balance will
same party” with whom a person has
had earlier interactions. We can then
                                            two important societal benefits that
                                            we must achieve.
                                                                                       T  be difficult to achieve goes with-
                                                                                       out saying. A slippery slope awaits
associate other identifying informa-            International efforts to develop       efforts to achieve protection in the
tion with these identifiers, if and         tools to detect malware, viruses, worms,   face of preser v ing openness, and
when this proves necessary.                 and Trojan horses are required. Sim-       popular actions might hide a much
    Assuming we don’t want to live in       ilarly we need tools to detect various     more pernicious agenda in some
a world in which privacy is completely      forms of active attack against the         cases. The technical community has
expunged, we must consider how to           Internet’s infrastructure and edge         an important role to play in care-
support anonymity or pseudonymit y          devices. Using digital signatures to       fully assessing proposed methods
in addition to strongly authenti-           protect DNS entries, routing table         of achieving protection while pre-
cated, trusted identity. “But, what,”       announcements, BIOS fi rmware, the         serving the benefits of an open and
you say, “can we do about malfeasance       origins of email, and software can         vibrant Internet.
in the Internet? How can we identify        go hand-in-hand with more resis-
the miscreants?” This calls for devel-      tant operating systems, more “sus-         Vinton G. Cerf is vice president and chief
oping much better forensic tools and        picious” browsers, and perhaps more            Internet evangelist at Google. Contact
international ground rules for their use.   judicious use of cloud-based services.         him at vint@google.com.
                                                                                                  __________




                            Is your career
                            foundation solid?

                                                                             _________________________




SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011                                                                                                             103




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      Backspace


                                 The Battle for
                                 Internet Openness
                                                 Google




        A
              s the second decade of the 21st century                 harms visited on them by their fellow citizens,
              opens, the Internet, now a global and grow-             especially those outside national jurisdictions.
              ing infrastructure, presents challenges                     Governments in the main are instruments of
        unlike any in history. Our ability to speak and               civil order and organization. They provide rules
        be heard through this global platform is unprec-              for interaction among citizens, private sector
        edented. In the past, access to mass media was                entities, and other national bodies. If our goal
        largely confined to reception, and rarely allowed             is to preserve the Internet’s ability to absorb
        the listening masses to speak to each other in                new ideas and uses, we must find ways to pro-
        more than a bilateral fashion.                                tect citizens, institutions, corporate entities,
            Moreover, the cost of speaking today is low               and governments from abuses visited on them
        compared to the cost of accessing mass media                  through this global medium. We could poten-
        in the past. You don’t need to own a radio sta-               tially achieve this through purely technical
        tion, television station, cable system, or print-             means, but this might not only be impossible
        ing press to speak broadly. Companies providing               but perhaps also undesirable. We might imag-
        mass infrastructure have emerged from the                     ine that eliminating all anonymity could curb
        evolving Internet ecosystem. Twitter, Facebook,               abuses, but much abuse clearly happens in the
        Google, YouTube, Blogger, Amazon, Skype, and                  real world from sources that are anything but
        many other ser vices permit convenient and                    anonymous. Moreover, reasonable situations
        often cost-free access to infrastructure capable              exist in which lack of anonymity threatens the
        of reaching a global audience. In addition, these             freedom of expression that’s valued in the UN’s
        platforms are increasingly accessible to mobile               Declaration of Human Rights. From whistle-
        devices that now number on the order of 5 bil-                blowing to the exposure of corrupt government,
        lion. That these devices permit voice and video               anonymity has a place in the space of Internet
        recording, text exchanges, image uploading and                expression. At the same time, many interactions
        downloading, and even streaming media simply                  among individuals, between corporate entities,
        emphasizes the scope and scale of this 21st cen-              among governments, and combinations of these
        tury communications environment.                              would benefit from the ability to confirm their
            Much of the Internet’s benefit lies in its open-          identities to each other in advance of specific
        ness to new applications, new technology, new                 interactions. Finding a technical means to let
        forms of expression, and new users and uses.                  both anonymity and strong identity coexist is a
        It isn’t surprising, therefore, that societies that           challenge worth trying to meet.
        haven’t been traditionally open to free expres-                   The White House cybersecurity coordina-
        sion might see this openness as a threat to social            tor’s office has proposed a National Strategy for
        stability or to their populations’ well-being. In             Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). This
        fairness, the Internet’s openness has also pro-               proposition allows for private sector develop-
        vided opportunities for a Pandora’s box of                    ment and provision of trusted identity services
        potential harms coming from many directions,                  and technology. In principle, we need metrics
        including those that lie outside particular soci-             for the strength and quality of any methods
        eties’ jurisdictional boundaries. The conundrum               intended to achieve this objective. This is even
        that the Internet presents is preserving openness             more important as we consider the need for
        to new modes of use while protecting users from                                                    cont. on p. 103

104     Published by the IEEE Computer Society      1089-7801/11/$26.00 © 2011 IEEE                IEEE INTERNET COMPUTING




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           2011–2012 Editorial Calendar

Virtual World Architectures (Sept/Oct 2011)
3D virtual worlds such as Second Life, Open Simulator, and so on let users model real and fantasy
worlds. Some of these worlds are extensive, with tens of thousands of avatar “residents,” and require
grids of thousands of machines. Although it isn’t hard to believe that a 3D Web can someday
gracefully complement today’s document-centric Web and that such virtual worlds will model the
Earth in credible detail, this is slow in happening. Educators and serious gamers want to experiment
with virtual worlds but often find the platforms difficult to extend. What are the roadblocks and
how can we accelerate the pace of progress to realize the vision?

Semantics in Location-Based Services (Nov/Dec 2011)
Advances in wireless networks and mobile devices have motivated an intensive research effort
in mobile computing and mobile data services. Along with many advantages, using location
information in a mobile environment can also pose significant research challenges regarding data
management. In this context, different Semantic Web technologies could be adapted and applied to
make intelligent location-based services a reality.

Internet-Scale Data Management (Jan/Feb 2012)
The massive volumes of distributed data on the Internet present a tremendous data-management
challenge. Traditional solutions weren’t designed with the scale, heterogeneity, or volume of
Internet data in mind, and were typically engineered to assume structured data managed by a
single organization rather than the unstructured or loosely structured and federated nature of data
on the Internet today.

Beyond Search: Context-Aware Computing (Mar/Apr 2012)
Context-aware computing offers mobile Internet users an experience that goes beyond user-initiated
search and location-based services. Context awareness sharpens relevance when responding to user-
initiated actions (such as product search and support calls). It also enables proactive communications
through analysis of a user’s behavior and environment, thereby forming the basis for key business
imperatives targeting customer-engagement systems. Even greater opportunity arises from context
use in systems that can make sense of and engage in customer dialogs and forums.

Infrastructures for Online Social Networking Services (May/June 2012)
The proliferation of rich social media, online communities, and collectively produced knowledge
resources has accelerated the convergence of technological and social networks, resulting in a
dynamic ecosystem of online social networking (OSN) services, environments, and applications.
OSN sites’ success is reshaping the Internet’s structure, design, and utility. It’s also creating
numerous challenges and opportunities for the development, deployment, management, and
operation of scalable, secure, interoperable OSNs infrastructures.

Programmatic Interfaces for Web Applications (July/Aug 2012)
The rapid growth of programmatic Web service interfaces for Web applications (open Web
APIs) has revolutionized online content integration and development practices. The increasing
popularity of such Web interfaces raises questions of how
developers should design services and how they should
maintain services’ good performance and scalability.
Programmatic Web interfaces typically use REST style
for communication, or RESTful services implemented
with HTTP, while moving away from more traditional
SOAP Web services.                                              www.computer.org/internet/



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             __________________________________________________




Distinguish Yourself From the Crowd
                        Earn Your CSDP
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 Professional (CSDP) credential is the best way
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