How to Get Started in Virtual-World Operations

How to Get Started in Virtual-World Operations

Try these low-cost ways to test the virtual-world waters before you enlist an expensive service provider

IT service companies, like many of the Second Life solution providers, will be happy to help you build a virtual-world environment for your network operations or data center.

But it won't be cheap. It might run anywhere from tens or hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, depending on how much IT stuff you've got, how many people it's for, and how much development and integration you need (and how many of these wheels haven't been implemented yet). And even then, it may not have the features or provable reliability for mission-critical operations.

IBM's Global Technology Services IT Optimization Business Unit, for example, has a four-phase service offering to build a 3-D data center. Phase 1 -- requirements analysis and inventory assessment -- and Phase 2 -- installing a 3-D environment with a rough mock-up of your center within your network -- could run in the low five figures. Phases 3 and 4 -- deploying integration middleware and turning the mock center into a live environment -- are likely to be low-six-figure tasks. (IBM declined to give specific prices, and, of course, the exact price will depend on how much needs to be done.)

Fortunately, there's a lot you can do that's comparatively easy and affordable -- some steps are low cost or even free, involving just your time and possibly a better graphics card or newer computer.

1. You can learn a lot by reading

Linden Lab offers a lot of free information through its Web site, including success stories on how organizations have used Second Life, links to external lists of companies using Second Life and how-to articles.

2. Try it

  • Download the free Second Life client (available for Windows 2000, XP and Vista; Mac OS X; and Linux). You'll need an adequate computer, especially in terms of graphics capabilities.

  • Get an account on Second Life. A basic account is free; accounts that let you buy land start at US$9.95 per month. Use Second Life's tutorials to familiarize yourself with how things work, and then explore. "IBM has some nice public sandboxes, where people can build 3-D objects and apps for free," says Michael J. Osias, chief 3-D architect for the IBM IT Optimization Business Unit.

3. Do some deeper reading

Buy (or borrow) some books on Second Life and other virtual-world environments:

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

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