VPS for OpenSim on OSGrid, Part 1: Background

I had decided to stop writing this blog because of some bad things happening but yesterday I was reading a blog post from Linda Kellie (http://lindakellie.blogspot.com/) It was really a personal and very brave post and it suddenly made me change my mind. So I decided to continue with the writing here but to change the settings of the comments so they need my approval before they show up here….. I think you can guess why…

In previous posts I have written about how to set up OSGrid on a computer at home. At the most I had 9 sims running and it was working really great. When I did quit InWorldz I decided to give away some of my creations for free to the people in OSGrid as there didn’t exists things like my free moving animated animals and some other things I have built. Even though I didn’t advertise about it suddenly people began to come to my regions to have a look and maybe grab a freebie. And when we were more than just 2-3 I started to notice the problem of running the sim from home width a limited bandwidth. I just have ADSL with 8 MB downstream and 2 MB up. And it is the upstream that is the limiting factor as the sim has to send all the information to the visitors client. I am myself on the internal net and will not experience their problem when the bandwidth is just not enough.

What to do then? Get better bandwidth? Unfortunately that is not possible at the moment where I live in the remote “jungles” of Scandinavia. Rent a sim from some supplier on OSGrid? No fun at all as that would be like going back to InWorldz or SL with no control over it. BUT there do actually exist a third alternative… and that is… TADA:

VPS = Virtual Private Server. It is possible to rent a server (well a part of a server that behaves like a separate physical server to me) with a really good connection to the internet. On that server I can do whatever I like as long as it is legal and don’t break the limits in the deal with the supplier. And the world is full of companies wanting to sell this VPS deals so it is possible to find a really attractive deal.

At the site http://www.webhostingtalk.com there is a special section where people discuss their experiences with different companies and where you also can find attractive deals sometimes. This is a link to that section: http://www.webhostingtalk.com/forumdisplay.php?f=103. But be a bit careful as it sometimes can be hard to distinguish who it is writing…. a customer or a seller?

There are lots of discussions on what virtualization layer that is the best, Xen or Openvz or something else. It is like the never ending discussions about Mac, Pc or Linux or about Intel or AMD for the processors. As far as I know that will not affect your sim in any significant way so i think you can ignore that. It is more important to pick the right operating system for your VPS. Some claim that Windows runs OpenSim better than Linux but as Linux VPS often are cheaper and also requires less memory I do prefer that. If you decide to run Windows anyhow you might have to choose a more expensive layer for the virtalization as well, so sometimes the prices will be the double. But as I am an open source fan I like the idea of running OpenSim on open source virtualization and open source operating system. It just appeals to me!

My choice of Linux is Ubuntu 11.04 as I am rather familiar with running that and I know that the things OpenSims requires like MySQL and Mono is very simple to get up and running with Ubuntu. I also sympathize strongly with the humanistic philosophy behind Ubuntu of supporting the third world. As my selected provider only offered Ubuntu 10.04 as the latest version that was my pick. If you plan to follow my posts on this subject and intend to set up your own VPS I think it is easiest if you also pick Ubuntu as your operating system. Often you also have a choice of the control panel with an extra monthly fee for Cpanel. It can be as high as 15 $/month and I don’t think you need that to run OpenSim you better spend your money on more memory and processor cores instead.

I started my search just 4 days ago and saw a huge price span for seemingly the same products so I advice you to look around and ask for people opinions about their offers. This is what a typical offer page look like:

I found a spectacular offer 2 days ago on http://www.webhostingtalk.com/ and I decided to try it to examine what the extreme low end price will give me. I will still run my old sim from home so I do not take any big risk really, just those 15 dollars. And to make this a bit more objective I also found a second provider from Paris in France that I also will try for a short period to be able to compare their offerings and quality of service.

These are the specifications for what i decided for:

3 core Intel processor at 3 * 1.8 GHz
Disk Space 120GB
Monthly Bandwidth 3 TB
Dedicated Memory 4GB/5GB Burst
Solusvm Features
1 fixed IP Address
No setup cost and just 14.99 dollars/month! Less than 15 dollars/month and with a fat connection from the provider in Seattle to the Internet and 100 Mb guaranteed from my VPS. That is enough power to run at least 5-10 regions with very good performance!

The price is ridiculously low so I almost didn’t believe it. Of course this is an unmonitored VPS even if the hardware is monitored. That mean that you have to fix problems by yourself and that there might be some failures now and then. But hardware uptime is guaranteed and will probably be much better than running it from home. (i need to turn my server down when there are thunderstorms in the area for example). I hope I will show you there are methods and tricks to keep it running as good as possible with the current quality of the OpenSim code.

When you have decided what you want you have to fill in the order form and this is what it might look like:

Less than 15 dollars is of course worth a try and 30 min after my decision the VPS was up and running and less than 1 hour later i had my sim running there at great speed. That was confirmed by my first visitors who could compare with the sims running from my home as I had put them side by side on the OSGrid.

Just a little clarification. I am rather experienced in using a terminal as connection to a server and I have been doing a lot of programming in C with just VI as my editor and text based Curses as the hottest graphics library around….lol. I hope however that my step-by-step instructions in the coming posts here will be of help for you even if you don’t have that background I have. I am confident  that it is possible for almost anybody interested that is willing to invest a few hours to do this as well. If you should fail… whatever is 15-20 dollars?

So the starting point is to search for VPS offers, in those webpages above or with Google. You can of course start with a lighter specification if they state that it is possible with seamless upgrading to a bigger VPS when you want more regions or more traffic.

This is what my control panel for the VPS looked at the start.

When you have decided what you want and paid for the first period you will receive an email with all the important tiny little details you need to get your sim up and running.

I also decided that I would want to have a domainname of my own so I did registerer one name for each of my test VPS servers. One xxxxxx.com that cost me something like 9 € = 13 $ and one  xxxxx.eu (eu domain) that costs less than 7€ = 9 $. That is not necessary as you can perfectly fine run your sim on the fixed IP you will get with your VPS. But pretentious side of my thinks its looks professional with my own domain… and for that price it is no issue really… ;o)

See you tomorrow for part 2: Connecting to the VPS

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  • Maria Korolov  On August 24, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    usvemo —

    Have you been running any benchmarking tests? Do you know the maximum visitor, prim, or script capacity of this setup?

    I’ve heard of the rule of thumb of one core-one gig memory-for one region (for a Second Life-style performance).

    So that would mean that you’d be able to run three SL-strength regions for the $15…

    Thanks! Super useful topic! — Maria

  • Nyx  On August 24, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Thank you for choosing to continue with your well detailed OpenSim experiences.

  • Bradd Laval  On August 25, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Keep ur blog running, it’s a gr8 resource. But my Dell i5 fails to connect to opensim giving exception error port 9000. I have forwarded ports and loosened my firewall but same error time and time again *sigh*, router isnt the issue because my old Toshiba lappys can run OS but they have basic graphics and specs so they struggle.

  • Linda  On August 25, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    I’m so glad that you have decided to keep doing your blog. Always keep in mind that you are helping people and the haters may not like that but that is even more reason to do it 😉 Although I suck at understanding anything technical I pretty much understood this and might even give it a try sometime. Thank you for the info and resources.

  • Anonymous  On August 26, 2011 at 3:43 am

    Great info, you have done all the heavy lifting here, please help me by telling what vps provider did you use for this instance, the forum is huge and as you have done the searching, can save us loads of time by dropping a name

  • Carolina  On September 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Wonderful tutos!! Please don’t give up. (ignore haters for followers sake).

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