SecondLife rolls out Mono-powered servers

Big news for the Mono team today.

Linden has started the roll out of their Mono-powered simulation servers.

Users can now opt into having their LSL scripts executed using the Mono VM (it remains an opt-in feature, because some scripts are timing sensitive and the performance increase could break code).

Some choice quotes from Jim Purbrick's blog post:

As well as providing immediate benefits, the integration of the Mono virtual machine makes many future improvements possible: the use of mainstream languages to script Second Life alongside the existing LSL language; the removal of arbitrary per-script limits on script resource usage and the use of mainstream libraries and tools for scripting to name a few.

And:

The integration of Mono is the first step in the evolution of Second Life into a true software development platform. Thank you to all the residents who have helped us take this first step.

Congrats to Linden on their launch!

The Technology

From a SecondLife developer perspective, some of the technical details about how Mono is integrated into the Second Life simulators can be found on their Wiki.

When a user opts into using Mono, a special LSL compiler that generates ECMA CLI byte codes is used. The resulting CLI byte codes are then instrumented with some magic (more below) and then the code is exectuted using the Mono VM which translated the bytecodes into native x86 code.

I find the SecondLife technology fascinating. Embedding Mono into SecondLife was not an ordinary task, it was not just a matter of linking with Mono and writing an LSL to CIL compiler.

SecondLife distributes the virtual world on hundreds of servers, and as visitors move through the virtual world, their inventory, character and scripts migrates from server to server.

This migration requires that running scripts be suspended, serialized to a database and their execution resumed on a different server. This means that all the state of a script, including the current location must be preserved while the user navigates across servers.

The technology to do this is absolutely brilliant. I strongly recommend the Lang.NET presentation that Cory and Jim did in 2006.

The first half of the video is an introduction to Second Life, the second delves into the hackery necessary to make it happen.

This are clearly hugenormous news for us, and for everyone that worked with Linden, for everyone that fixed bugs and implemented new features in Mono to run under the conditions that Linden has.

Posted on 20 Aug 2008 by Miguel de Icaza
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