To Infinity and Not Beyond: Scaling Communication in Virtual Worlds with Meru
Stanford University Computer Science Technical Report CSTR 2010-01, 2010

Virtual worlds seek to provide an online setting where users can interact in a shared environment. Popular virtual worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft, however, rely on share-nothing data and strict partitioning as much as possible. They translate a large world into many tiny worlds. This partitioning conflicts with the intended goal of a virtual world by greatly limiting interaction and reducing the shared experience.

We present Meru, an architecture for scalable, federated virtual worlds. Meru’s key insight is that, compared to traditional distributed object systems, virtual world objects have the additional property of being embedded in a three-dimensional geometry. By leveraging this geometric information in messaging and caching, Meru can allow uncongested virtual world objects to pass messages with 800 times the throughput as Second Life while also gracefully scaling to handle the congestion of ten thousand active senders. Unlike virtual worlds today, Meru achieves this performance without any partitioning, maintaining a single, seamless world.