Second Life is curently facing a plethora of bugs the likes of which are unheard of in its history. Without going into extreme detail, these bugs include:
* Failure of textures to load within any concept of reasonable time
* Failure of sculpties to rez
* Faiure of avatars to rez
* Inventory loss / database loss
* Client-side cache issues that are creating a delay-of-service attack on LL's own servers
* Prims that suddenly self-locomote off the sim and self-destruct, destroying existing builds
* Cumbersome, bulky and slow asset server system
* "Ghosted" scripts (scripts that remain on a sim when the accompanying prims are deleted)
* Company profiteering (evinced never so much as with the unwarranted OpenSpace sim price hike fiasco that cost the grid over 5,500 sims)
* Poor employee attitude and customer abuse
* Extreme and inexcusable lag
THE CLEAR ISSUES
Linden Lab claims many of these problems are caused by failure of SL to "scale" to current membership needs. Thus, we have to ask: Whose fault is it that Second Life is failing to scale? That's surely no excuse. Did the company think their membership was going to grow to 20,000 people and then stop?
When growth didn't stop, when it got to 50,000... 100,000... one million... why weren't they taking steps years ago to re-code and scale to the expected millions that would obviously be using the system? Why didn't they code to expected scale from the very beginning?
Plainly speaking, someone dropped the ball. As a result of these things, Second Life is performing worse as each month passes. For the first time in history, I have had to drop my draw distance to 128m (from the past 256m) just to be able to move around. It's not my computer (quad core), it's not my RAM (3 gigs), it's not my graphics card (Nvidia 9800 GTX) and it's not my connection (high speed cable). The culprit is clearly that of degrading Second Life performance.
VALUE FOR THE PRICE
Currently Linden Lab is charging some $1000 setup fee and $295 a month to operate a sim. These are frankly absurd prices-- profiteering to the max. Not that such is ethically or legally wrong; if they can get that price, more power to them. But it costs an average of about $20 to $30 to acquire server space for a sim. I think we can be confident Linden Lab pays as little as possible.
But in return for such fees, we expect the performance such price warrants. That means instead of being slammed four sims to a server box, all sharing common bus, hard drive and network card-- a little bit more "under the hood" should be delivered. For $295 a month, EACH SIM should be on its own separate deck. That deck should boast at the very least a duo-core (which would probably suffice) or even a quad-core processor (yes, to run a single sim). Each sim should have its own separate hard drive, its own network access, its own separate internal bus. In short, if Linden Lab is going to charge Porche prices... they should deliver a Porche, not a Volkswagen Beetle.
It is obvious that the current architecture of Second Life is bogging down. It became obvious in early 2005 when Linden Lab switched from single-core server boxes to quad-core stacked boxes-- and sim performance immediately dropped through the floor. The prices Linden Lab charges to run a sim server are ridiculous, to say the least. It's been said before: for what Linden Lab charges for a single sim... we could lease a new car. Literally. For such prices... a totally dedicated server box is warranted.
Current performance levels are inexcusable-- and unacceptable. Their asset system is bogging down. Individual sim servers are bogging down. Linden Lab has unwisely continued to burden the graphics system (flexis, sculpties... and now the upcoming shadows) until performance is just dragging. When it takes the most powerful computer systems on the market just to handle what SL throws at us-- it becomes obvious that stacking four sims to a server box is not the answer. It becomes obvious that giving customers their money's worth is the solution to many of these issues.
If Linden Lab were charging $75 per sim like the OpenSim grids then sure... stack sims four to a quad-core box. But when a company is charging $295 for a single sim (at a profit of some $260+ per sim)... then it should be expected that they would provide the hardware backing to warrant such price. In addition, evidence indicates LL is cutting corners on areas such as network bandwidth and asset server ratio. Cutting services while charging excessively high prices is not a smart way to run business.
The alternative: the first company that comes along and implements such concepts, that offers a good product with acceptable performance at reasonable prices-- and Linden Lab is going to quickly discover the ultimate cost of charging premium prices while delivering fourth-rate, shoddy product.