Checking Virtual Viability

Here are some steps to consider when deploying a virtual world.

When considering a virtual-world deployment, it's important to take the following steps:

1. Define your objective. Marketing or consumer-facing applications often demand a service, such as Second Life or There. Large enterprises should consider the security and control of behind-the-firewall deployments or, at least, a hosted service closed to unauthorized users.

2. Evaluate virtual worlds' ability to integrate with the rest of your environment. Whatever virtual-world environment you choose, it should provide APIs so that your organization has the ability to perform tasks such as auditing instant messaging and VOIP (voice over IP) messages for compliance, allow in-world users to see the presence of nonworld users and vice versa, and tie in to the corporate calendaring and scheduling applications.

3. Assess collaboration requirements. Virtual-world providers deliver a wide range of tools for collaboration. All provide internal VOIP and IM, but some also offer tools including application sharing, streaming video and whiteboarding.

4. Inspect the security and management model of the environment. Virtual worlds are lacking when it comes to security and controls. Some providers integrate with LDAP; some will authenticate users when they move between forums. When evaluating virtual-world platforms, demand a detailed list of security and management controls.

5. Assess the hardware requirements. Virtual worlds can be graphically intensive, and chances are good that some systems will need to be upgraded.