Today is a sad day for some, and a frustrating day for many, as Hippo Technologies has finally bit the dust. Hippo's services (including HippoVend, HippoRent and HippoUpdate) were extremely well respected and well established within Second Life for a long time. HippoTech pre-dates CasperTech by a few years, and although their presence in Second Life has slowly been in decline, many users heavily depended on them right up until today.
It's unclear exactly what happened - the blog post alludes to a catastrophic failure at Rackspace Cloud services, but Rackspace's own status page mentions no such failure (I have contacted Rackspace to ask for clarification). What is clear, however, is that it leaves a lot of users in a very unfortunate position - their vendors, rental units and update systems are suddenly non-functioning, leaving their businesses high and dry.
The biggest question that is bound to be on everyone's mind when looking at a replacement for their Hippo services is - "how do I know that the same thing won't happen again?" So, to that end, I would like to offer our perspective on the future.
The Second Life Economy
The Hippo blog post mentions that they have seen a lack of new customer demand due to "abandoned land" in Second Life. We can definitely not say the same thing. We have seen an incredibly steady flow of new customers for many years. We are not in decline, because we continuously invest in product and service improvements.
The SL economy as a whole is also not in decline. We publish economy stats every month based on CasperVend sales, averaged out over the total number of active merchants. The figures for January 2018 are very strong, almost as high as they have ever been. Things are looking good!
Our pricing model
Some people have expressed concern at our "pay once, service forever" model. This model is the same used by all of our competitors (as far as I know) and it works because there is a very steady turnaround of merchants in Second Life. There has been no decline in new customers, so this model is working just fine for us.
In the unlikely event that this price model becomes unsustainable (for example if the number of new merchants drops suddenly), we will not just abandon our customers. If absolutely necessary, we will switch to a subscription model - but I don't see that happening in the near future.
We solidly believe in absolute transparency when it comes to failures and outages. We publish reports whenever we experience a major outage, with a full post-mortem of what went wrong and what we are doing to fix it. Ask your service provider if they do the same!
Our longest outage was a very unfortunate event in March, 2017, where we were subjected to a prolonged DDoS attack on our servers, which took us offline for 12 hours. We have never experienced an outage which lasted longer than this, which I believe cannot be claimed by any of our major competitors.
Since that outage in March, we have invested very heavily in our infrastructure and firewalled away all of our inworld operations, making a DDoS attack impossible.
Redundancy and reliability
With the completion of Project Spectre in January 2018, we have eliminated all single points of failure from our inworld operations.
Hippo mentions in their blog post that their backups were destroyed as part of the failure. In our opinion, that does not constitute a backup. We maintain daily and weekly off-site backups of our data.
Experience and ownership
Last but certainly not least - with hippo seemingly gone, we are now the longest running vending service provider in Second Life. CasperTech has never been sold or transferred, it's still the same people behind it all, and we remain absolutely committed to what we do.
Over the years we've hit barriers, had outages, and figured out how to scale up to meet demand. Our network exceeds 2 million in-world entities, mostly vendors and rental units. We have that experience behind us; we know Second Life and its quirks inside and out.
That is what we can offer.
To clarify: the control panels (the websites) could still be taken offline via a very powerful DDoS attack, since they are public facing, but this would not impact our inworld operations at all. These sites are however protected by OVH's Anti-DDOS system, so an attack would likely not even be noticed. ↩︎
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