Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

Distributed virtual environment scalability and security

John L. Miller

October 2011, 98 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted October 2011 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Hughes Hall.

DOI: 10.48456/tr-809


Distributed virtual environments (DVEs) have been an active area of research and engineering for more than 20 years. The most widely deployed DVEs are network games such as Quake, Halo, and World of Warcraft (WoW), with millions of users and billions of dollars in annual revenue. Deployed DVEs remain expensive centralized implementations despite significant research outlining ways to distribute DVE workloads.

This dissertation shows previous DVE research evaluations are inconsistent with deployed DVE needs. Assumptions about avatar movement and proximity – fundamental scale factors – do not match WoW’s workload, and likely the workload of other deployed DVEs. Alternate workload models are explored and preliminary conclusions presented. Using realistic workloads it is shown that a fully decentralized DVE cannot be deployed to today’s consumers, regardless of its overhead.

Residential broadband speeds are improving, and this limitation will eventually disappear. When it does, appropriate security mechanisms will be a fundamental requirement for technology adoption.

A trusted auditing system (“Carbon”) is presented which has good security, scalability, and resource characteristics for decentralized DVEs. When performing exhaustive auditing, Carbon adds 27% network overhead to a decentralized DVE with a WoW-like workload. This resource consumption can be reduced significantly, depending upon the DVE’s risk tolerance. Finally, the Pairwise Random Protocol (PRP) is described. PRP enables adversaries to fairly resolve probabilistic activities, an ability missing from most decentralized DVE security proposals.

Thus, this dissertation’s contribution is to address two of the obstacles for deploying research on decentralized DVE architectures. First, lack of evidence that research results apply to existing DVEs. Second, the lack of security systems combining appropriate security guarantees with acceptable overhead.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Miller, John L.},
  title = 	 {{Distributed virtual environment scalability and security}},
  year = 	 2011,
  month = 	 oct,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  doi = 	 {10.48456/tr-809},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-809}