Starfish drops $2m into virtual world start-up

Starfish drops $2m into virtual world start-up

Summary: Local venture capital firm Starfish Ventures has bootstrapped a Melbourne-based start-up with $2 million to get technology off the ground to create infinitely scalable and distributed multiplayer worlds.

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Local venture capital firm Starfish Ventures has bootstrapped a Melbourne-based start-up with $2 million to get technology off the ground to create infinitely scalable and distributed multiplayer worlds.

Badumna could change how games like World of Warcraft have approached server infrastructure.
(World of Warcraft DVD image by Juan Pablo Olmo, CC BY 2.0)

Going by the name Scalify, the start-up uses technology called Badumna, which is the result of four years of research at NICTA, before Scalify was spun off by the research institution. Badumna's core focus is to enable the creation of scalable applications for use in 3D-generated virtual worlds that might be more commonly associated with games like World of Warcraft, Second Life and Eve Online.

The key difference between this technology and its predecessors is that it harnesses end users to deliver most of the functionality — the world is essentially distributed peer to peer, rather than being represented by expensive clusters of servers in a centralised location, or by splitting users into separate parallel "shard" worlds.

What the developers hope is that as more users connect to a virtual world or application, the amount of resources available increases, thereby leading to virtually infinite scalability. Other features of the technology include the ability to balance the traffic directed to end-user nodes due to congestion, and the use of distributed validation to ensure that end users are not cheating.

Santosh Kulkarni, who drove the development of Badumna at NICTA's Victoria Research Laboratory, moved to Scalify to oversee it as the company's chief technology officer. The company released the first version of the Badumna product last year; it is already being used to power virtual worlds in the US, the EU and Asia.

Recognising the potential of the company, Starfish Ventures, which is also based in Melbourne, has injected $2 million into the fledgling start-up to get it on its feet.

"The online games market is large, and is growing quickly, but is hindered by the traditional client-server model, which is expensive and limits scalability. We recognised Scalify's unique solution for peer-to-peer games, especially in terms of scalability and reducing traffic to the server," Starfish investment director Anthony Glenning said in a statement. Glenning is also joining the Scalify board as an investor.

But online games are not the only application for Badumna, according to NICTA CEO Hugh Durrant-Whyte.

"In the future, Badumna could also be used to support large-scale applications — such as in tele-health — which involve exchanging large datasets and bandwidth-intensive data, like 3D scans and x-rays."

In the meantime, Scalify will use the funding to focus on increasing growth and functionality.

"With today's investment from Starfish, we plan to increase our sales and marketing capability, as well as expand the number of development platforms supported by Badumna," Scalify CEO Steve Telburn said.

Topics: Cloud, Legal, Piracy

Michael Lee

About Michael Lee

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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