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10.2: Multiprocessor Scheduling

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    MP Scheduling

    So, we come back to the question: "Given a set J of jobs where job ji has length li and a number of processors m, what is the minimum possible time required to schedule all jobs in J on m processors such that none overlap?".

    This is a complex question when we have multiple processors, some of which may run at different speeds. Scheduling is not as straight forward as it was with the single processor, the algorithms are more complex due to the nature of multiprocessors being present.

    There are several different concepts that have been studied and implemented for multiprocessor thread scheduling and processor assignment. A few of these concepts are discussed below approaches seem to be well accepted:

    • Gang scheduling

      In computer science, gang scheduling is a scheduling algorithm for parallel systems that schedules related threads or processes to run simultaneously on different processors. Usually these will be threads all belonging to the same process, but they may also be from different processes, where the processes could have a producer-consumer relationship or come from the same MPI program.

      Gang scheduling is used to ensure that if two or more threads or processes communicate with each other, they will all be ready to communicate at the same time. If they were not gang-scheduled, then one could wait to send or receive a message to another while it is sleeping, and vice versa. When processors are over-subscribed and gang scheduling is not used within a group of processes or threads which communicate with each other, each communication event could suffer the overhead of a context switch.

      Gang scheduling is based on a data structure called the Ousterhout matrix. In this matrix each row represents a time slice, and each column a processor. The threads or processes of each job are packed into a single row of the matrix. During execution, coordinated context switching is performed across all nodes to switch from the processes in one row to those in the next row.

      Gang scheduling is stricter than co-scheduling. It requires all threads of the same process to run concurrently, while co-scheduling allows for fragments, which are sets of threads that do not run concurrently with the rest of the gang.

    • Processor affinity 

      Processor affinity, or CPU pinning or "cache affinity", enables the binding and unbinding of a process or a thread to a central processing unit (CPU) or a range of CPUs, so that the process or thread will execute only on the designated CPU or CPUs rather than any CPU. This can be viewed as a modification of the native central queue scheduling algorithm in a symmetric multiprocessing operating system. Each item in the queue has a tag indicating its kin processor. At the time of resource allocation, each task is allocated to its kin processor in preference to others.

      Processor affinity takes advantage of the fact that remnants of a process that was run on a given processor may remain in that processor's state (for example, data in the cache memory) after another process was run on that processor. Scheduling that process to execute on the same processor improves its performance by reducing performance-degrading events such as cache misses. A practical example of processor affinity is executing multiple instances of a non-threaded application, such as some graphics-rendering software.

      Scheduling-algorithm implementations vary in adherence to processor affinity. Under certain circumstances, some implementations will allow a task to change to another processor if it results in higher efficiency. For example, when two processor-intensive tasks (A and B) have affinity to one processor while another processor remains unused, many schedulers will shift task B to the second processor in order to maximize processor use. Task B will then acquire affinity with the second processor, while task A will continue to have affinity with the original processor.


      Processor affinity can effectively reduce cache problems, but it does not reduce the persistent load-balancing problem.[1] Also note that processor affinity becomes more complicated in systems with non-uniform architectures. For example, a system with two dual-core hyper-threaded CPUs presents a challenge to a scheduling algorithm.

      There is complete affinity between two virtual CPUs implemented on the same core via hyper-threading, partial affinity between two cores on the same physical processor (as the cores share some, but not all, cache), and no affinity between separate physical processors. As other resources are also shared, processor affinity alone cannot be used as the basis for CPU dispatching. If a process has recently run on one virtual hyper-threaded CPU in a given core, and that virtual CPU is currently busy but its partner CPU is not, cache affinity would suggest that the process should be dispatched to the idle partner CPU. However, the two virtual CPUs compete for essentially all computing, cache, and memory resources. In this situation, it would typically be more efficient to dispatch the process to a different core or CPU, if one is available. This could incur a penalty when process repopulates the cache, but overall performance could be higher as the process would not have to compete for resources within the CPU.

    • Load balancing  

      In computing, load balancing refers to the process of distributing a set of tasks over a set of resources (computing units), with the aim of making their overall processing more efficient. Load balancing techniques can optimize the response time for each task, avoiding unevenly overloading compute nodes while other compute nodes are left idle.

      Load balancing is the subject of research in the field of parallel computers. Two main approaches exist: static algorithms, which do not take into account the state of the different machines, and dynamic algorithms, which are usually more general and more efficient, but require exchanges of information between the different computing units, at the risk of a loss of efficiency.

      Load Balancing Considerations 

      A load balancing algorithm always tries to answer a specific problem. Among other things, the nature of the tasks, the algorithmic complexity, the hardware architecture on which the algorithms will run as well as required error tolerance, must be taken into account. Therefore compromise must be found to best meet application-specific requirements.

      Nature of tasks 

      The efficiency of load balancing algorithms critically depends on the nature of the tasks. Therefore, the more information about the tasks is available at the time of decision making, the greater the potential for optimization.

      Size of tasks 

      A perfect knowledge of the execution time of each of the tasks allows to reach an optimal load distribution (see algorithm of prefix sum). Unfortunately, this is in fact an idealized case. Knowing the exact execution time of each task is an extremely rare situation.

      For this reason, there are several techniques to get an idea of the different execution times. First of all, in the fortunate scenario of having tasks of relatively homogeneous size, it is possible to consider that each of them will require approximately the average execution time. If, on the other hand, the execution time is very irregular, more sophisticated techniques must be used. One technique is to add some metadata to each task. Depending on the previous execution time for similar metadata, it is possible to make inferences for a future task based on statistics.


      In some cases, tasks depend on each other. These interdependencies can be illustrated by a directed acyclic graph. Intuitively, some tasks cannot begin until others are completed.

      Assuming that the required time for each of the tasks is known in advance, an optimal execution order must lead to the minimization of the total execution time. Although this is an NP-hard problem and therefore can be difficult to be solved exactly. There are algorithms, like job scheduler, that calculate optimal task distributions using metaheuristic methods.

      Segregation of tasks 

      Another feature of the tasks critical for the design of a load balancing algorithm is their ability to be broken down into subtasks during execution. The "Tree-Shaped Computation" algorithm presented later takes great advantage of this specificity.

      Load Balancing Approaches 

      Static distribution with full knowledge of the tasks 

      If the tasks are independent of each other, and if their respective execution time and the tasks can be subdivided, there is a simple and optimal algorithm.

      By dividing the tasks in such a way as to give the same amount of computation to each processor, all that remains to be done is to group the results together. Using a prefix sum algorithm, this division can be calculated in logarithmic time with respect to the number of processors.

      Static load distribution without prior knowledge 

      Even if the execution time is not known in advance at all, static load distribution is always possible.


      In this simple algorithm, the first request is sent to the first server, then the next to the second, and so on down to the last. Then it is started again, assigning the next request to the first server, and so on.

      This algorithm can be weighted such that the most powerful units receive the largest number of requests and receive them first.

      Randomized static 

      Randomized static load balancing is simply a matter of randomly assigning tasks to the different servers. This method works quite well. If, on the other hand, the number of tasks is known in advance, it is even more efficient to calculate a random permutation in advance. This avoids communication costs for each assignment. There is no longer a need for a distribution master because every processor knows what task is assigned to it. Even if the number of tasks is unknown, it is still possible to avoid communication with a pseudo-random assignment generation known to all processors.

      The performance of this strategy (measured in total execution time for a given fixed set of tasks) decreases with the maximum size of the tasks

      Master-Worker Scheme 

      Master-Worker schemes are among the simplest dynamic load balancing algorithms. A master distributes the workload to all workers (also sometimes referred to as "slaves"). Initially, all workers are idle and report this to the master. The master answers worker requests and distributes the tasks to them. When he has no more tasks to give, he informs the workers so that they stop asking for tasks.

      The advantage of this system is that it distributes the burden very fairly. In fact, if one does not take into account the time needed for the assignment, the execution time would be comparable to the prefix sum seen above.

      The problem of this algorithm is that it has difficulty to adapt to a large number of processors because of the high amount of necessary communications. This lack of scalability makes it quickly inoperable in very large servers or very large parallel computers. The master acts as a bottleneck.


    Adapted from:
    "Multiprocessor scheduling" by Multiple ContributorsWikipedia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
    "Processor affinity" by Multiple ContributorsWikipedia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
    "Load balancing (computing)" by Multiple ContributorsWikipedia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
    "Gang scheduling" by Multiple ContributorsWikipedia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

    10.2: Multiprocessor Scheduling is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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