CS 537 Spring 2007 Programming Assignment 3 Frequently Asked Questions

Q1:
But I'm wondering how I choose a hypothesis. Are we supposed to prove which algorithm is one of specific algorithms such as FCFS, RR, etc. (for example, proving our assumption that the first one is FCFS)?

A:
No, this isn't simply an exercise in “guess the algorithm.” The algorithms are inspired by FCFS, RR, etc., and figuring out which algorithm is which may help you guess how they should behave, but you may find some surprises. FCFS, RR, etc. are algorithms for short-term scheduling of the CPU and the situation here is quite different. For example, it is easy to define waiting time in this setting, but what would “penalty ratio” mean? Don't focus solely on time while ignoring such measures as requests completed and grain consumed. A CPU scheduler is allocating a resource called CPU time. Its goal is to allocate time fairly and efficiently. In this case, the goal is to allocate corn, barley, rice and wheat. How well does each of the algorithms achieve this goal?

Q2:
Are we supposed to figure out which algorithm is best?

A:
No. There's unlikely to be a “best” algorithm, for a couple of reasons. First, there are various objectives: increase throughput, minimize waiting time, improve “fairness” (that is, decrease the variations in performance seen by different customers), and so on. Second, the results may be sensitive to offered load. An algorithm that's “good” under light load may not behave well under heavy load. Perhaps the results are sensitive to other parameters, such as the request rate (see Brewer.meanSleepTime), the supply rate (Supplier.meanSleepTime), the sizes of requests (Brewer.maxRequest), variation among brewers (see the Brewer constructor) or the relations between them.

Q3:
While we've been running benchmarks on Problem 3, we've noticed something strange. As we increase the number of brewers, the system in general performer “slower” as wait times increase and such, as would be expected. However, at around 30 brewers, the system starts to perform much better, and then continues the expected trend again. Then at precisely 97 brewers, the system suddenly performs off-the-charts. What's going on?

A:
First, how often did you run each experiment? There's quite a bit of randomness in the simulation, so running it twice with the same parameters may give very different results. When I tried running
`   java P3 1 100 100`
a dozen times, I saw mean waiting time ranging from 0.09 sec to 0.56 sec. It's dangerous to draw conclusions on one run for each parameter setting. Second, if you look at the entire output, not just the last line, you will see that most brewers report zero completed requests with zero waiting time. If you look at P3.java, you will see that value printed for “Total waiting time” is what's returned by Brewer.waitingTime(), and if you look at Brewer.java, you will see that this is the value of private field totalServiceTime, which is only updated in one place, when a request successfully completes. Thus a brewer that never gets anything will report no waiting time, and if you have a very large number of brewers but only 100 rounds of production, you will have a large number of brewers reporting no waiting time, leading to a low mean waiting time. Finally, read the comment in the Supplier constructor. The supplier attempts to supply grain at about the same average rate the brewers consume it. How well does it succeed? Can you tell by looking at the statistics printed by the program? Would additional statistics help? What would happen if you increased the number of brewers without increasing the supply rate? What would happen if the supplier supplied grain much faster than brewers could consume it?