Introduction to Multi-Level Feedback

This lesson presents the theme of the chapter, i.e., Multi-level Feedback Queue.

We'll cover the following

In this chapter, we’ll tackle the problem of developing one of the most well-known approaches to scheduling, known as the Multi-level Feedback Queue (MLFQ). The Multi-level Feedback Queue (MLFQ) scheduler was first described by Corbato et al. in 1962"An Experimental Time-Sharing System” by F. J. Corbato, M. M. Daggett, R. C. Daley. IFIPS 1962. A bit hard to read, but the source of many of the first ideas in multi-level feedback scheduling. Much of this later went into Multics, which one could argue was the most influential operating system of all time. in a system known as the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS), and this work, along with later work on Multics, led the ACM to award Corbato its highest honor, the Turing Award. The scheduler has subsequently been refined throughout the years to the implementations you will encounter in some modern systems.

Problems to address

The fundamental problem MLFQ tries to address is two-fold. First, it would like to optimize turnaround time, which, as we saw in the previous note, is done by running shorter jobs first; unfortunately, the OS doesn’t generally know how long a job will run for, exactly the knowledge that algorithms like SJF (or STCF) require. Second, MLFQ would like to make a system feel responsive to interactive users (i.e., users sitting and staring at the screen, waiting for a process to finish), and thus minimize response time; unfortunately, algorithms like Round Robin reduce response time but are terrible for turnaround time. Thus, our problem: given that we, in general,​ do not know anything about a process, how can we build a scheduler to achieve these goals? How can the scheduler learn, as the system runs, the characteristics of the jobs it is running, and thus make better scheduling decisions?

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