In high-performance computing (HPC) settings, in which multiprocessor machines are shared among users with potentially competing resource demands, processors are allocated to user workload using space sharing. Typically, users interact with a given machine by submitting their jobs to a centralized batch scheduler that implements a site-specific, and often partially hidden, policy designed to maximize machine utilization while providing tolerable turn-around times. To these users, the functioning of the batch scheduler and the policies it implements are both critical operating system components since they control how each job is serviced. In practice, while most HPC systems experience good utilization levels, the amount of time experienced by individual jobs waiting to begin execution has been shown to be highly variable and difficult to predict, leading to user confusion and/or frustration.
One method for dealing with this uncertainty that has been proposed is to allow users who are willing to plan ahead to make "advanced reservations" for processor resources. To date, however, few if any HPC centers provide an advanced reservation capability to their general user populations for fear (supported by previous research) that diminished machine utilization will occur if and when advanced reservations are introduced.
In this work, we describe VARQ, a new method for job scheduling that provides users with probabilistic "virtual' advanced reservations using only existing best effort batch schedulers and policies. VARQ functions as an overlay, submitting jobs that are indistinguishable from the normal (i.e. non-reservation) workload serviced by a scheduler. We describe the statistical methods we use to implement VARQ, detail an empirical evaluation of its effectiveness in a number of HPC settings, and explore the potential future impact of VARQ should it become widely used. Without requiring HPC sites to support advanced reservations, we find that VARQ can implement a reservation capability probabilistically and that the effects of this probabilistic approach are unlikely to negatively affect resource utilization.