Tutorial: Recent Advances in the Application of Control Theory to Network and Service Management

Tarek Abdelzaher, Yixin Diao, Joseph L. Hellerstein, Chenyang Lu, Sharad Singhal

IFIP/IEEE International Symposium on Integrated Network Management (IM'09)

June 1, 2009

Feedback control is central to managing computing systems and networks. For example, feedback is employed to achieve response time objectives by taking resource actions such as adjusting scheduling priorities and bandwidth allocations. Unfortunately, software practitioners typically employ an ad hoc approach to the design of closed loop systems, often with undesirable results such as large oscillations or slow adaptation to changes in workloads.

In other engineering disciplines (e.g., mechanical, electrical, and aeronautical engineering), control theory is used to analyze and design feedback loops. Control theory provides a way to determine if feedback loops are stable (e.g., avoid wild oscillations), accurate in their control (e.g., achieve the desired response time objectives), and settle quickly to their steady state values (e.g., to adjust to workload dynamics). Recently, control theory has been used in the design of many aspects of computing, with a few examples of commercial products designed using control theory. Examples of where control theory has been used include: networking protocols (e.g., new versions of TCP/IP), real time systems, web servers, database servers, multi-tier computing systems, and workload managers.

This tutorial provides an introduction to control theory for researchers and practitioners with a background in computer science. The tutorial provides a short introduction to the basic elements of control theory, and then focuses on recent advances in both theory and application. The tutorial concludes with a discussion of research challenges.

  • Tarek Abdelzaher, Yixin Diao, Joseph L. Hellerstein, Chenyang Lu, and Xiaoyun Zhu, International Conference on Measurement and Modeling of Computer Systems (SIGMETRICS'08), June 2, 2008.
  • Tarek Abdelzaher, Yixin Diao, Joseph L. Hellerstein, Chenyang Lu, and Xiaoyun Zhu, Introduction to Control Theory and its Application to Computing Systems, Performance Modeling and Engineering, Springer, 2008. (Book chapter for SIGMETRICS'08 tutorial)
  • Tarek Abdelzaher, Chenyang Lu, and Anders Robertsson, Introduction to Control Theory and Its Application to Feedback Computing, Cyber-Physical Systems Week (CPS Week'13), April 8, 2013.