Round-Robin CPU Scheduling Algorithm

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The round-robin (RR) scheduling algorithm is similar to First-Come First-Served (FCFS) scheduling, but preemption is added to enable the system to switch between processes. A small unit of time, called a time quantum or time slice, is defined. A time quantum is generally from 10 to 100 milliseconds in length. The ready queue is treated as a circular queue. The CPU scheduler goes around the ready queue, allocating the CPU to each process for a time interval of up to 1 time quantum.

To implement RR scheduling, we again treat the ready queue as a First-In-First-Out (FIFO) queue of processes. New processes are added to the tail of the ready queue The CPU scheduler picks the first process from the ready queue, sets a timer to interrupt after 1 time quantum, and dispatches the process.

One of two things will then happen. The process may have a CPU burst of less than 1 time quantum. In this case, the process itself will release the CPU voluntarily. The scheduler will then proceed to the next process in the ready queue. If the CPU burst of the currently running process is longer than 1 time quantum, the timer will go off and will cause an interrupt to the operating system. A context switch will be executed, and the process will be put at the tail of the ready queue. The CPU scheduler will then select the next process in the ready queue.

The average waiting time under the RR policy is often long. Consider the following set of processes that arrive at time 0, with the length of the CPU burst given in milliseconds:

ProcessBurst Time

If we use a time quantum of 4 milliseconds, then process P1 gets the first 4 milliseconds. Since it requires another 20 milliseconds, it is preempted after the first time quantum, and the CPU is given to the next process in the queue, process P2. Process P2 does not need 4 milliseconds, so it quits before its time quantum expires. The CPU is then given to the next process, process P3. Once each process has received 1 time quantum, the CPU is returned to process P1 for an additional time quantum. The resulting RR schedule is as follows:

Let's calculate the average waiting time for this schedule. P1 waits for 6 milliseconds (10 - 4), P2 waits for 4 milliseconds, and P3 waits for 7 milliseconds. Thus, the average waiting time is 17/3 = 5.66 milliseconds.

In the RR scheduling algorithm, no process is allocated the CPU for more than 1 time quantum in a row (unless it is the only runnable process). If a process's CPU burst exceeds 1 time quantum, that process is preempted and is put back in the ready queue. The RR scheduling algorithm is thus preemptive.

If there are n processes in the ready queue and the time quantum is q, then each process gets 1/n of the CPU time in chunks of at most q time units. Each process must wait no longer than (n - 1) x q time units until its next time quantum. For example, with five processes and a time quantum of 20 milliseconds, each process will get up to 20 milliseconds every 100 milliseconds.

The performance of the RR algorithm depends heavily on the size of the time quantum. At one extreme, if the time quantum is extremely large, the RR policy is the same as the FCFS policy. In contrast, if the time quantum is extremely small (say, 1 millisecond), the RR approach can result in a large number of context switches. Assume, for example, that we have only one process of 10 time units. If the quantum is 12 time units, the process finishes in less than 1 time quantum, with no overhead. If the quantum is 6 time units, however, the process requires 2 quanta, resulting in a context switch. If the time quantum is 1 time unit, then nine context switches will occur, slowing the execution of the process accordingly (Figure 5.5).

Thus, we want the time quantum to be large with respect to the contextswitch time. If the context-switch time is approximately 10 percent of the time quantum, then about 10 percent of the CPU time will be spent in context switching. In practice, most modern systems have time quanta ranging from 10 to 100 milliseconds. The time required for a context switch is typically less than 10 microseconds; thus, the context-switch time is a small fraction of the time quantum.

Turnaround time also depends on the size of the time quantum. As we can see from Figure 5.6, the average turnaround time of a set of processes does not necessarily improve as the time-quantum size increases. In general, the average turnaround time can be improved if most processes finish their next CPU burst in a single time quantum. For example, given three processes of 10 time units each and a quantum of 1 time unit, the average turnaround time is 29. If the time quantum is 10, however, the average turnaround time drops to 20. If context-switch time is added in, the average turnaround time increases even more for a smaller time quantum, since more context switches are required.

Although the time quantum should be large compared with the contextswitch time, it should not be too large. As we pointed out earlier, if the time quantum is too large, RR scheduling degenerates to an FCFS policy. A rule of thumb is that 80 percent of the CPU bursts should be shorter than the time quantum.

Other scheduling algorithms are: First-Come First-Served; Shortest-Job-First; Priority; Multilevel Queue; Multilevel Feedback Queue. All are explained in Operating System Concepts.

About the Authors

Abraham Silberschatz is the Sidney J. Weinberg Professor of Computer Science at Yale University. Prior to joining Yale, he was the Vice President of the Information Sciences Research Center at Bell Laboratories. Prior to that, he held a chaired professorship in the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.

Professor Silberschatz is a Fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), a Fellow of Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

Greg Gagne is chair of the Computer Science department at Westminster College in Salt Lake City where he has been teaching since 1990. In addition to teaching operating systems, he also teaches computer networks, parallel programming, and software engineering.

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