Average case and smoothed competitive analysis for the multi-level feedback algorithm

L. Becchetti*, S. Leonardi, A. Marchetti-Spaccamela, G. Schaefer, T. Vredeveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper, we introduce the notion of smoothed competitive analysis of online algorithms. Smoothed analysis has been proposed by Spielman and Teng [25] to explain the behavior of algorithms that work well in practice while performing very poorly from a worst-case analysis point of view. We apply this notion to analyze the multilevel feedback algorithm (MLF) to minimize the total flow time on a sequence of jobs released over time when the processing time of a job is only known at time of completion. The initial processing times are integers in the range [1, 2(k)]. We use a partial bit randomization model, i.e., the initial processing times are smoothed by changing the k least significant bits under a quite general class of probability distributions. We show that MLF admits a smoothed competitive ratio of O((2(k)/sigma)(3) +(2(k)/sigma)(2)2(K-k)), where or denotes the standard deviation of the distribution. In particular. we obtain a competitive ratio of O(2(K-k)) if sigma = Theta(2(k)). We also prove an Omega(2(K-k)) lower bound for any deterministic algorithm that is run on processing times smoothed according to the partial bit randomization model. For various other smoothing models, including the additive symmetric smoothing one, which is a variant of the model used by Spielman and Teng [25], we give a higher lower bound of Omega(2(K)). A direct consequence of our result is also the first average-case analysis of MLF. We show a constant expected ratio of the total flow time of MLF to the optimum under several distributions including the uniform one.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-108
JournalMathematics of Operations Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


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