Data Structures for Task-based Priority Scheduling

Martin Wimmer, Daniel Cederman, Francesco Versaci, Jesper Larsson Träff, Philippas Tsigas

Many task-parallel applications can benefit from attempting to execute tasks in a specific order, as for instance indicated by priorities associated with the tasks. We present three lock-free data structures for priority scheduling with different trade-offs on scalability and ordering guarantees. First we propose a basic extension to work-stealing that provides good scalability, but cannot provide any guarantees for task-ordering in-between threads. Next, we present a centralized priority data structure based on $k$-fifo queues, which provides strong (but still relaxed with regard to a sequential specification) guarantees. The parameter $k$ allows to dynamically configure the trade-off between scalability and the required ordering guarantee. Third, and finally, we combine both data structures into a hybrid, $k$-priority data structure, which provides scalability similar to the work-stealing based approach for larger $k$, while giving strong ordering guarantees for smaller $k$. We argue for using the hybrid data structure as the best compromise for generic, priority-based task-scheduling. We analyze the behavior and trade-offs of our data structures in the context of a simple parallelization of Dijkstra's single-source shortest path algorithm. Our theoretical analysis and simulations show that both the centralized and the hybrid $k$-priority based data structures can give strong guarantees on the useful work performed by the parallel Dijkstra algorithm. We support our results with experimental evidence on an 80-core Intel Xeon system.

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