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Communications of the ACM

Kode Vicious

Watchdogs vs. Snowflakes


Watchdogs vs. Snowflakes, illustration

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates / Shutterstock

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Dear KV,

I have been working with a distributed job-control system for a large computing cluster for the past year. The system was developed in-house by one of the co-founders of the company, and he continues to work on it sporadically, while a small team of us adds new features and tries to fix bugs. The code isn't terrible, but it has one major defect—if the system doesn't have enough jobs in its queues, it tends to freeze up. I have been working with one other person on my team to diagnose the problem, but it has been assigned a very low priority by management because as long as we add dummy jobs when the system would otherwise be idle, the bug does not occur. I have never seen a system act like this, and I have to wonder: Is this kind of problem common in distributed job-control systems?


 

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