Stochastic Weighing Scheduler

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The filter scheduler is the de-facto standard scheduler for Manila and has a lot of desirable properties. However there are certain scenarios where it’s hard or impossible to get it to do the right thing. I think some small tweaks could help make admin’s lives easier.

Problem description

I’m concerned about 2 specific problems:

  1. When there are multiple backends that are not identical, it can be hard to ensure that load is spread across all the backends. Consider the case of a few “large” backends mixed with some “small” backends. Even if they’re from the same vendor by default new shares will go exclusively to the large backends until free space decreases to the same level as the small backends. This can be worked around by using something other than free space to weigh hosts, but no matter what you choose, you’ll have a similar issue whenever the backends aren’t homogeneous.

  2. Even if the admin is able to ensure that all the backends are identical in every way, at some point the cloud will probably need to grow, by adding new storage backends. When this happens there will be a mix of brand new empty backends and mostly full backends. No matter what kind of weighing function you use, initially 100% of new requests will be scheduled on the new backends. Depending on how good or bad the weighing function is, it could take a long time before the old backends start receiving new requests and during this period system performance is likely to drop dramatically. The problem is particularly bad if the upgrade is a small one: consider adding 1 new backend to a system with 10 existing backends. If 100% of new shares go to the new backend, then for some period, there will be 10x load on the single backend.

There is one existing partial solution to the above problems – the goodness weigher – but that has some limitations worth mentioning. Consider an ideal goodness function – an oracle that always returns the right value such that the best backend for new shares is sorted to the top. Because the inputs to the goodness function (other than available space) are only evaluated every 60 seconds, bursts of creation requests will nearly always go to the same backend within a 60 second window. While we could shrink the time window of this problem by sending more frequent updates, that has its own costs and also has diminishing returns. In the more realistic case of a goodness function that’s non-ideal, it may take longer than 60 seconds for the goodness function output to reflect changes based on recent creation requests.

Use Cases

The existing scheduler handles homogeneous backends best, and relies on a relatively low rate of creation requests compared to the capacity of the whole system, so that it can get keep up to date information with which to make optimal decisions. It also deals best with cases when you don’t add capacity over time.

I’m interested in making the scheduler perform well across a broad range of deployment scenarios:

  1. Mixed vendor scenarios

  2. A mix of generations of hardware from a single vendor

  3. A mix of capacities of hardware (small vs. large configs)

  4. Adding new capacity to a running cloud to deal with growth

These are all deployer/administrator concerns. Part of the proposed solution is to enable certain things which are impossible today, but mostly the goal is to make the average case “just work” so that administrators don’t have to babysit the system to get reasonable behavior.

Proposed change

Currently the filter scheduler does 3 things:

  1. Takes a list of all pools and filters out the ones that are unsuitable for a given creation request.

  2. Generates a weight for each pool based on one of the available weighers.

  3. Sorts the pools and chooses the one with the highest weight.

I call the above system “winner-take-all” because whether the top 2 weights are 100 and 0 or 49 and 51, the winner gets the request 100% of the time.

I propose renaming the existing HostWeightHandler to OrderedHostWeightHandler and adding a new weight handler to the filter scheduler called StochasticHostWeightHandler. The OrderedHostWeightHandler would continue to be the default and would not change behavior. The new weight handler would be implement different behavior as follows:

In step 3 above, rather than simply selecting the highest weight, the weight handler would sum up the weight of all choices, assign each pool a subset of that range with a size equal to that host’s weight, then generate a random number across the whole range and choose the pool mapped to that range.

An easier way to visualize the above algorithm is to imagine a raffle drawing. Each pool is given a number of raffle tickets equal to the pool’s weight (assume weights normalized from 0-100). The winning pool is chosen by a raffle drawing. Every creation request results in a new raffle being held.

Pools with higher weights get more raffle tickets and thus have a higher chance to win, but any pool with a weight higher than 0 has some chance to win.

The advantage to the above algorithm is that it distinguishes between weights that are close (49 and 51) vs weights that are far (0 and 100) so just because one pools is slightly better than another pool, it doesn’t always win. Also, it can give different results within a 60 second window of time when the inputs to the weigher aren’t updated, significantly decreasing the pain of slow share stats updates.

It should be pointed out that this algorithm not only requires that weights are properly normalized (the current goodness weigher also requires this) but that the weight should be roughly linear across the range of possible values. Any deviation from linear “goodness” can result in bad decisions being made, due to the randomness inherent in this approach.


There aren’t many good options to deal with the problem of bursty requests relative to the update frequency of share stats. You can update stats faster but there’s a limit. The limit is to have the scheduler synchronously request absolute latest share stats from every backend for every request. Clearly that approach won’t scale.

To deal with the heterogeneous backends problem, we have the goodness function, but it’s challenging to pick a goodness function that yields acceptable results across all types of variation in backends. This proposal keeps the goodness function and builds upon it to both make it stronger, and also more tolerant to imperfection.

Data model impact

No database changes.

REST API impact

No REST API changes.

Security impact

No security impact.

Notifications impact

No notification impact.

Other end user impact

End users may indirectly experience better (or conceivably worse) scheduling choices made by the modified scheduler.

Performance Impact

No performance impact. In fact this approach is proposed expressly because alternative solutions would have a performance impact and I want to avoid that.

Other deployer impact

I propose a single new weigher class for the scheduler. The default weigher would continue to be the existing weighter. An administrator would need to intentionally modify the weigher class config option to observe changed behavior.

Developer impact

Developers wouldn’t be directly impacted, but anyone working on goodness functions or other weighers would need to be aware of the linearity requirement for getting good behavior out of this new scheduler mode.

In order to avoid accidentally feeding nonlinear goodness values into the stochastic weighing scheduler, we may want to create alternatively-named version of the various weights or weighers, forcing driver authors to explicitly opt-in to the new scheme and thus indicate that the weights they’re returning are suitably linear.



Primary assignee:


Work Items

This should be doable in a single patch.


  • Filter scheduler (manila)

  • Goodness weigher (manila)


Testing this feature will require a multibackend configuration (otherwise scheduling is just a no-op).

Because randomness is inherently required for the correctness of the algorithm, it will be challenging to write automated functional test cases without subverting the random number generation. I propose that we rely on unit tests to ensure correctness because it’s easy to “fake” random numbers in unit tests.

Documentation Impact

Dev docs need updated to explain to driver authors what the expectations are for goodness functions.

Config ref needs to explain to deployers what the new config option does.


This spec is a copy of any idea accepted by the Cinder community: