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We've got a job queue system that'll cheerfully process any kind of job given to it. We intend to use it to process jobs that each contain 2 tasks:

  • Job (Pass information from one server to another)
    • Fetch task (get the data, slowly)
    • Send task (send the data, comparatively quickly)

The difficulty we're having is that we don't know whether to break the tasks into separate jobs, or process the job in one go.

Are there any best practices or useful references on this subject? Is there some obvious benefit to a method that we're missing?

So far we can see these benefits for each method:

Split

  • Job lease length reflects job length: Rather than total of two
  • Finer granularity on recovery: If we lose outgoing connectivity we can tell them all to retry
  • The starting state of the second task is saved to job history: Helps with debugging (although similar logging could be added in single task method)

Single

  • Single job to be scheduled: Less processing overhead
  • Data not stale on recovery: If the outgoing downtime is quite long, the pending Send jobs could be outdated
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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted
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Which of these represents the minimum useful addition to the work that your application does? Usually I take the view that a job on a queue should represent a useful work unit: whether it completes or cancels, you should end up with the system in a consistent state.

That situation is mostly defined by your problem domain, so it's not something for which a general answer exists. Sometimes there are architectural limitations that force you to split up work in unnatural ways. An example is in a GUI application, where you probably aim to do all of your application's work concurrently but then update the user interface on a dedicated thread. That means you have to split your work ("do something useful and show the user I did it") into those two steps ("do something useful, and show the user I did it"). In fact in this case it's not too much of a problem, because if the app quits before updating the UI it's likely that the user didn't want to know about the work you'd done anyway.

If the "minimum useful addition" is too small, then I think about batching them to reduce the amount of time spent in job-submission overhead. This definition of "too small" is something that requires measurement for your work and in your environment - it depends more on the architecture than on your problem. Profile your application: if you're spending a significant amount of time adding and removing things from queues or creating and destroying threads, you're doing too little work in each operation.

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First of all: why are these Fetch and Send tasks combined anyway?

If they depend on each other anyhow (use data from the other or have to be processed in a certain order), the "Job" should be atomic, be kept and processed together within the node.

On the other hand, if the "Job" is the representation of a communication unit on the receiver's side (like when nodes collect incoming and outgoing tasks in queues to the other node, and flush them regularly), then it is just a bucket of independent tasks that now happen to contain two items. In this case you should break up the "Job" (and rename to Envelope :-) ), and register the tasks individually in the job queue.

Performance optimization for queue management can wait until real issues. In a parallel queue processing environment, having one core working on a big job while the other cores are on idle is less efficient (and harder to scale up) compared to the relatively small overhead of more queue management.

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From my point of view, splitting a job might be a better option. Yes it adds to complexity but has its own advantages as well. If u have a queue processing system then at some point of time you will have multiple jobs in queue which require scheduling for a better performance.

Single job systems usually have larger wait times for processes which arrive later in queue. You might have also to give priority to some jobs over another (prority scheduling). In short, scheduling is efficient if a job has sub-stages. As you mentioned, it also has better recovery model and states could be manipulated easily.

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