Increased complexity and scale of virtualized distributed systems has resulted in the manifestation of emergent phenomena substantially affecting overall system performance. This phenomena is known as “Long Tail”, whereby a small proportion of task stragglers significantly impede job completion time. While work focuses on straggler detection and mitigation, there is limited work that empirically studies straggler root-cause and quantifies its impact upon system operation. Such analysis is critical to ascertain in-depth knowledge of straggler occurrence for focusing developmental and research efforts towards solving the Long Tail challenge. This paper provides an empirical analysis of straggler root-cause within virtualized Cloud datacenters; we analyze two large-scale production systems to quantify the frequency and impact stragglers impose, and propose a method for conducting root-cause analysis. Results demonstrate approximately 5% of task stragglers impact 50% of total jobs for batch processes, and 53% of stragglers occur due to high server resource utilization. We leverage these findings to propose a method for extreme straggler detection through a combination of offline execution patterns modeling and online analytic agents to monitor tasks at runtime. Experiments show the approach is capable of detecting stragglers less than 11% into their execution lifecycle with 95% accuracy for short duration jobs.

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