On channel failures, file fragmentation policies, and heavy-tailed completion times

Jayakrishnan Nair, Martin Andreasson, Lachlan L. H. Andrew, Steven H. Low, John C. Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


It has been recently discovered that heavy-tailed completion times can result from protocol interaction even when file sizes are light-tailed. A key to this phenomenon is the use of are start policy where if the file is interrupted before it is completed,it needs to restart from the beginning. In this paper, we show that fragmenting a file into pieces whose sizes are either bounded or independently chosen after each interruption guarantees light-tailed completion time as long as the file size is light-tailed;i.e., in this case, heavy-tailed completion time can only originate from heavy-tailed file sizes. If the file size is heavy-tailed, then the completion time is necessarily heavy-tailed. For this case, we show that when the file size distribution is regularly varying, then under independent or bounded fragmentation, the completion time tail distribution function is asymptotically bounded above by that of the original file size stretched by a constant factor. We then prove that if the distribution of times between interruptions has non-decreasing failure rate, the expected completion time is minimized by dividing the file into equal sized fragments; this optimal fragment size is unique but depends on the file size.We also present a simple blind fragmentation policy where the fragment sizes are constant and independent of the file size and prove that it is asymptotically optimal. Both these policies are also shown to have desirable completion time tail behavior. Finally,we bound the error in expected completion time due to error in modeling of the failure process.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6980141
Pages (from-to)529-541
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Checkpointing
  • File fragmentation
  • Heavy tails
  • Optimal packet size
  • Server failure

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