Real-Time CPU Scheduling in Operating System

CPU scheduling for real-time operating systems involves special issues. In general, we can distinguish between soft real-time systems and hard real-time systems. Soft real-time systems provide no guarantee as to when a critical real-time process will be scheduled. They guarantee only that the process will be given preference over noncritical processes. Hard real-time systems have stricter requirements. A task must be serviced by its deadline; service after the deadline has expired is the same as no service at all

Minimizing Latency

Consider the event-driven nature of a real-time system. The system is typically waiting for an event in real time to occur. Events may arise either in software —as when a timer expires—or in hardware—as when a remote-controlled vehicle detects that it is approaching an obstruction. When an event occurs, the system must respond to and service it as quickly as possible. We refer to event latency as the amount of time that elapses from when an event occurs to when it is serviced

Two types of latencies affect the performance of real-time systems:

  • Interrupt latency
  • Dispatch latency

Interrupt latency refers to the period of time from the arrival of an interrupt at the CPU to the start of the routine that services the interrupt. When an interrupt occurs, the operating system must first complete the instruction it is executing and determine the type of interrupt that occurred. It must then save the state of the current process before servicing the interrupt using the specific interrupt service routine (ISR). The total time required to perform these tasks is the interrupt latency

Priority-Based Scheduling

The most important feature of a real-time operating system is to respond immediately to a real-time process as soon as that process requires the CPU As a result, the scheduler for a real-time operating system must support a priority-based algorithm with preemption. Recall that priority-based scheduling algorithms assign each process a priority based on its importance; more important tasks are assigned higher priorities than those deemed less important. If the scheduler also supports preemption, a process currently running on the CPU will be preempted if a higher-priority process becomes available to run

Rate-Monotonic Scheduling

The rate-monotonic scheduling algorithm schedules periodic tasks using a static priority policy with preemption. If a lower-priority process is running and a higher-priority process becomes available to run, it will preempt the lower-priority process. Upon entering the system, each periodic task is assigned a priority inversely based on its period. The shorter the period, the higher the priority; the longer the period, the lower the priority. The rationale behind this policy is to assign a higher priority to tasks that require the CPU more often. Furthermore, rate-monotonic scheduling assumes that the processing time of a periodic process is the same for each CPU burst. That is, every time a process acquires the CPU, the duration of its CPU burst is the same

Earliest-Deadline-First Scheduling

Earliest-deadline-first (EDF) scheduling dynamically assigns priorities according to deadline. The earlier the deadline, the higher the priority; the later the deadline, the lower the priority. Under the EDF policy, when a process becomes runnable, it must announce its deadline requirements to the system. Priorities may have to be adjusted to reflect the deadline of the newly runnable process. Note how this differs from rate-monotonic scheduling, where priorities are fixed

Proportional Share Scheduling

Proportional share schedulers operate by allocating T shares among all applications. An application can receive N shares of time, thus ensuring that the application will have N/T of the total processor time. As an example, assume that a total of T = 100 shares is to be divided among three processes, A, B, and C. A is assigned 50 shares, B is assigned 15 shares, and C is assigned 20 shares. This scheme ensures that A will have 50 percent of total processor time, B will have 15 percent, and C will have 20 percent

POSIX Real-Time Scheduling

The POSIX standard also provides extensions for real-time computing— POSIX.1b. Here, we cover some of the POSIX API related to scheduling real-time threads. POSIX defines two scheduling classes for real-time threads


SCHED FIFO schedules threads according to a first-come, first-served policy using a FIFO queue as outlined in Section 6.3.1. However, there is no time slicing among threads of equal priority. Therefore, the highest-priority real-time thread at the front of the FIFO queue will be granted the CPU until it terminates or blocks. SCHED RR uses a round-robin policy. It is similar to SCHED FIFO except that it provides time slicing among threads of equal priority. POSIX provides an additional scheduling class—SCHED OTHER—but its implementation is undefined and system specific; it may behave differently on different systems.

The POSIX API specifies the following two functions for getting and setting the scheduling policy:

  • pthread attr getsched policy(pthread attr t *attr, int *policy)
  • pthread attr setsched policy(pthread attr t *attr, int policy

The first parameter to both functions is a pointer to the set of attributes for the thread. The second parameter is either (1) a pointer to an integer that is set to the current scheduling policy (for pthread attr getsched policy()) or (2) an integer value (SCHED FIFO, SCHED RR, or SCHED OTHER) for the pthread attr setsched policy() function. Both functions return nonzero values if an error occurs

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