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Scheduling to Minimize Average Completion Time: Off-line and On-line Approximation Algorithms

Hall, Leslie A.; Schulz, Andreas S.; Shmoys, David B.; Wein, Joel

Inst. Mathematik

In this paper we introduce two general techniques for the design and analysis of approximation algorithms for NP-hard scheduling problems in which the objective is to minimize the weighted sum of the job completion times. For a variety of scheduling models, these techniques yield the first algorithms that are guaranteed to find schedules that have objective function value within a constant factor of the optimum. In the first approach, we use an optimal solution to a linear programming relaxation in order to guide a simple list-scheduling rule. Consequently, we also obtain results about the strength of the relaxation. Our second approach yields on-line algorithms for these problems: in this setting, we are scheduling jobs that continually arrive to be processed and, for each time t, we must construct the schedule until time t without any knowledge of the jobs that will arrive afterwards. Our on-line technique yields constant performance guarantees for a variety of scheduling environments, and in some cases essentially matches the performance of our off-line LP-based algorithms.