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  1. In modern computing systems, jobs' resource requirements often vary over time. Accounting for this temporal variability during job scheduling is essential for meeting performance goals. However, theoretical understanding on how to schedule jobs with time-varying resource requirements is limited. Motivated by this gap, we propose a new setting of the stochastic bin-packing problem in service systems that allows for time-varying job resource requirements, also referred to as 'item sizes' in traditional bin-packing terms. In this setting, a job or 'item' must be dispatched to a server or 'bin' upon arrival. Its resource requirement may vary over time while in service, following a Markovian assumption. Once the job's service is complete, it departs from the system. Our goal is to minimize the expected number of active servers, or 'non-empty bins', in steady state.

    Under our problem formulation, we develop a job dispatch policy, named Join-Reqesting-Server (JRS). Broadly, JRS lets each server independently evaluate its current job configuration and decide whether to accept additional jobs, balancing the competing objectives of maximizing throughput and minimizing the risk of resource capacity overruns. The JRS dispatcher then utilizes these individual evaluations to decide which server to dispatch each arriving job to. The theoretical performance guarantee of JRS is in the asymptotic regime where the job arrival rate scales large linearly with respect to a scaling factor r. We show that JRS achieves an additive optimality gap of O(√r) in the objective value, where the optimal objective value is Θ(r). When specialized to constant job resource requirements, our result improves upon the state-of-the-art o(r) optimality gap. Our technical approach highlights a novel policy conversion framework that reduces the policy design problem into a single-server problem.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 7, 2024
  2. We study the infinite-horizon Restless Bandit problem with the average reward criterion, under both discrete-time and continuous-time settings. A fundamental goal is to design computationally efficient policies that achieve a diminishing optimality gap as the number of arms, N, grows large. Existing results on asymptotic optimality all rely on the uniform global attractor property (UGAP), a complex and challenging-to-verify assumption. In this paper, we propose a general, simulation-based framework, Follow-the-Virtual-Advice, that converts any single-armed policy into a policy for the original N-armed problem. This is done by simulating the single-armed policy on each arm and carefully steering the real state towards the simulated state. Our framework can be instantiated to produce a policy with an O(1/pN) optimality gap. In the discrete-time setting, our result holds under a simpler synchronization assumption, which covers some problem instances that violate UGAP. More notably, in the continuous-time setting, we do not require any additional assumptions beyond the standard unichain condition. In both settings, our work is the first asymptotic optimality result that does not require UGAP. 
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  3. We study model-free reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms for infinite-horizon average-reward Markov decision process (MDP), which is more appropriate for applications that involve continuing operations not divided into episodes. In contrast to episodic/discounted MDPs, theoretical understanding of model-free RL algorithms is relatively inadequate for the average-reward setting. In this paper, we consider both the online setting and the setting with access to a simulator. We develop computationally efficient model-free algorithms that achieve sharper guarantees on regret/sample complexity compared with existing results. In the online setting, we design an algorithm, UCB-AVG, based on an optimistic variant of variance-reduced Q-learning. We show that UCB-AVG achieves a regret bound $\widetilde{O}(S^5A^2sp(h^*)\sqrt{T})$ after $T$ steps, where $S\times A$ is the size of state-action space, and $sp(h^*)$ the span of the optimal bias function. Our result provides the first computationally efficient model-free algorithm that achieves the optimal dependence in $T$ (up to log factors) for weakly communicating MDPs, which is necessary for low regret. In contrast, prior results either are suboptimal in $T$ or require strong assumptions of ergodicity or uniformly mixing of MDPs. In the simulator setting, we adapt the idea of UCB-AVG to develop a model-free algorithm that finds an $\epsilon$-optimal policy with sample complexity $\widetilde{O}(SAsp^2(h^*)\epsilon^{-2} + S^2Asp(h^*)\epsilon^{-1}).$ This sample complexity is near-optimal for weakly communicating MDPs, in view of the minimax lower bound $\Omega(SAsp(^*)\epsilon^{-2})$. Existing work mainly focuses on ergodic MDPs and the results typically depend on $t_{mix},$ the worst-case mixing time induced by a policy. We remark that the diameter $D$ and mixing time $t_{mix}$ are both lower bounded by $sp(h^*)$, and $t_{mix}$ can be arbitrarily large for certain MDPs. On the technical side, our approach integrates two key ideas: learning an $\gamma$-discounted MDP as an approximation, and leveraging reference-advantage decomposition for variance in optimistic Q-learning. As recognized in prior work, a naive approximation by discounted MDPs results in suboptimal guarantees. A distinguishing feature of our method is maintaining estimates of value-difference between state pairs to provide a sharper bound on the variance of reference advantage. We also crucially use a careful choice of the discounted factor $\gamma$ to balance approximation error due to discounting and the statistical learning error, and we are able to maintain a good-quality reference value function with $O(SA)$ space complexity. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 18, 2024
  5. In this paper, we consider a large-scale heterogeneous mobile edge computing system, where each device’s mean computing task arrival rate, mean service rate, mean energy consumption, and mean offloading latency are drawn from different bounded continuous probability distributions to reflect the diverse compute-intensive applications, mobile devices with different computing capabilities and battery efficiencies, and different types of wireless access networks (e.g., 4G/5G cellular networks, WiFi). We consider a class of distributed threshold-based randomized offloading policies and develop a threshold update algorithm based on its computational load, average offloading latency, average energy consumption, and edge server processing time, depending on the server utilization. We show that there always exists a unique Mean-Field Nash Equilibrium (MFNE) in the large-system limit when the task processing times of mobile devices follow an exponential distribution. This is achieved by carefully partitioning the space of mean arrival rates to account for the discrete structure of each device’s optimal threshold. Moreover, we show that our proposed threshold update algorithm converges to the MFNE. Finally, we perform simulations to corroborate our theoretical results and demonstrate that our proposed algorithm still performs well in more general setups based on the collected real-world data and outperforms the well-known probabilistic offloading policy. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  7. In offline multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL), agents estimate policies from a given dataset. We study reward-poisoning attacks in this setting where an exogenous attacker modifies the rewards in the dataset before the agents see the dataset. The attacker wants to guide each agent into a nefarious target policy while minimizing the Lp norm of the reward modification. Unlike attacks on single-agent RL, we show that the attacker can install the target policy as a Markov Perfect Dominant Strategy Equilibrium (MPDSE), which rational agents are guaranteed to follow. This attack can be significantly cheaper than separate single-agent attacks. We show that the attack works on various MARL agents including uncertainty-aware learners, and we exhibit linear programs to efficiently solve the attack problem. We also study the relationship between the structure of the datasets and the minimal attack cost. Our work paves the way for studying defense in offline MARL. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 27, 2024
  8. We develop provably efficient reinforcement learning algorithms for two-player zero-sum finite-horizon Markov games with simultaneous moves. To incorporate function approximation, we consider a family of Markov games where the reward function and transition kernel possess a linear structure. Both the offline and online settings of the problems are considered. In the offline setting, we control both players and aim to find the Nash equilibrium by minimizing the duality gap. In the online setting, we control a single player playing against an arbitrary opponent and aim to minimize the regret. For both settings, we propose an optimistic variant of the least-squares minimax value iteration algorithm. We show that our algorithm is computationally efficient and provably achieves an [Formula: see text] upper bound on the duality gap and regret, where d is the linear dimension, H the horizon and T the total number of timesteps. Our results do not require additional assumptions on the sampling model. Our setting requires overcoming several new challenges that are absent in Markov decision processes or turn-based Markov games. In particular, to achieve optimism with simultaneous moves, we construct both upper and lower confidence bounds of the value function, and then compute the optimistic policy by solving a general-sum matrix game with these bounds as the payoff matrices. As finding the Nash equilibrium of a general-sum game is computationally hard, our algorithm instead solves for a coarse correlated equilibrium (CCE), which can be obtained efficiently. To our best knowledge, such a CCE-based scheme for optimism has not appeared in the literature and might be of interest in its own right. 
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