Flexible Procurement of Services with Uncertain Durations using Redundancy

Emerging service-oriented technologies allow software agents to automatically procure distributed services to complete complex tasks. However, in many application scenarios, service providers demand financial remuneration, execution times are uncertain and consumers have deadlines for their tasks. In this paper, we address these issues by developing a novel approach that dynamically procures multiple, redundant services over time, in order to ensure success by the deadline. Specifically, we first present an algorithm for finding optimal procurement solutions, as well as a heuristic algorithm that achieves over 99% of the optimal and is capable of handling thousands of providers. Using experiments, we show that these algorithms achieve an improvement of up to 130% over current strategies that procure only single services. Finally, we consider settings where service costs are not known to the consumer, and introduce several mechanisms that incentivise providers to reveal their costs truthfully and that still achieve up to 95% efficiency.

Sebastian Stein, Enrico Gerding, Alex Rogers, Kate Larson, Nicholas R. Jennings