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Automated Hybrid Time Series Forecasting: Design, Benchmarking, and Use Cases by André Bauer

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These days, we are living in a digitalized world. Both our professional and private lives are pervaded by various IT services, which are typically operated using distributed computing systems (e.g., cloud environments). Due to the high level of digitalization, the operators of such systems are confronted with fast-paced and changing requirements. In particular, cloud environments have to cope with load fluctuations and respective rapid and unexpected changes in the computing resource demands. To face this challenge, so-called auto-scalers, such as the threshold-based mechanism in Amazon Web Services EC2, can be employed to enable elastic scaling of the computing resources. However, despite this opportunity, business-critical applications are still run with highly overprovisioned resources to guarantee a stable and reliable service operation. This strategy is pursued due to the lack of trust in auto-scalers and the concern that inaccurate or delayed adaptations may result in financial losses.

To adapt the resource capacity in time, the future resource demands must be “foreseen”, as reacting to changes once they are observed introduces an inherent delay. In other words, accurate forecasting methods are required to adapt systems proactively. A powerful approach in this context is time series forecasting, which is also applied in many other domains. The core idea is to examine past values and predict how these values will evolve as time progresses. According to the “No-Free-Lunch Theorem”, there is no algorithm that performs best for all scenarios. Therefore, selecting a suitable forecasting method for a given use case is a crucial task. Simply put, each method has its benefits and drawbacks, depending on the specific use case. The choice of the forecasting method is usually based on expert knowledge, which cannot be fully automated, or on trial-and-error. In both cases, this is expensive and prone to error.

Although auto-scaling and time series forecasting are established research fields, existing approaches cannot fully address the mentioned challenges: (i) In our survey on time series forecasting, we found that publications on time series forecasting typically consider only a small set of (mostly related) methods and evaluate their performance on a small number of time series with only a few error measures while providing no information on the execution time of the studied methods. Therefore, such articles cannot be used to guide the choice of an appropriate method for a particular use case; (ii) Existing open-source hybrid forecasting methods that take advantage of at least two methods to tackle the “No-Free-Lunch Theorem” are computationally intensive, poorly automated, designed for a particular data set, or they lack a predictable time to-result. Methods exhibiting a high variance in the time-to-result cannot be applied for time-critical scenarios (e.g., auto-scaling), while methods tailored to a specific data set introduce restrictions on the possible use cases (e.g., forecasting only annual time series); (iii) Auto-scalers typically scale an application either proactively or reactively. Even though some hybrid auto-scalers exist, they lack sophisticated solutions to combine reactive and proactive scaling. For instance, resources are only released proactively while resource allocation is entirely done in a reactive manner (inherently delayed); (iv) The majority of existing mechanisms do not take the provider’s pricing scheme into account while scaling an application in a public cloud environment, which often results in excessive charged costs. Even though some cost-aware auto-scalers have been proposed, they only consider the current resource demands, neglecting their development over time. For example, resources are often shut down prematurely, even though they might be required again soon.

To address the mentioned challenges and the shortcomings of existing work, this thesis presents three contributions: (i) The first contribution—a forecasting benchmark—addresses the problem of limited comparability between existing forecasting methods; (ii) The second contribution—Telescope—provides an automated hybrid time series forecasting method addressing the challenge posed by the “No-Free-Lunch Theorem”; (iii) The third contribution—Chamulteon— provides a novel hybrid auto-scaler for coordinated scaling of applications comprising multiple services, leveraging Telescope to forecast the workload intensity as a basis for proactive resource provisioning.

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