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Feedback control is central to managing computing systems and data networks. Unfortunately, computing practitioners typically approach the design of feedback control in an ad hoc manner. Control theory provides a systematic approach to designing feedback loops that are stable in that they avoid wild oscillations, accurate in that they achieve objectives such as target response times for service level management, and settle quickly to their steady state values. This paper provides an introduction to control theory for computing practitioners with an emphasis on applications in the areas of database systems, real-time systems, virtualized servers, and power management.
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