Excursion-based universal approximations for the Erlang-A queue in steady-state

Itai Gurvich, Junfei Huang, Avishai Mandelbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We revisit many-server approximations for the well-studied Erlang-A queue. This is a system with a single pool of i.i.d. servers that serve one class of impatient i.i.d. customers. Arrivals follow a Poisson process and service times are exponentially distributed as are the customers' patience times. We propose a diffusion approximation that applies simultaneously to all existing many-server heavy-traffic regimes: quality and efficiency driven, efficiency driven, quality driven, and nondegenerate slowdown. We prove that the approximation provides accurate estimates for a broad family of steady-state metrics. Our approach is "metric-free" in that we do not use the specific formulas for the steady-state distribution of the Erlang-A queue. Rather, we study excursions of the underlying birth-and-death process and couple these to properly defined excursions of the corresponding diffusion process. Regenerative process and martingale arguments, together with derivative bounds for solutions to certain ordinary differential equations, allow us to control the accuracy of the approximation. We demonstrate the appeal of universal approximation by studying two staffing optimization problems of practical interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-373
Number of pages49
JournalMathematics of Operations Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Call centers
  • Diffusion approximation
  • Erlang-A
  • Excursions
  • Many-server queues
  • Regenerative processes
  • Staffing
  • Steady-state
  • Universal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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