The evolution of commodity computing lead to the possibility of efficient usage of interconnected machines to solve computationally-intensive tasks, which were previously solvable only by using expensive supercomputers. This, however, required new methods for process scheduling and distribution, considering the network latency, communication cost, heterogeneous environments and distributed computing constraints. An efficient distribution of processes over such environments requires an adequate scheduling strategy, as the cost of inefficient process allocation is unacceptably high. Therefore, a knowledge and prediction of application behavior is essential to perform effective scheduling. In this paper, we overview the evolution of scheduling approaches, focusing on distributed environments. We also evaluate the current approaches for process behavior extraction and prediction, aiming at selecting an adequate technique for online prediction of application execution. Based on this evaluation, we propose a novel model for application behavior prediction, considering chaotic properties of such behavior and the automatic detection of critical execution points. The proposed model is applied and evaluated for process scheduling in cluster and grid computing environments. The obtained results demonstrate that prediction of the process behavior is essential for efficient scheduling in large-scale and heterogeneous distributed environments, outperforming conventional scheduling policies by a factor of 10, and even more in some cases. Furthermore, the proposed approach proves to be efficient for online predictions due to its low computational cost and good precision. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.