The Quest for Universally-Optimal Distributed Algorithms (Invited Talk)

Author Bernhard Haeupler

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Bernhard Haeupler
  • Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  • ETH Zürich, Switzerland

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Bernhard Haeupler. The Quest for Universally-Optimal Distributed Algorithms (Invited Talk). In 35th International Symposium on Distributed Computing (DISC 2021). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 209, p. 1:1, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2021)


Many distributed optimization algorithms achieve an existentially-optimal round complexity (of (Õ(√n + D)), i.e., there exists some pathological worst-case topology on which no algorithm can be faster. However, most networks of interest allow for exponentially faster algorithms. This motivates two questions: - What network topology parameters determine the complexity of distributed optimization? - Are there universally-optimal algorithms that are as fast as possible on every single topology? This talk provides an overview over the freshly-completed 6-year program that resolves these 25-year-old open problems for a wide class of global network optimization problems including MST, (1+ε)-min cut, various approximate shortest path problems, sub-graph connectivity, etc. We provide several equivalent graph parameters that are tight universal lower bounds for the above problems, fully characterizing their inherent complexity. We also give the first universally-optimal algorithms approximately achieving this complexity on every topology. The quest for universally-optimal distributed algorithms required novel techniques that also answer fundamental (open) questions in seemingly unrelated fields, such as, network information theory, approximation algorithms, (oblivious) packet routing, (algorithmic & topological) graph theory, and metric embeddings. Generally, the problems addressed in these fields explicitly or implicitly ask to jointly optimize 𝓁_∞ & 𝓁₁ parameters such as congestion & dilation, communication rate & delay, capacities & diameters of subnetworks, or the makespan of packet routings. In particular, results obtained on the way include the following firsts: (Congestion+Dilation)-Competitive Oblivious Routing, Network Coding Gaps for Completion-Times, Hop-Constrained Expanders & Expander Decompositions, Bi-Criteria (Online / Demand-Robust) Approximation Algorithms for many Diameter-Constrained Network Design Problems (e.g., (Group) Steiner Tree/Forest), Makespan-Competitive (Compact and Distributed) Routing Tables, and (Probabilistic) Tree Embeddings for Hop-Constrained Distances. (Joint work with M. Ghaffari, G. Zuzic, D.E. Hershkowitz, D. Wajc, J. Li, H. Raecke, T. Izumi)

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Distributed algorithms
  • Distributed algorithms


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