Graph Spanners in the Message-Passing Model

Authors Manuel Fernández V, David P. Woodruff, Taisuke Yasuda

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Author Details

Manuel Fernández V
  • Computer Science Department, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
David P. Woodruff
  • Computer Science Department, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Taisuke Yasuda
  • Akuna Capital, Chicago, Illinois, USA


We would like to thank Gregory Kehne, Roie Levin, Chen Shao and Srikanta Tirthapura for helpful discussions, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their useful feedback.

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Manuel Fernández V, David P. Woodruff, and Taisuke Yasuda. Graph Spanners in the Message-Passing Model. In 11th Innovations in Theoretical Computer Science Conference (ITCS 2020). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 151, pp. 77:1-77:18, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


Graph spanners are sparse subgraphs which approximately preserve all pairwise shortest-path distances in an input graph. The notion of approximation can be additive, multiplicative, or both, and many variants of this problem have been extensively studied. We study the problem of computing a graph spanner when the edges of the input graph are distributed across two or more sites in an arbitrary, possibly worst-case partition, and the goal is for the sites to minimize the communication used to output a spanner. We assume the message-passing model of communication, for which there is a point-to-point link between all pairs of sites as well as a coordinator who is responsible for producing the output. We stress that the subset of edges that each site has is not related to the network topology, which is fixed to be point-to-point. While this model has been extensively studied for related problems such as graph connectivity, it has not been systematically studied for graph spanners. We present the first tradeoffs for total communication versus the quality of the spanners computed, for two or more sites, as well as for additive and multiplicative notions of distortion. We show separations in the communication complexity when edges are allowed to occur on multiple sites, versus when each edge occurs on at most one site. We obtain nearly tight bounds (up to polylog factors) for the communication of additive 2-spanners in both the with and without duplication models, multiplicative (2k-1)-spanners in the with duplication model, and multiplicative 3 and 5-spanners in the without duplication model. Our lower bound for multiplicative 3-spanners employs biregular bipartite graphs rather than the usual Erdős girth conjecture graphs and may be of wider interest.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Theory of computation → Communication complexity
  • Mathematics of computing → Graph algorithms
  • Graph spanners
  • Message-passing model
  • Communication complexity


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