Fast, distributed approximation algorithms for positive linear programming with applications to flow control

Yair Bartal*, John W. Byers, Danny Raz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We study combinatorial optimization problems in which a set of distributed agents must achieve a global objective using only local information. Papadimitriou and Yannakakis [Proceedings of the 25th ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing, 1993, pp. 121-129] initiated the study of such problems in a framework where distributed decision-makers must generate feasible solutions to positive linear programs with information only about local constraints. We extend their model by allowing these distributed decision-makers to perform local communication to acquire information over time and then explore the tradeoff between the amount of communication and the quality of the solution to the linear program that the decision-makers can obtain. Our main result is a distributed algorithm that obtains a (1 + ε) approximation to the optimal linear programming solution while using only a polylogarithmic number of rounds of local communication. This algorithm offers a significant improvement over the logarithmic approximation ratio previously obtained by Awerbuch and Azar [Proceedings of the 35th Annual IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science, 1994, pp. 240-249] for this problem while providing a comparable running time. Our results apply directly to the application of network flow control, an application in which distributed routers must quickly choose how to allocate bandwidth to connections using only local information to achieve global objectives. The sequential version of our algorithm is faster and considerably simpler than the best known approximation algorithms capable of achieving a (1 + ε) approximation ratio for positive linear programming.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1261-1279
Number of pages19
JournalSIAM Journal on Computing
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2004


  • Approximation algorithm
  • Flow control
  • Linear programming
  • Primal-dual


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