Traffic engineering with equal-cost-multipath: An algorithmic perspective

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To efficiently exploit the network resources operators, do traffic engineering (TE), i.e., adapt the routing of traffic to the prevailing demands. TE in large IP networks typically relies on configuring static link weights and splitting traffic between the resulting shortest paths via the Equal-Cost-MultiPath (ECMP) mechanism. Yet, despite its vast popularity, crucial operational aspects of TE via ECMP are still little-understood from an algorithmic viewpoint. We embark upon a systematic algorithmic study of TE with ECMP. We consider the standard model of TE with ECMP and prove that, in general, even approximating the optimal link-weight configuration for ECMP within any constant ratio is an intractable feat, settling a long-standing open question. We establish, in contrast, that ECMP can provably achieve optimal traffic flow for the important category of Clos datacenter networks. We last consider a well-documented shortcoming of ECMP: suboptimal routing of large ('elephant') flows. We present algorithms for scheduling 'elephant' flows on top of ECMP (as in, e.g., Hedera) with provable approximation guarantees. Our results complement and shed new light on past experimental and empirical studies of the performance of TE with ECMP.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number7588075
Pages (from-to)779-792
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2017

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  • Traffic engineering
  • approximation algorithms
  • multicommodity flow


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