Distributed Minimum Cut Approximation

We study the problem of computing approximate minimum edge cuts by distributed algorithms. We use a standard synchronous message passing model where in each round, $O(\log n)$ bits can be transmitted over each edge (a.k.a. the CONGEST model). We present a distributed algorithm that, for any weighted graph and any $\epsilon \in (0, 1)$, with high probability finds a cut of size at most $O(\epsilon^{-1}\lambda)$ in $O(D) + \tilde{O}(n^{1/2 + \epsilon})$ rounds, where $\lambda$ is the size of the minimum cut. This algorithm is based on a simple approach for analyzing random edge sampling, which we call the random layering technique. In addition, we also present another distributed algorithm, which is based on a centralized algorithm due to Matula [SODA '93], that with high probability computes a cut of size at most $(2+\epsilon)\lambda$ in $\tilde{O}((D+\sqrt{n})/\epsilon^5)$ rounds for any $\epsilon>0$. The time complexities of both of these algorithms almost match the $\tilde{\Omega}(D + \sqrt{n})$ lower bound of Das Sarma et al. [STOC '11], thus leading to an answer to an open question raised by Elkin [SIGACT-News '04] and Das Sarma et al. [STOC '11]. Furthermore, we also strengthen the lower bound of Das Sarma et al. by extending it to unweighted graphs. We show that the same lower bound also holds for unweighted multigraphs (or equivalently for weighted graphs in which $O(w\log n)$ bits can be transmitted in each round over an edge of weight $w$), even if the diameter is $D=O(\log n)$. For unweighted simple graphs, we show that even for networks of diameter $\tilde{O}(\frac{1}{\lambda}\cdot \sqrt{\frac{n}{\alpha\lambda}})$, finding an $\alpha$-approximate minimum cut in networks of edge connectivity $\lambda$ or computing an $\alpha$-approximation of the edge connectivity requires $\tilde{\Omega}(D + \sqrt{\frac{n}{\alpha\lambda}})$ rounds.


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